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American Tin Ceilings
Back to the Future with Victorian Elegance

By John Budris

Like many firsts - some of which should remain private - you never forget your first tin ceiling. I remember mine - circa 1959 - when first I stepped into Durgin Park near Faneuil Hall. To a seven year old, the magnificent tin ceilings seemed like giant upside down birthday cakes. Though Durgin Park first opened in 1742, the tin ceilings that so hooked me likely were added sometime after the Civil War.

Tin ceilings first came to North America in the mid 1800s as an affordable alternative to the exquisite plaster moldings and cornices used in fine European homes. Fireproof in the age of open flame lighting, durable and lightweight, tin ceilings caught on with both home owners and businesses.

By the late Victorian era nearly 50 companies had set up plants near rail lines to satisfy America’s love affair with tin. Though most factories were closed by the 1930s, tin ceilings have recently undergone a style revival as interior designers, homeowners and architects rediscover the material as a classic decor element for residential or commercial projects in a variety of styles, colors and settings.

Tin ceilings were made to last, and many still retain their Victorian elegance - even if buried beneath layers of paint or sheetrock. But restoring these original ceilings isn’t only time consuming and expensive - but can be hazardous - since those layers of paint are certainly from the time when lead was a prime ingredient.

But help is on the way. American Tin Ceilings has only been around since 2002, but has produced authentic replications of early 1800s Victorian ceiling and wall tiles ever since - right here in the United States. “From cost to appearance to longevity - going with our new material is the way to go,” says company representative Vincent Carafano. “Today our baked-on, powder-coated finishes are lead-free and will last for many generations.”

American Tin Ceilings produces 35 different patterns in more than 50 different colors and finishes, ranging from classic whites to dashing metallic tones. The company also offers three different application options - a real boon for both home and commercial purposes. The classic nail-up method, a patented, interlocking flange system and panels fabricated to fit into conventional dropped-ceiling frames all give the designer and builder many options to address most every challenge.

Tin can also be used for more than beautifying ceilings, explains Carafano. “Our customers have used our tin panels for various projects such as walls, windows, backsplashes, fireplace facing, cupboards, doors, wainscoting, accent pieces, headboards, art décor, metal sculpture,” he says.

American Tin Ceilings has a design and technical support team that makes the job problem free from the outset. Give the team the room dimensions and current ceiling substrate material, and within a day or two all will be designed and planned out, including moldings and cornices.

“Authentic tin is as magnificent now as it was 150 years ago because it has two things going for it,” says Carafano. “Peerless beauty and timeless design.”