Fluorescent lights are undoubtedly energy savers as well as long-lasting sources of brilliant illumination. However, their light can sometimes be too harsh, and the fixtures themselves are often ugly. You can have environmentally friendly lights that are also attractive. Start with a basic box to surround the exposed lights -- available at most shops selling fluorescent lights -- or build your own, and use diffuser panels and draperies creatively to disguise the bulbs beautifully.
Illuminated art box
Turn ordinary shop lights into a lovely art piece for your ceiling. Measure the length and width of the fixture(s) you plan to cover, and build an open wooden box sized to fit around them with 5 cm (2 inches) or so of space on each side and underneath. Cut an acrylic panel to fit the top of the box, and drill holes along the sides for fastening it to the wood. Attach the light box to the ceiling joists using L-shaped brackets attached to the inside of the box so they do not show. Decorate the plastic panel with stained glass paints, parchment or transparent photos on the side that will face the inside of the box. Screw the panel in place, and take a look at your illuminated masterpiece.
Build an open board framework with 2.5 x 15 cm (1 x 6 inch) planks fastened together on edge, then painted or stained as desired. Drill four small holes -- one near the bottom of each corner about 6 mm (1/4 inch) from the bottom edge. Cut two appropriately sized dowels, and slide them from the outside of each hole on one side across the box and into the holes opposite. Use those as curtain rods to gather sheer curtains sewn to fit across the underside of the light box. Fasten small screw-eyes into the top edges at the corners to hang the box from decorative hooks in the ceiling joists. The draperies will lend a pretty, diffused glow to a room.
Hula hoop light box
Make a round fluorescent light disappear beautifully using hula hoops for a light box. Sew a wide hem on each long side of a strip of lightweight cloth about 15 cm (12 inches) across and twice the length of a hula hoop measured around the circumference. Open the hoops temporarily at their seams, and slide the cloth hems over the full length of each, gathering the folds on the hoops. Reattach the ends of the hoops, covering the seams with the cloth ends. Sew a cutout circle, the same size as the opening, to the bottom of the lowest hoop. Hang the cloth and hula hoop cylinder over the fluorescent fixture using fishing line to suspend it from cup hooks in the ceiling.