Faux ceiling beams with integrated light fixtures.
When we were looking for our current home, one of the criteria that was pretty high up on our list was a big dining room. I mean, a BIG dining room. We always find ourselves entertaining friends and family and we do it in big numbers. It was important to us to have a dining space that would allow us to do so comfortably.
The house we finally decided upon did have the space we needed, but it had to be reworked. The floor plan for this space was one, open concept room that should be divided into a family room and a dining room. The two areas were distinguished with two ceiling levels; the family room has 20' ceilings, meanwhile the ceiling height over what should technically be the dining room drops to 9'. When we placed our long 10' table in the desired spot, it was right in the middle of the room where the ceiling changes heights, which made it challenging to hang our light fixtures over the table. Not only that, but with the table placed right smack in the centre of what clearly was two separate areas, its positioning looked awkward. We needed some way to make the two spaces appear as one.
After a very long time of brainstorming (and a couple of genius suggestions from some family members), we came up with an awesome beam structure idea! The plan was to build a simple beam "grid" that would partially be attached to the dropped portion of the ceiling and partially extend out into the higher ceiling area. Anchoring the beam structure in line with the table and at the point where the ceiling changes heights, would not only provide a way to hang the light fixtures directly over the dining table, but the beams would also help to create a visual illusion of one space. This idea would also eliminate another challenge; instead of having to cut the ceiling drywall to extend the electrical wires for the light fixtures from the existing electrical box (located in the centre of the 9' ceiling) to the new light position, the wiring could simply be hidden inside the hollow beams. Right away we drew out the plans, sourced lumber and other supplies, and it wasn't long before we were building beams in our dining room!
The project was pretty straight forward; using 6" wide finished pine, Eric and I built 5 three-sided "boxes". We joined four of them together to form a rectangle and the fifth box was installed in the centre of the rectangle, parallel to the longer sides. The light fixtures would be suspended from this middle box.
After filling in all screw holes with wood filler and sanding these areas down, I distressed the beams. To do this, I used various tools, but my favourite turned out to be a fork, serrated knife, metal potato masher, hammer, and long screws. Next, I stained the beams in a medium-dark walnut colour. Finally, my brother in law, an electrician by trade, wired our new light fixtures.
To install the beam structure onto the ceiling, with some extra man power, the structure was first lifted into place and the ceiling was marked to outline its location. Using the marks as a guide, three 2x6's were then securely attached to the ceiling. The 2x6s served as "runners" that fit snugly inside the longer "boxes" and the structure was sleeved over and screwed to the runners. The final step was to fill in the screw holes with wood filler and touch up with stain.
The beam structure has solved a few issues we had in our dining room; firstly, the high/low ceilings prevented us from hanging our light fixtures directly over the table. The beam structure is aligned with the table and extends out into the portion of the room with the higher ceiling area and provides a surface from which the light fixtures could be hung. Secondly, the beam structure brings a lot of balance to the space and also helps to unify it, making the previous family and dining rooms feel more like one space. Located right next to the front entrance, the dining room is the first space that is seen when the door is opened and the structure is a very grand and unique feature that welcomes our guests with so much drama and character (we receive a ton of compliments!!).
This project definitely takes the trophy for one of the coolest and most innovative solutions in our home! Indeed, a very bright idea :)