Nathan Webb

Victorian homes in the late 19th or early 20th century were often graced with a common architectural detail: a decorative, pressed-metal ceiling. Today, the product adds a vintage flair to interiors.

Winchester, Va.–based Reader & Swartz Architects, a firm that enjoys blending the old with the new, found a way to use the durable and lightweight material in a different way in the Loft Upon Cork multifamily project in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.

The project involved converting a four-unit dwelling—which was constructed in the late 1800s—into two units. The architects wanted to enliven the project by using traditional elements in a modern way, so they turned to the pressed metal products made by Nevada, Mo.–based W.F. Norman Corp.

The company offers a wide range of tin ceiling pattern designs in different sizes that can be used on ceilings, but also, as Reader & Swartz shows, in many other ways.

“The metal panels we used were commonly utilized as ceilings in 19th-century commercial spaces,” says architect Charles Swartz. “We used the galvanized steel sheets as an exterior infill panel wall, set within a steel frame, as a companion to the floor-to-ceiling glass above. We also used the panels as the backsplash for kitchen cabinets that were designed as a modern take on our client’s mother’s kitchen in Liverpool, England.”

Standard panels are made from tin-plated steel, but galvanized steel also is available for exterior use. Special order copper and brass options are available. Reader & Swartz chose Ceiling Panel No. 221, a product measuring 48 inches long and 24 inches wide. It costs $33.50 per panel.

“We liked that the metal, in its unpainted form, has pattern, texture, and shine, and feels familiar as well as a little unexpected,” Swartz says.