4 Simple Solutions For A Drop Ceiling

I remember the first time I saw what is now our house in person. I walked into the living room, my eyes following the giant bay windows up, up, up to the ceiling and saw … gridlines. There was a drop ceiling. I remember saying to my then-fiance that the ceiling made me feel like I was in elementary school — it wasn’t a dealbreaker, but it was not something I really wanted to live with.
Two and a half years later, it’s still there, and it still grates on me whenever I look at it. There are four different kinds of panels in the room, all (poorly) painted the same flat white. The grid is bent, uneven, and sloppy. The tiles don’t sit right. It drives me batty.

We’ve since learned why it’s there — apparently our house sustained some sort of fire and water damage during it’s 112 years on this planet. My brother bravely moved a panel and stuck his head into the six-to-eight inch space to discover that the majority of the original plaster ceiling lay charred and water-stained in chunks on top of the tiles. It’s purpose was to hide our house’s flaws and history. And now, the thoughts of changing it in almost any way to make it more aesthetically pleasing consume me, despite the mess and headache I know it’ll cause.
So here are some solutions for a drop ceiling that I’ve worked on over the past couple of years:
Paint it. I find myself looking up at ceilings in various locations to see how other places handle drop ceilings. Often, I find them painted a flat color. While that seems to have been part of the solution for the previous owners, I’m not sure how good it would look. White is obviously not doing it for me. The majority of our living room is complete (save refinishing the floors), and has very dark maroon walls. It’s been suggested to paint it the same color as the walls, or black, to visually trick the eye into processing the ceiling as negative space. I’m still not certain, based on the condition of the whole grid, that paint would deliver as much of a change as I crave.
Take it down. This is obviously what I’d love to do, but since the walls in the living room are the same plaster as everything else in the house (and the previous owners have a record of epoxying everything to everything) I’m not sure we could extract the grid system without damaging the otherwise efficient walls. I would LOVE to tear it all down and drywall the ceiling back at it’s original height and add some crown, but unless I’m willing to render my living room useless for a few weeks, this just isn’t plausible right now.
New tiles. I’ve seen the faux-tin-tile panels at the big box retailers (as well as on Overstock) and been convinced on and off that they were the perfect solution. They’d add to the formality of the space, give some architectural detailing to and often-ignored surface, and are offered with matching grid covers and crown. Sometimes I think about just buying the panels and throwing them into the existing grid and sacrificing the extra height, sometimes I think about replacing the grid slightly higher up to get some of the height back, and sometimes I fantasize about redoing the whole ceiling and gluing them up. I love the color options and that some are paint-able, and the idea of fancy drop ceilings is something I find interesting and unique.
Wallpaper it. Remember this post? I’ve seriously considered two options here as well — a whole-ceiling redux with this Graham & Brown wallpaper painted some way that would make me smile, or just really being perminary about it and throwing it up on top of the existing tiles and painting it something. I know that’s not the smartest option, but it’d be the easiest and cheapest yet (besides leaving it alone and hating every time I look up).
I don’t know. I’m in over my head with home renovations as it is, but you know how something just gets under your skin and makes it crawl? That’s how I feel about my ceiling. Do you have any suggestions for me and my drop ceiling? Let me know in the comments before I start just tearing things down.

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