Question: I live in a basement apartment,
and because of pipes and electrical wires and such, there
are dropped ceilings throughout. They are really ugly. I
have thought of covering them with material or painting
them, but would like some other suggestions or color
options if you think paint is the best way.
One idea I had was to cover it with material, and
periodically put additional material so it's pleated like
a fan. I was thinking of this plan for my bedroom. But
all suggestions would be appreciated.
Answer: Having an unattractive ceiling is never
pleasant, especially when lying in bed. Several solutions
come to mind.
The most permanent and expensive is to have a
contractor come in and create a Sheetrock ceiling, as in
most homes. But if you ever need to access the ducts,
pipes or wiring that's behind your new ceiling, it will
If you go this route, make sure everything's in good
working order and up to current building codes before you
have the ceiling installed. That way, it's less likely
that you'll need to access them in the near future.
A less permanent approach, ideal for renters, is to do
something creative that complements your decor.
If your home is decorated in tropical, cottage or
beach styles, you can hang bamboo from the beams to
extend that motif. Many home repair and hardware stores
sell the kind of bamboo fencing that's intended to block
the view of a house from passersby. It comes in rolls and
the pieces of bamboo are held to each other with
It will take a bit of work to hang it from the beams,
but it's worth the effort. I suggest you recruit a friend
to help you -- four hands make faster work than two.
Measure the distance between the beams and cut the bamboo
to the appropriate length and width. Using nails that are
U-shaped, nail the bamboo to the beams. Make sure that
the wires, ducts, and pipes are safely tucked between the
beams and not in the way of where you'll place these
If you want less of a natural look, the bamboo can be
painted any color. The best way is to unroll it onto a
plastic sheet in a large, open area. Use a paint sprayer
to apply the paint. Make sure you work in a
well-ventilated area where the overspray won't damage or
affect anything else.
If that option isn't available, you can paint it after
it's on the ceiling, but that will be a tedious,
difficult job. Using a small brush, carefully apply the
paint by poking and dabbing it into all the little spaces
on, over and between the strips of bamboo.
If this isn't the right design approach for your home,
hanging a draped fabric ceiling is another way to go.
Because there are many ways to do this; think about what
effect you want.
One way is to span the ceiling with fabric to create a
lovely shirred effect. You can either have it gathered
toward a center point in the ceiling, or hang it from one
side of the room to the other.
In either case, make sure the fabric is thin enough so
it gathers softly.
Let's use the "span" effect on this project because
you're trying to cover pipes and other mechanical
If your room is long and thin, I recommend draping
across the width of the room instead of the length to
expand the room visually and make it seem wider. Because
the ceiling is such a visible element in the room, the
fabric you choose will make a statement of its own.
If you want to make less of an impact, choose a simple
white fabric. If you want to make a real design
statement, go for a "tented" effect. Select a fabric that
you can use as a focal point and major element in the
room. Red paisley with red walls immediately comes to
mind for a very dynamic room.
Use thin drapery rods on opposite sides of the room.
Place their brackets on the walls close to the
Make sure you measure the length of the fabric
accurately, allowing for a graceful drop. For a full
gather, allow a double width of fabric, running the seams
down the length. For a tighter effect, use less
Sew little rod pockets into both ends of the fabric.
Gather the fabric onto one rod, attach it to its
brackets, then span the room with the fabric, gather it
onto the other rod, and put it on the brackets.
Another approach is to go for a very modern,
industrial look by painting the ceiling, ducts and
Follow the lines of each of the structural elements
using contrasting colors to indicate one system versus
another. Make sure you use the correct type of paint for
what you're covering.
If renting, make sure any innovation is all right with
your landlord. The change is something they'll have to
deal with after you move to your next home.
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