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Take a look around any house with forced-air heat or cooling systems and you’ll see vents distributed throughout. Most of these are “supply” vents that push heated or cooled air into the interior of the house, but some will be “return” vents that draw air into the system. Either way, it’s a universal truth that most air vents aren’t great-looking.
Even if an air vent is ruining your carefully calibrated interior design, you should never cover or block one. These vents are crucial to the proper functioning of your HVAC system and the health of your living spaces, and generally they need at least a foot or so of space in front of them for proper airflow. That means that no matter how much you hate the vents in your floors and walls, you’re stuck with them—but you can do a few things to make them as invisible as possible.
Paint & wallpaper
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The simplest way to make a wall vent vanish is to paint it to make it match the surrounding color or pattern. You might need to take a color sample to your local hardware store to get a color-matched paint that’s appropriate for the vent material (metal, plastic, etc), and you might consider using a primer to ensure that the paint doesn’t chip off, but painting a vent is the easiest way to obscure it.
If the wall is covered in wallpaper, you can wallpaper the vent cover. Some companies will send you wooden blanks that you cover with wallpaper and return, and then they’ll send you a custom-cut vent cover using your wallpaper for a perfect match. But this is a project you can definitely DIY; if you managed to hang your wallpaper yourself with some degree of accuracy, cutting a piece to use on your vent cover and then cutting out the openings should be possible with a little patience.
Custom vents & decorative covers
If you’re not so concerned with hiding the vent but want to upgrade it to something more visually appealing, you can order custom vent covers from a long list of companies. From flush-mount covers to custom metal covers, you have a lot of options. If you’re looking for a budget solution that has a custom look, you can buy acrylic covers with fancy cutout designs for just a few bucks. And if you’re a handy sort, a little decorative sheet metal, some tin shears, and some screws and scrap wood can be used to create a super cheap DIY cover that looks much better than the stock ones currently uglying up the place.
If you have a tiled floor, a Chameleon Floor Register is designed to sit flush with your floor and have tile installed in its grooves, allowing the vent to blend in perfectly. All you need is a wet saw for tile cutting (you could try snipping ceramic tile, but that could get extremely frustrating when it comes to cutting out small pieces) and basic tile-cutting skills.
For wall vents, sometimes even after painting them they still stick out because they’re the only thing on the wall. Try surrounding the vent with framed art and photos to create a gallery effect. To further obscure the vent, you can add a faux frame around it, or repurpose a charming old window frame. It’s kind of surprising how well this works to make a wall vent look like another piece of art, especially if you also use a decorative cover. Just be sure not to block the vent when you frame it.
Finally, while you shouldn’t block a wall vent or cover a floor vent, you can still use furniture strategically to hide them. Anything that’s open on the bottom, like a desk, could be placed over a floor vent without problems, or in front of a wall vent. Shelving units can also be used in front of wall vents—surround the vent with bric-a-brac or potted plants to hide it away. As long as the airflow isn’t compromised, you’re fine, and the vent is hidden.