A plain white ceiling hardly rates a cursory glance. But cover it with richly patterned metal panels, and instantly it becomes an eye-catching feature.
Tin ceilings originated in the 1880s as an affordable way for people to dress up a room's fifth wall. Tin was not only an aesthetic upgrade, meant to emulate high-end decorative plaster, it also offered a measure of fire protection—a big concern at a time when home cooking, lighting, and heating were largely done with open flames. The 2-by-2- and 2-by-4-foot panels were originally stamped out of steel and called "steel ceilings." It wasn't until later, when the raw steel panels were plated in tin to help slow down rusting, that the colloquial term tin ceilings arose.
Today, most panels are made of 30-gauge tin-plated steel a mere 1/100 inch thick. Incredibly, many historic patterns are still sold some 70 years after tin's heyday came to an end. But now you have a wider choice of factory finishes and colors, and more DIY-friendly ways to install the panels.
Shown: 2-by-2-foot field panels in Butterfly Needlepoint pattern No. 2410, about $10 per panel; No. EC0400 Duchess cornice, about $2.50 per linear foot; and No. 2400 Hammered filler, about $2.50 per square foot, all aluminum in mill finish. Available from