Thrifty DIY: Chic puffy drop ceiling for $27

DIY projects are my new addiction. It’s not that I’ve gotten into it recently out of the blue; it’s been a long-standing love that I just haven’t had the space or time to complete. So when I come up with an easy (and cheap) solution to something I want to fix up, I’ve jumped at the chance.

My bedroom was needing a solution — badly. It has an ugly, grid suspended ceiling with random stains and cracks. There was a hole above my bed where I laid my head! It just needed to go.

I’ve always been a fan of the “puffy” ceiling look; it just looks comfy and serene. So I copied that exact look for $27 and it doesn’t look tacky. You can probably do it for even cheaper if you don’t make the same mistakes I did.

After two hours, the finished product left me pleased. You can see the strings of lights hanging above the cloth.

You can vary these materials to alter your taste. For instance, my bedroom space is around 10×10 feet. I bought two yards of 108″ white cotton muslin, the cheapest there was at Hancock Fabrics. (They also apparently have a coupon for 15%, so says the older woman who was helping me with all this fabric business.)

The two yards cost me $12. It wasn’t enough to cover the entire ceiling, so I ended up supplementing with six yards of 38″ white cotton muslin from Wal-Mart (only because Hancock had closed by this point) for $11. The great thing about this kind of ceiling is you can cover up your mistakes by layering. I covered the edge of the ceiling that was showing by layering fabric underneath it and swooping that up. You can’t even really tell the fabric ends at a certain point.

My total was $27. Depending on the size you want to cover, what type of ceiling you have, and what type of lights you want to have, your cost can vary.

Phase one completed at this point. The lights are strung a bit uniformly, but not too much to look perfectly symmetrical.


Depending on the space, you’ll want to adjust how many lights you get. If you want a soft bright and don’t want to expose the lights, go for the 400 mini lights. If you want it to have a “starry” look, get less. This is actually the best time to buy string lights with the holidays right around the corner!

If you have decorative string lights (like lanterns or paper globes), you’ll want to expose those!

The size of your space will obviously determine how much fabric you get. For my 10×10 space, I bought two yards of 108″ and then six yards of 38″. Getting more yards of the 108″ is beneficial. I used the 38″ to drape in one corner (perfect for hiding the extension cord!).

Also, beware! Don’t pick a dark color if you’re hanging lights above the fabric. The light won’t go through quite as nicely as a light color.

The “Alexandra method” of stringing it over and tucking cloth. Gotta work with what you got!

The Lights

You can go about this in a couple of ways:

  • Lucky for me, those commercial drop tiles are perfect for this kind of project. I literally just pushed the tiles up and strung the lights over the bridges connecting the tiles (picture above). The fabric was then tucked in corners of tiles where there was enough pressure to balance them. You can do this in a better way by purchasing ceiling hooks specifically for grid ceilings and hanging up your lights that way.
  • If you have a solid ceiling, you may want to consider adding ceiling hooks to your materials list for the string lights. Thankfully, they aren’t expensive and they aren’t too difficult to handle. Strength isn’t that big of an issue since the lights aren’t heavy at all. String the lights up with the hooks.

The Fabric

After your lights are up, start by hanging up the four corners at once. Don’t have it tightened against your lights. My fabric was draped so low starting out that if I sat on my bed, it was incredibly close to my head. When you tuck or staple, it will begin to shorten the drape and create that puffy look. I chose where to cinch by picking “darker” spots where there wasn’t a strand of lights.

If you’re sticking to white fabric, keep things white. White cords for the string lights, white extension cord to attach to your socket. Let the lights do all the talking.

The extension cord can be held down with some painter’s tape and hid behind draped fabric in a corner. Or you could be even better and do two draped corners on the left and right sides of the bed to add some symmetry into your design.

Your patience will pay off! These lights are soft enough to be cozy, but bright enough for me to read at night.

Last Tips:

  • Remember to drape! It doesn’t have to be in a uniform pattern. Don’t allow the fabric to be cinched too close together; it will look like a wedding dress stapled to your ceiling. Let it fall. If you’re going to be leaving these lights on for a while, because they aren’t LED, they will warm. Keep the fabric from touching the lights. You can also just spring for the LED lights, which are a bit more expensive. They last longer, too.
  • Experiment whether you want your string lights to hang below or above the fabric. I opted for above because the cloth would buffer the light and soften it, leaving a cozy, soft light throughout the space. If you have decorative string lights, you’ll want to go below. This would actually make your job a bit easier: attach or screw in the ceiling hooks first, put up your fabric by pushing a hole through with the hook, and then drape your lights!
  • If you do it correctly and buy fabric all at one time, you can probably get this done cheaper than I did. Be sure to measure the space you want to cover. I didn’t do that, and I ended up suffering a bit for it.
  • This isn’t a long-term solution. Dust may become an issue in the future depending on your household. A quick fix might be to push up on the puffs to move the dust out and use a duster (like a Swiffer) to maneuver inside the puffs. Another way to maybe combat the dust would be to take down the fabric when you notice dust collecting (if you haven’t stapled it up) and clean the fabric. I’ll post an update once I have a dust problem.

I hope this helps anyone looking for this type of ceiling. Doing it for cheap is just a bonus. Enjoy!

Alexandra is not responsible for any damage made in the process or as a result of this project.


10 thoughts on “Thrifty DIY: Chic puffy drop ceiling for $27

  1. This is great!! I’m moving into a new space and looking for ways to make it feel more comfy and homy! Very helpful! What’s the update with the dust?

    1. This is definitely a good way to do it! I’d love to see your take!

      Dust hasn’t been an issue; in fact, I just took them down and cleaned them a couple of weeks ago. The only part that was actually dirty was where I had tucked it under the tiles!

      Dust never fell on me and I never had any allergy issues, however.

      So taking it down every six months or so to clean probably isn’t a bad idea!

  2. i too have a drop-ceiling i must do something about. this looks beautiful but i worry it’s a fire hazard. a fire could spread much more quickly across all the fabric on the ceiling than if it were just a drop-ceiling. what do you guys think?

  3. Ithsi is super beautiful! Thank you for sharing this, Alexandra! Did you go corner to corner, and cover the entire ceiling? I’m doing this to my facial/massage room. Hoping for awesome results! Thanks again 🙂

    1. Thank you, Nikki! I did cover the entire ceiling with this. I would only do so because it’s easier to hide everything, particularly the cord from the lights. When you finish, please send me a photo and a link to your business, I’d love to post about it! 🙂

  4. You are quite brilliant my friend! I’ve been contemplating doing something similar in my bedroom, as it is the only room in the house with a drop ceiling. I hate looking up and seeing those darn tiles everytime I get into bed!! Probably going to have to hold off until aftre the holidays, but this project has definetly been added to my list! 🙂

  5. What do you do with ceiling vents? I’m trying to control humidity in my room so maybe covering it is ok?

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