6 Drop Ceiling Makeover Ideas

updated Apr 5, 2022
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Credit: Anna Spaller

If you’ve moved into a space with drop ceilings that haven’t been upgraded, there’s a good chance you aren’t very happy with what you’re seeing. Truth be told, those flimsy movable tiles aren’t exactly inspirational. “Dropped ceilings are most frequently used to hide electrical wiring, ducts, piping, and other unsightly construction items. In condos, apartments, and residential spaces, dropped ceilings offer the benefit of soundproofing or insulation or offer a space for recessed lighting if incompatible with the existing ceilings,” says Sarah Barnard, owner and president of Sarah Barnard Design LLC

But living with drop ceilings doesn’t have to feel like a downer, especially if you use some creative thinking. There are a few ways to dress them up, whether you opt for a cool ceiling paint color, or attractive tiling. And if you really want to cover things up, you could opt for a black ceiling (as long as your room has enough natural light to support such a bold move). Here are a few ways to make them work for you—and (gasp!) even turn them into a legitimate design statement.

1. Paint them

What could be easier than a painted drop ceiling? Using matte paint in a dark color can help your ceiling recede, which not only makes the tiles less noticeable but gives the impression of taller ceilings. Try coating the tiles in one solid hue like midnight blue, charcoal, or black—or fully embrace the grid, and use it to create a kind of paint-by-number checkered design with multiple colors.

2. Cover them with drywall

“One of the most minimal-looking methods for concealing a drop ceiling is by using drywall. Drywall offers a smooth finish appealing in many spaces,” says Barnard. You’d never know the ceiling in this beautiful space is a drop ceiling, since the drywall blends seamlessly with the surrounding walls. 

3. Replace them with tin

There are tons of companies that make tin ceiling tiles that you can easily swap in for your musty old ones. Lightweight and fairly inexpensive, they add instant architectural detailing – nice if you have an older home –  and can add a very cool dimension to a more modern space. If you don’t feel up to the task of replacing the old tiles, you can find glue-up versions of tin tiles at big-box stores that you simply affix to your existing surface. Easy peasy.

4. Wallpaper them

If you’re feeling adventurous (and your walls are a solid color), you could attempt to add a layer of wallpaper to your drop ceiling. It’s less permanent than a painted drop ceiling, but potentially just as messy. Renters should stick to removable wallpaper, but keep in mind no matter the type of wallpaper you use, you need as smooth a surface as possible for the adhesive to stick. So if your ceiling tiles are very textured, you may need to fill them in a bit with a lightweight spackle. Pop out the tiles and individually wrap them with the wallpaper, or, if you want to hide the grid completely, fill in the grid lines, then apply wallpaper over the entire surface.

5. Cover them with wood

Barnard suggests wood paneling for a stately look that still allows for easy access to whatever’s underneath your drop ceiling. If you rent your place, consider using sheets of wood veneer, or you could get an adhesive veneer that you could stick over the existing tiles. But the real wood paneling shown in this picture is an enviable upgrade if you’re an owner looking to conceal unsightly drop ceilings.

6. Minimize the grid

One of the aspects that make drop ceilings so hard to ignore is that grid pattern. Even though both the tiles and the grid are typically white, the tiles never exactly match the color of the actual grid, which makes everything look dingy. Try to downplay the difference between the two with plain white grid tape.