Friday, October 1, 2021

Inner Space: Watch Us Turn A Ceiling Nook Into A Mind-Bending Mini Galaxy

Hiya, happy Friday night! Our cat Suki was sick this week, so I lost a couple days staying up all night with her & being generally stressed and sad. Happily after extensive vet visits (and bills) she's on the mend, and only you fellow pet owners will understand my joy when I tell you, "she pooped today!!"

So with my cat poopin' and life looking up, let me show you an extremely cool project John and I finished a few weeks ago. It's also extremely hard to photograph, because it involves mirrors, lights, forced perspective, and an awkward space, but I have video coming that will help you see the full effect in all its glory.

First let's look at this awkward space:

Our friend Tim has an amazing new house that he and his folks have fully customized so he can best get around in his wheelchair. To that end, they knocked out a wall between his bedroom and study, leaving the space you see here with the ladder. This used to be a closet, and the ceiling inside is as high as the ceiling outside, leaving this narrow high niche between the two rooms:

(Remember that plug up there, it'll come up later.) 

The first time I saw this niche I told Tim it was PERFECT for hanging some of his Star Trek ship models. (Tim and I've been friends since the 7th grade, where we first bonded over our mutual love of Star Trek books.) Tim's learned some blind trust in my zany ideas over the years, so he was immediately onboard.

Our first step was essential but makes for boring photos: electrical work. John ran a wire from an existing wall outlet up to the top of the niche, where he installed a plug. Then he installed a wall switch where Tim could reach it, just below this picture:

We also painted the entire ceiling nook flat black.

While John did that, I was taping off 200 LEDs with little slivers of painters tape, which was super tedious and took a good hour and a half. Then I took the lights outside and spray painted the wires flat black:

These lights were tricky to find, but they're perfect for a galaxy display: cool white, 3 levels of dimmability, and a remote control that lets you set them to a twinkle for extra pizazz. (Yes, yes, I know stars don't twinkle in space. Let me have my fun.)  

After painting I took the lights home to begin the tedious process of removing the tape:

Once that was done, LOOK HOW COOL:

Literally. They're so "cool" they look purple! ...Which I'm not mad at.

All of that: the painting, the electrical, and prepping the lights, was Day 1.

Day 2 was the hard part.

First we prepped the model ships to hang.

We used this clear line and knotted it around 3 attachment points on each model. Since almost all of them were top-heavy, that meant drilling holes (EEK) into the saucer sections of the different Enterprises:

You can barely see the hole, though, and it's much safer this way than trying to glue the line.

That was the easy part. Next we had to adjust each line to get the ship to the right height and angle in the display. Then we took the ship down, trimmed the excess lines, and knotted the ceiling ends around black metal rings from a heavy chain:

The metal rings hook onto cup hooks in the ceiling.

So why make removable rings, instead of tying the lines directly to the cup hooks?

I'm glad you asked. It lets me share the incredible tedium and hard work we went through, haha.

The reason is the lighting: we needed the lights to go up first, so they would be behind the ships. Except the lights were in the way of the cup hooks and hanging lines, making it almost impossible to work around. So after a quick Logic Puzzle break, we realized we had to install all the ships first, like so:

(Looks like a behind-the-scenes photo of TOS, right? Ha!)

Then John numbered the ships and ceiling hooks with painters tape, so we'd know which went where:

You can see how tight this space was for John; his shoulders barely fit.

After that we took all the ships back down, installed the lights, and re-hung the ships.

Ahh, but I'm leaving out the best part. The most magical part.

In between installing the lights and re-hanging the ships, we broke out the mirrored Mylar. This is the same roll we bought last Christmas to make our Eric The Half-A-Tree illusion.

As soon as John started stapling the Mylar in place, my jaw dropped. I couldn't stop taking pictures, look how pretty:

This is the hanging end of the sheet of Mylar, which formed a roll. I can't get over this look, I need to find a way to use it for our holiday parties!

The Mylar is so thin even the slight texture of the walls dimples it and makes it look watery, like the Stargate. Again, must find a way to use this again.

We installed two long runs of Mylar, one on either side of the nook. This gives an infinity mirror effect, and makes it look like there are more ships than there are.

Was I fangirl squealing like a tribble near a Klingon while taking this photo? Mayyyyyybe.



Eeeeee! Would you believe me when I say photos can't do this justice?

I have the lights turned up for these photos, because I like the nebula-like effect in the reflections. For a more accurate space-scape, though, we dimmed the lights to this:


You can see how we used forced perspective by hanging the smaller models higher up.

Tim's chair lets him raise up and tip back like a recliner, so he can park right under the niche to enjoy the view.

This definitely reignited Tim's love of model ships, because after this he bought several more, ha. We hoped to add some of them to the nook itself, but the logistics were just too daunting, so instead we hung a shelf on the outside edge to display them:

Looks pretty great, right? It's like a little preview of what's on the other side of the wall.

You can see why this is our hardest-to-photograph project. You have to stand almost directly under the niche to see it, so it's tough to get all in one shot! Luckily John had the brilliant idea of laying his phone on the floor:

YASSSS. There it is.

And as your reward for making it through this mountain of text, here comes some slightly dizzying but super cool video of the finished space. (John included the "twinkle" lighting option, which is too blinky for me, but the movement is kinda neat.)


I hope this inspires you to look at the awkward spaces in your own home with fresh eyes! And as always, I hope it encourages you to display your passions and make your space your very own.

Now let's announce some Squeegineer winners! My winners for September are Madison S., April H., & Cheri A.! Congrats, you three, and please check your inboxes for a message from John, so you can choose your prizes.

If you missed it this round, be sure to enter the give-away for October! You can enter for free anytime by e-mail, or if you go the extra mile and donate any amount to help support us via Paypal, that gets you entered automatically. Either way it's one entry per person, and the winners are chosen at random. Just our little way of saying thanks for being here, and we love you, and hey, do you want any of this cool stuff I found in my office? ;)

Happy weekend, see some of you soon for Movie Night over on Discord! (We're watching a different spooky movie every week in October, hope you'll join us.) 


  1. That is an incredibly neat little nook!

  2. That is AHHHHH-MAZING! **looks around the house for cool hidden nooks**

  3. You did an excellent job with this space. (See what I did there)😉
    Tim's models now have a great display. Thank you John and Jen.
    It is a good thing Tim did not have the Enterprise model made by Polar Lights. That puppy is about 3 feet long!

  4. Whoa, that's sooooo cool! Love this build! =)

  5. Aw now I want to go out and buy model spaceships so I can do this too! Lol!

  6. That's so amazing!!! Now I want to do something like that when we get a new house with a basement, maybe not in a shadowy nook but in a corner. Could be fun with my husband's Warhammer 40k flying models!

  7. you two are just ridiculously creative AND skilled at bringing your visions to life--I can't even! So impressed.

  8. This is so extremely cool I can't even. I don't have any starship models, but now I wish I did!

    (Also, yay for pooping cats! Mine had a urinary blockage years ago, which fortunately I recognized before it got too severe, and I've never seen a vet quite so happy to have a cat pee on his table!)

  9. Oh, wow!! This is probably my favorite of your re-do’s so far - it’s absolutely magical!! Super tempted to try something like this but Star Wars when my son outgrows Peter Pan. I love how creative you guys are.

  10. This is gorgeous!!!!

    I have a suggestion for the next time you have to paint those kind of lights. What if you cut a slit in a pool noodle, then inserted each bulb down the length of the noodle. Let the noodle close around the bulb. If you put the bulbs close enough to make the wires bulge into a loop you'll be able to spray all the sides, the noodle should protect the bulb. then once the paint dries you pull it out & move onto the next section.

    I haven't tried it so I can't guarantee it works, but it seems plausible & less work than taping each light & then un-taping time all again.


    1. I'm remembering this tip for next time! Thank you!

  11. Wow, that's amazing!! Love the use of odd space.

  12. This is possibly your coolest project yet! The ability to see an opportunity where most woudl just see a flawed space is just inspired :-)

  13. Wowza! That is fan-freaking-tastic. I'm super jealous and now want to do my whole apartment like this (but with Star Wars spacecraft).


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