THINGS ARE LOOKING UP FOR A DRAB BASEMENT CEILING

Stylish tricks hide unsightly pipes and wires

Written by Beryn Hammil

Wednesday, February 4, 2004

© San Francisco Chronicle, 2004

 

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.

Pam O'Shea,
Roslindale, MA

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 be difficult.

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 wire.

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 nails.

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 elements.

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 ceiling.

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 fabric.

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 pipes.

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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