Lofts are an increasingly popular choice for apartments, especially in urban environments. Old factories and other such buildings are being converted into living spaces and offer amenities that include open, flexible floor plans; large windows with amazing views; and modern, industrial interiors. However, loft dwellers have to contend with the exposed duct work that is often present in these spaces. While the effect can be a positive one, there are a few successful strategies for decorating exposed duct work you should try.
Conceal the Duct Work
If you've decided that exposed ducts are simply ugly, then your best strategy is to conceal them. Obviously, they can't be removed since they serve an important function, but there are ways to make them less noticeable short of installing an unattractive dropped ceiling.
The easiest way to conceal duct work is to paint it to match the ceiling. Most likely, the ceiling will be painted white or another neutral color, so select a paint that can be used on galvanized metal and paint the ducts to match. While they won't disappear, they will be much less noticeable with a matte white finish than the shiny metal construction of most ducts.
Embrace the Duct Work
Rather than trying to conceal the ducts, why not embrace the industrial feel they provide? Most ducts are made of galvanized sheet metal, which shiny and gray. If the ducts look grimy, give them them a thorough cleaning. However, it isn't necessary to try to repair every dent and scratch since the intention is to create an industrial effect. Finish the ducts with a clear coat to protect the surface and enhance the shine. Exposed, natural ducts look especially good against unpainted concrete for the ultimate loft aesthetic.
Enhance the Duct Work
A much more radical approach to decorating exposed duct work is to paint it a shocking color. If your duct work is against a concrete ceiling, consider painting it an eye-popping color such as lime green, red or orange. If it is against a white ceiling, try painting it black or very dark gray so it really stands out. If you have wood ceilings, think about mint green or baby blue as a nice contrast to the brown of the wood. Duct work can look very sculptural, so why not show it off?
Light the Duct Work
While it's not usually a great idea to hang or attach items to your duct work, lightweight LED light strands are a creative way to decorate your ducts for the holidays or a special occasion. Simply wrap the light strand around the duct work; tighter coils provide more light but require more strands, while looser coils provide a soft, subtle glow. This installation can be permanent, but it is an especially nice effect for a party or dinner gathering.
Cover the Duct Work
If none of these ideas has inspired you and you would rather not see the duct work at all, then you can install a dropped ceiling to hide it completely. In most cases, it will be necessary to drop the ceiling several feet to provide clearance for the ducts, so you will have to be willing to sacrifice ceiling height. You will still need access to the duct work for maintenance, so gridded ceilings with lay-in tile are often an economical--but usually unattractive--choice. There are, however, some more modern lay-in ceilings available in metallic finishes. It may be possible to install a traditional dry wall ceiling with cut outs for the registers from the ducts.