How to Decorate a Drop Ceiling

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Tiled drop ceilings, often regarded as one of the ugliest types of ceiling known to humanity, are also one of the easiest types to decorate. Swagging fabric under the ceiling bars creates a dramatic effect that can be adapted to a number of different looks, from Bohemian to Safari to Middle Eastern to Gothic to romantic. Because this method of decorating a drop ceiling relies on the ceiling itself to hold the fabric up, you will need no extra tools and no sewing ability.

Things You'll Need

  • Fabric Ladder Hanging decorations (optional)

Create a Canopy

  • Decide how you plan to hang the canopy. There are dozens of ways to do it, each of which produces a different effect. Running the fabric above all the bars of the drop ceiling covers the ceiling tiles with fabric without changing the lines of the room. You can lay the fabric flat against the tiles, or get a more exotic feel by letting the fabric billow beneath each square. Passing the fabric over only some of the bars of the drop ceiling creates an even billowier effect and disguises the lines of the ceiling more. For instance, passing the fabric over every other bar creates an effect that is twice as billowy as passing it over every single bar. Attaching the fabric only at the edges of the room and at one point in the center (possibly where a hanging lamp or other ornament hangs) is a classic dramatic look. Extending the fabric to drape down the walls can create the feel of an indoor pavilion.

  • Choose a fabric that suits the room. Create a dreamy atmosphere with white gauze, go exotic with strong African or Middle Eastern patterns, or create a tailored effect with khaki linen. Large patterns and solid fabric work best.

  • Measure the room to determine how much fabric you will need. Take into account how much extra you will need to add billows, and whether you need fabric to drape down the walls. Also consider the width of the cloth. Most fabric is sold in 45" widths, and designer fabrics are sold in 54" or 60" widths. If you plan to sew the lengths of fabric together, width will not be a concern, but if you don't want to do that much sewing, you will need to buy extra fabric to make up for the fact that the width of your ceiling tiles is unlikely to be the same width as your fabric.

  • Sew the fabric together. This is optional, since you can create the same effect by using lengths of unsewn fabric and making sure the raw edges don't hang over the ceiling bars.

  • Hang the fabric. Gently raise each ceiling tile in turn and pass the fabric over the bar, then lower the ceiling tile to pin the fabric in place. When all the fabric is hung, adjust the hang to get the right amount of billowiness.

  • Decorate the exposed bars. Hang ornaments from them, wrap strings of twinkling lights around them, twine them with ivy and silk flowers, glue rows of craft jewels from them--go wild.

Tips & Warnings

  • This method of hanging the fabric will expose at least some of the ceiling bars, so if you don't want any bars to show, instead pin the fabric to the bars by passing lengths of wire through the fabric and twist-tying it to the ceiling bars.
  • Take all possible safety precautions when swagging fabric across drop ceilings that have lights set into them. Do not cover the lights with fabric, and make sure that there is no fabric wadded up near the fixtures and wiring that run above the ceiling. Consider using fire-retardant fabric or treating your fabric with fire retardant before hanging it. Do not hang a fabric ceiling in any room where you expect to use open flame.

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