Nearly everyone knows that it is the environmentally correct thing to replace old energy consumptive incandescent bulbs with the newer compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), but even the most dedicated environmentalist will agree that they leave a lot to desire in the looks department. However, solutions exist for the determined interior makeover artist, and most need only simple tools, a bit of crafting skill and scrap materials to make.
For a modern, no-nonsense approach, install a false ceiling grid such as those used in schools and offices, and insert translucent panels in the grid beneath the lights. (Use acoustical or decorative ceiling tiles in non-light parts of the grid.) This will lower the ceiling as well, which may help save on heating bills. In an older house, this is a good way to disguise lights and improve an ugly stained ceiling at the same time.
Attach lightweight diaphanous cloth in "waves" beneath lights. Fix one end to the spot where wall and ceiling come together, and staple the cloth at intervals across the ceiling, suspending it a few inches lower than the lights to prevent overheating of the bulbs. Alternatively, hang the cloth from towel bars or curtain rods suspended from the ceiling. Cover the whole ceiling or just a strip across the centre to create a romantic, diffused glow.
Install a translucent shelf of glass or plastic beneath ceiling-mounted lights by hanging the lights from metal rods or chains attached to the ceiling with hooks. Coloured glass or even a stained glass panel can add a dramatic light to the room.
For small hanging fluorescent bulbs try twining a metallic ivy garland around the base and letting it hang down around the bulb. Arranged carefully, it obscures the shape while allowing the light to peek through like sun through natural foliage. Do not use plastic or other flammable materials; even though fluorescents do not get as hot as incandescent bulbs, they may still pose a fire hazard if put in direct contact with material not designed to withstand heat.
Many styles of ceiling lamp shades are on the market. In some cases, it is relatively easy to find a commercially-manufactured shade to cover the light bulbs that fits stylishly with the rest of your decor If you can't find what you are looking for, consider creating your own lamp shades from rice paper, which is a simple craft project for which tutorials abound. You could also buy a few premade rice paper lanterns, and use those to creatively cover your CFLs.