Refurbishing a Ceiling With Tiles Refurbishing a Ceiling With Tiles

Q: Finally, we had some rain this summer, but my relief over this for the sake of the perennial beds was quickly quashed when I realized that over the winter the roof had developed a leak. Now, the roof is repaired, but the bedroom ceiling is ruined. It's never been that great; it's just plain white ceiling tiles that don't really go with the old Victorian house. Since I have to replace them anyway, is there anything I can use that would also make the room nicer?

A: Even though we don't usually look up and notice them, ceilings have a big impact on the overall look of a room. If you've ever been in a room with a dramatically painted ceiling - the Sistine Chapel, for example - you know this. That's why it's odd that we agonize over wall color, window treatments, and flooring, but overlook the poor ceiling - if overlook is the right word for something that's directly overhead.

All too often, we put up plain, white ceiling tiles and forget about it. There are many more options: exposed beams like those found in the Southwest or plaster ceilings painted a sky blue, with puffy clouds skipping across them being just two examples.

The Sheffield Guidelines call for you to consider the function, mood, and harmony of a room. In thinking of mood and harmony, you want to continue the mood of the Victorian period, and you want the ceiling to harmonize with the rest of the room. If you've furnished the room with antiques, and have covered the walls with period wallpaper painted in colors of the Victorian era, then you've gone a long way toward harmonizing the room; all that remains is to get rid of that nasty modern ceiling tile and replace it with something more appropriate to the style.

In your Victorian home, you may do best with what are called "tin ceilings." I say they're "called" tin ceilings because they've never really been made of tin, but are more accurately called "pressed metal" ceilings.

These tiles can completely alter the look of the room, brightening it up and bringing the ceiling more in line with the overall look of the house. They're particularly appropriate for a Victorian because they were most popular from the late 1800s into the early 1900s, but they can harmonize with many different styles. Although they were first used as a fire-resistant barrier in commercial buildings, and are often found in older commercial buildings still standing, their popularity quickly spread to residential use, and they're now used in many restored homes.

They're not terribly difficult to install, and at between two and three dollars a square foot, they're not too pricey, especially in a smaller room. Several manufacturers include installation instructions, but even if you hire a carpenter to install them, it probably won't run that much more than other kinds of ceiling tiles.

Resources: Brian Greer's Tin Ceilings, Walls, & Unique Metal Work

Reprinted with permission from the Sheffield School of Interior Design

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