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Ceilings in your home may not be as dramatic as those in Raphael's painting "The School of Athens," but they're important. They are as important as what's over your ceiling - the roof.

And they're important for many reasons, not the least of which is the impression they make on guests in your home or potential buyers.For many years, Southern California builders have decreased the size of houses as the cost of land rose. Consequently, many new home models have a high ceiling near the entrance. It gives the impression of space, even though all that space up high is wasted on a practical basis.

Todd Schooler, a Newport Beach architect, agrees that ceilings can create a feeling of spaciousness, but he says they do at least a couple of other things.

"They create a sense of movement," he said, "and they can create a sense of variety. If there's a variety of ceiling styles in a home, you don't get a feeling of sameness. And that variety - if it's done well - will actually help the eye of a visitor move through a home."

Just as a ceiling style can create certain types of impressions, so, too, can a roof create a tremendous impression on the first-time visitor. That's what Newport Beach architect Brion Jeanette said he has found in the many custom homes he has designed.

"A low, flat roof such as those found in some Mediterranean-style homes might make the house seem a little less consequential, a little less impressive," Jeanette said, "although the home could still be quite beautiful. A Normandy kind of roof, which is what you see in some of the better custom homes, might make a home seem more impressive because it's so high."

Roy Lane, a home designer in Mission Viejo, says people should consider some of the problems as well as the benefits associated with high ceilings. He said, "These are energy-conscious times. I read somewhere that our modern vaulted ceilings easily increase energy bills by 20 percent."

Lane says people also should consider the impractical aspects of a high ceiling.