A How-To Guide for Beautiful Ceilings
It was 2013 and we had recently moved into a brand new studio. The space was a fun Philly corner with plenty of room for our design shenanigans. We knew we could clean it up nicely and make it our new home except for… the drop ceiling grid, which was unfortunately essential to the operation of the space in warm and cold weather. Sound familiar?! Office spaces, basements and so many other commercial and residential buildings are designed to work with lay in ceiling tiles without any regard for aesthetics. With this challenge in mind we set out to design a beautiful, affordable and sustainable ceiling tile.
Hundreds of exacto blades later we arrived at a promising solution. We folded, cut and transformed cardboard into a dimensional tile that could pattern and transform ceilings into landscapes (you can see some of our very first experiments below). We decided to call them FoldScapes. The resulting designs are modern, cost effective (more cost affordable than anything you will find at a home improvement store), recycled and recyclable decorative ceiling tiles. Over the years we have seen them used all over the world in surprising ways. Today we will explain how the tiles work and how to best transform any space with them, no matter the final end use or your skill level.
(Above images of our initial prototypes and experiments)
What to Expect
FoldScapes are origami-like cardboard ceiling tiles made out of E Flute corrugated board. They ship flat and require bending into their dimensional shape. They use tabs to stay together in their final shape and do not require any tools for assembly or installation. Unlike the majority of ceiling tiles on the market FoldScapes will not fall apart like thicker mineral fiber tiles do sometimes. Despite common assumptions cardboard can be extremely durable, especially when it is used in ceilings. Drop ceiling tiles are rarely handled, unless there is a maintenance issue making cardboard an ideal material. Like mineral fiber tiles FoldScapes are not made for outdoor use or wet environments (water is the enemy of most drop ceiling tiles and buildings for that matter!). FoldScapes come in packs of 24 tiles and sell for $98 dollars (about $4 per tile or $1 per square foot). We currently offer three dimensional designs: Peak, Bloom and Crystal as well as a flat edging tile we call Square. All of our tiles are designed to fit standard two by two foot drop ceiling grids. At this time we do not offer a tile for the slim line grids or other low profile drop ceiling grids. If you have a two by four ceiling grid you can make it compatible with our tiles using additional ceiling grid cross tees which can be purchased at most home improvement stores.
Calculating Coverage and Planning your Installation
Get ready to transform your ugly drop ceiling into a FoldSacpe! The first step is figuring out how many tiles you need. A floor plan of the space will make things easy, but if you don’t have one, you can count the tiles on the grid, if one is installed or use our handy calculator below the descriptions of each FoldScapes Tile. It is very important to count whole tiles first to determine how many of the dimensional tiles you will need. Then figure out how many of the tiles have been trimmed along the edges of the room or how many of the grid openings would consist of trimmed tiles. Include tiles that have been cut to accommodate mechanical systems such as sprinklers, smoke detectors, recessed lighting and other fixtures. It is also very important to evaluate how the current fixtures are secured. Lighting and other heavy elements should always be attached to the ceiling grid or to structural framing. In addition to the tiles you might also need the following supplies: utility knife, metal ruler or straightedge and a pencil.
Folding the Tiles
Once you order and receive the tiles you will need to fold them into their dimensional shape. Use the images below to follow along the steps for folding. Please note the example below is Crystal, however pre-folding and the other steps recommended below apply to all FoldScapes designs. Folding Bloom along the curved score lines should be done with greater care to ensure the cardboard does not get a break or fold mark elsewhere.
- The first step for proper installation of our tiles is to pre-fold them. Find a flat, spacious and clean surface to fold your tiles and place a single tile white side down. This step guarantees that all of your tiles will be an even two by two feet.
- Gently but firmly bend the tile following the score lines visible on the back except the score marks on the perimeter. Be sure to fold them completely over, until one side of the tile touches or nearly touches the other side. TIP: It will not be possible to fold the tile over on every score line in every design so pay close attention to the folds to prevent tearing the tiles. Repeat this step until you feel the material becoming easier to fold. You will also notice how it wrinkles slightly on the brown side. When folding make sure the stress is on the score lines otherwise you will put creases in the wrong place. (TIP: Note in the images below how one hand is placed to keep one side of the tile flat while the other pulls or pushes the material evenly across the score lines.)
- Fold the tile along the score lines to the proper shape and use the tab locks on the rear to secure the tile in that shape
- Slightly bend the perimeter tabs so that when they sit on the grid they rest on them. This will also prevent light from seeping through the installation
- Repeat these steps for all of the tiles and place them on a clean floor facing up
- Before installing the tiles note the patterns they make. Rotate four tiles side by side on the floor to test out the possible patterns and find the one you like
- Start by installing perimeter tiles and those that require cutting. See further down in this post for tile cutting instructions
- Now you are ready to place the tiles in. Insert the tile diagonally and place it so that it sits flush on the grid. It is sometimes a good idea to use the opening next to the tile you are setting in to properly set the tile in
Cutting Tiles for Edging, Lighting and Ceiling Mechanicals
FoldScapes work well with most ceiling lighting and mechanicals such as sprinklers and pendant lights. To achieve a seamless look we recommend using our Square tiles. These are flat tiles that will be easier to cut and install than dimensional tiles. To cut tiles for edging or fixtures you may follow with the steps and images below:
- Measure with a ruler from the middle of the grid to the wall
- Mark the tiles with a pen or pencil along the cut line
- Use scissors or a utility knife and a straightedge or ruler to cut along your marks
- Fold the perimeter tabs to give the Square FoldScapes structure
- Install the tile section and be sure it is flush with the grid
If you have recessed lighting or other mechanicals you will also need to cut a Square tile to accommodate them. Below are some steps and tips to make this process easier:
- If it is a new installation select fixtures with suspended brackets that will connect directly to the ceiling grid or structural beams. FoldScapes tiles should not be supporting the weight of the mechanicals.
- Create a cardboard template or use the trim ring as reference for marking the exact placement of your openings
- Place the tile on a cutting board and mark the position of the openings. Be sure to measure the position accurately
- Cut the tile with a sharp utility knife ensuring that the fixture will go through cleanly and have enough room for any trims or covers if available
- Place the cut tile and install any can lights above, positioning them according to your cuts
FoldScapes were originally designed as cost effective ceiling tiles but they have become popular in a variety of applications ranging from church stage design to event and party decoration to trade show display design. The tiles can easily be hung vertically using a grid or by taping them together or to the wall in the case of Peak and Bloom. In addition the tiles can be painted, printed with custom designs or patterns, dramatically lit or otherwise transformed to create a variety of high impact, sculptural surfaces. Below are some images of beautiful installations that take advantage of FoldScapes properties in unconventional applications. These ideas can also be applied to ceilings! Below are a few tips to make your ceiling tile installations shine:
- Lighting can play a crucial role in redefining ceilings and spaces. Use dramatic lighting to cast shadows and enhance the look of your installation
- Give your installation direction. FoldScapes have very directional patterns that can be modified by rotating the tiles. Take the time to think through your layout
- Give your pattern breathing room by using Square tiles. Patterns can be enhanced when you reduce their density, especially in smaller installations
- If you are planning on painting tiles be sure to test out the finish and apply it when the tile is flat. Because FoldScapes are made out of cardboard they will absorb liquids and will tend to warp. Sometimes folding them will straighten them but on occasion you might need to paint the reverse of the tile to achieve the desired result
- Last but not least have fun with it! As with all of our products we value your creativity.