How to Make a Decorative Air Return Cover

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You can easily make this decorative air return cover. You probably have one of these air return covers in your house. They are big and ugly and sometimes placed in the least opportune spots. We have a large one in our living room but this one in the newly remodeled office really stood out because of its white color against the dark paint. I painted the office walls, trim, and cabinets BM Storm Cloud Grey. A white grille cover stood out like a sore thumb.

What is an air return cover?

An air return cover doesn’t have the same functionality that an air vent cover has. This cover cannot be adjusted directionally because it is used to take air into the system. It is not an air vent cover that lets hot or cold air out.

Why not paint the existing cover? It’s a lacquered painted metal and that surface is not easy to cover with paint without scratching and chipping. Repeating the metal mesh insert in the room also creates a more interesting and cohesive design.

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Metal mesh insert cabinet doors, Cremone bolt hardware, BM storm cloud grey


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I had some metal mesh material left and decided to use it to make a decorative air return cover. I built the cabinets and upper doors myself and used this perforated quatrefoil metal sheet. Using it for the air return cover would tie into the overall design and make it look intentional and no longer an eyesore. You will need these scissors to cut it.

quatrefoil metal perforated sheet, gold
This is the quatrefoil perforated metal sheet

I used some scrap pieces of wood to create a simple frame and held it together with glue and staples. The frame was cut to the measurements of the old cover to ensure it covers the opening and can be attached to the wall using the existing holes. The metal sheet is very thin and you probably don’t need to do this but I also used my table saw with a lowered blade to cut a channel for the sheet to sit inside. I attached the sheet with more staples.

Decorative air return cover, DIY

Here is a close-up of the back of the air return cover. It’s not perfect and I didn’t even bother painting it back there because you won’t see that side. I predrilled holes that match up to the holes in the original air return cover so I can attach the new one to the existing holes in the wall.

decorative air return cover

A side-by-side of the before and after. Much better, in my opinion.

Now the air return cover blends with the decor in the room:

decorative air return cover, metal mesh insert cabinet doors, Cremone bold hardware

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