The most important aspect of choosing a ceiling design for your bar or restaurant is to pick something that conforms with the ambience and theme of your restaurant. If you own a sushi restaurant and serve traditional Japanese cuisine, for example, opt for a traditional wooden-rafter or flat panel ceiling design. If your Japanese restaurant serves fusion sushi with a DJ spinning in the background, opt for a more industrial or modern look.
A flat panel ceiling is the most basic type of ceiling. It consists of the panels that are, most likely, included with the space you lease. These panels can be easily removed by handymen when they need to access the pipes or electrical wiring behind it. Advantages include cost -- in some cases, you will not have to do anything, as this is the default ceiling pattern; in other cases, you may choose to freshen the look by installing recessed lighting. Disadvantages include a possible perception that this design is plain, common or uninspiring.
Common in modern and contemporary designs, a high ceiling with exposed metal pipes is most commonly found in buildings made from concrete, which contain an industrial feel. If you choose to rent space for your bar or restaurant in an industrial-design building, keeping the exposed metal pipe ceiling space is not only cost-effective, but also adds to the industrial feel. This is not an optimal choice for restaurants that try to feel old-world (such as traditional French or Italian restaurants), but could be a great option for a late-night bar or for a cutting-edge fusion cuisine restaurant.
One word of caution: the exposed pipes that run overhead are working sink and sewage pipes, so inspect them regularly to prevent leaking.
Exposed Wooden Rafters
The cost-effective ceiling solution for old-world-style eateries -- such as French, Italian or even traditional Southern comfort foods -- is to rent a space in an old cotton mill, cabin or refurbished warehouse that includes high ceilings with exposed wooden rafters. Again, this ceiling design is included in the space you rent, making it cost-effective and low-maintenance. The exposed wooden rafters create an earthy, outdoorsy and traditional feel for your bar-restaurant. This is a common look for sports bars and restaurants with comfort-food themes.
Before you commit to the expense of retrofitting a ceiling, consider freshing up your bar or restaurant's ceiling by hanging interesting light fixtures, which is cheaper and occasionally more eye-catching than a ceiling remodel. The rooftop bar at Gramercy Park Hotel in New York is famous for its ever-changing light-fixture display on its ceiling, which at one point featured more than 10,000 hanging bulbs (only 100 of which were lit). Hanging new fixtures from the ceiling -- whether you choose a series of chandeliers, wrought-iron fixtures or sleek hanging cones -- adds a new element of design to your ceiling space.
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