My Site, My Stuff

A Dropped Ceiling Light Design

Having got the smart-home control stable and happy, we decided it was a good time to re-decorate the dining and living rooms – two of my most hated decorating jobs because you cannot escape the mess like you can when doing a bedroom etc.

The dining room was first, we wanted to add some modern lighting and liked the look of a dropped ceiling, sometimes called an island ceiling. These are generally lit with concealed RGB LED strips facing upwards for background light and some LED spots facing downwards for task lighting. Naturally all the lights will be part of the smart home control, using Zigbee controllers or bulbs.

The RGB LED strips I chose are “RGBCCT” types, these feature the normal Red, Green and Blue LED’s but also have cool-white and warm-white LED’s – these allow a good range of white hues to be set and also give a good light level. The strips used have 60 LED’s per metre, are 24v and give 1500lm/m at 24w/m.

The build

The room was emptied, stripped and the ceiling marked out to check the chosen size of the dropped part, I went for 1m x 1m as the room is 2.8m square and it seemed about right 🙂

I used steel C & U channel – this is usually used for office partitions but is easy to work with and a similar price to timber. A frame was built and clad with 12mm plasterboard.

The face was fitted after drilling it for the GU10 spotlights and adding the wiring. The outer edge was built up with some small wood strip to give a nice finish and also to hide the LED strips which sit facing up just inside the lip.

The walls needed a plaster skim as we wanted a smooth painted finish and they were too rough to get a good surface – this is being done by a plasterer.

A week later

The plasterer did a fantastic job, the walls are as smooth as glass now. The dropped ceiling is finished and the whole ceiling painted.

Just waiting on some connectors so the RGB LED uplight strips can be fitted, tests were made with a small length of LED strip to get the position correct for best effect, this turned out to be facing upwards and along the face of the support wall/column of the drop ceiling.

Another day for the plaster to dry and I can fit the dado rail and give the walls a mist-coat of diluted emulsion to seal them.

While waiting we started on the living room, this will be exactly the same but the drop ceiling is longer as the room is a different shape.

Got the island finished, lights to be fitted next, some of the walls stripped of top layers, just the wet-strip to do.

Mist-coat done in the dining room.

Finishing up

Got the dining room completely finished now.  Carpet will be replaced as soon as living room is done.

Living room plastered, mist-coat of emulsion applied and dado rail fitted. When coating new plaster never use PVA as a sealer/primer, emulsion will not stick to PVA and will just peel off, use the cheapest matt emulsion paint thinned with water, I used a 50/50 mix as the paint was pretty thick Dulux matt, also never use a silk emulsion, just basic matt.

Job starts getting easier now 🙂

Painting in the living room is finished, that marks the completion of both rooms, just the carpet fitters needed now. The dropped ceilings really are effective and the LED strips I fitted give more than enough light range for comfort or task uses, the down-lighters give increased light on the main floor area or can be used dimmed for more light scene effects.


The lighting is all smart and also connected to our media system so when a film is played, the lights will automatically dim or turn off and return if the film is stopped or paused. As with the dining room, the LED’s are full RGB plus warm and cool whites – this type gives the biggest flexibility in colour tuning.

RGB LED’s in full-blue mode

The picture above exaggerates the colours a lot, the camera seems very sensitive to blues, in reality it’s a very smooth even light effect.