Ductwork comes out of hiding, adds design punch

Kathryn Weber
Tribune Content Agency

They’re not pretty and almost always hidden from sight, but air conditioning and heating ductwork are now proudly displayed in many homes. Like exposed wood beams that have become so popular, the round shape of ductwork is catching on.

Exposed utility

As the industrial look becomes more prominent and contemporary designs don't show signs of fading away anytime soon, having exposed ductwork is adds a unique decorating element to your home. Although once deemed strictly a functional feature of a home, air ducting can be incorporated into a home's design in a variety of ways that make a statement in a room. Ductwork is often used as a design element in contemporary settings but can be used in transitional and traditional design too. The ductwork doesn't have to be silver or gray-colored, though, or strictly utilitarian-looking. Ductwork can be painted or finished in way that makes it a seamless part of the room's design.

Design options

Today’s ductwork can be sleek and sophisticated, with a shining finish that's a far cry from traditional galvanized ducts. If your home is rustic, ductwork can be refinished to appear antiqued with a bronzed or rusted paint finish. A custom finish like this ensures that the ductwork retains its unique feature but works with the style of the room.

An expensive choice, but one that creates a distinctive look, is copper ductwork. The shining copper makes a big impact in any room. Ultramodern or contemporary rooms might look better with an upgrade from the hardware store look of standard galvanized ductwork. Bright colors are another option to create a distinctive appearance and turn the ducts into one-of-a-kind look.

Don't be afraid to paint ductwork in a high gloss finish to call more attention to this unique feature. Or, when simply painted a similar color as the ceiling, the ductwork blends in but still gives a distinct feeling with its tubular shape. And ductwork isn't just for the ceilings now. Adding ductwork along the top of a wall is a good option that looks terrific and becomes a unique design feature in the room.


Before changing out your ductwork for exposed ducts, make sure you contact a heating and air conditioning company to help guide you. Air flow and proper delivery of heat and air need the right amount of ductwork, venting and dampers within the ducts, so a professional HVAC person will need to guide you to ensure those needs are met. You may also have permitting requirements where you live, so be sure to check with your locality before undertaking a renovation or new construction.