Design Dilemma: Dealing with Low Ceilings | Home Design Find

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Design Dilemma: Dealing with Low Ceilings

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Got low ceilings? Chances are, you’ve got low spirits too. After all, there are few design problems as confounding as how to make a room feel bright, spacious and inviting when ceilings are low and oppressive. There’s just no way around it, low ceilings  seem to instantly bring down the design quotient of any room. So what steps can you take to improve the look and feel of a room with ceilings so low you can touch them?

1.) Eliminate chair rails and other horizontal architectural details. If your ceilings are only seven or eight feet high, chances are, chair rails and other horizontal features will make them feel even lower. It’s a little bit like how wearing a thick belt will not emphasize your height or litheness. If you want to keep the detail, shift its placement on the wall. A chair rail is normally placed about one-third up the length of a wall. If you’ve got low ceilings, place it lower than usual to trick the eye. Consider eliminating thick baseboards.

2.) If you use crown molding keep it thin. On ceilings under 9 feet, it’s probably wise to keep crown molding at a depth of only two or three inches.

3.) Keep the ceiling color lighter than the walls. White and bright ceilings help encourage the illusion of higher ceilings, since they draw your eye upward. Decorators also often opt to paint ceilings with a paint that has a slight sheen, which helps reflect light around the room. Another decorating trick: paint the first two or three inches of ceiling surrounding the walls the same color as the walls to give the illusion of taller walls. In general, lighter and brighter paint colors can keep a room from feeling cave-like. Darker floors, in combination with a light ceiling will also make ceilings appear higher.

4.) Stay away from decorative ceilings. Sure, elaborate plaster moldings are beautiful in old palaces with 12-foot ceilings but in low-ceiling abodes they simply have the tendency to emphasize lowness.

5.) Consider vertical stripes. Vertical stripes, either as a wallpaper or a decorative paint treatment can help draw the eye upward, lengthening the look of a wall. One of the subtlest ways to do this  is a tone-on-tone color in cream shades.

6.) Hang art high. Install art vertically. Such a display might include a series of drawings that are hung vertically from about midwall to ceiling. Also, choose paintings and photographs with strong vertical lines rather than horizontal ones.

7.) Use uplight to direct light toward the ceiling. Lighting can make dramatic changes in ceiling height. Push the light upward, and ceilings seem higher. Push it downward and everything seems closed-in. Wall sconces can make a ceiling seem higher if they are hung a bit higher than normal. Recessed lights and pendant lamps  make low ceilings feel lower and should be avoided.

8.) Use floor-to-ceiling window treatments. Long curtains that reach from floor to ceiling will emphasize length. So even if you have relatively small windows, hang your curtains from nearly ceiling height, and opt for a pair that reach the floor.

9) Opt for modern, sleek, low-slung. Low, modern pieces work best in rooms with low-ceilings. Opt for simple streamlined furnishings without much pattern or too much detail. Keep the palette muted and go for controlled color accents. Avoid tall furniture pieces such as armoires, standing lamps and high-back chairs.

10.) Go for bold floor rugs. A bold and colorful floor rug will draw attention to the floor and in combination with light walls and ceilings will create the illusion of more ceiling height.

Image: Coop

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4 Comments so far to “Design Dilemma: Dealing with Low Ceilings”
  1. Wood Crown Molding Says:

    I definitely agree with all of your recommendations. It’s essential to draw the eye away from the wall and this can be done with all the rules above. I always recommend using crown molding, no matter the height of the wall… just make sure you choose an appropriate size (nothing too big).


  2. SIDD Sustainable Furniture Says:

    These are great tips… we’re renovating (more rebuilding) an early 70’s house, which is half low ceilings, and half cathedral. It’s been quite the challenge.

  3. Lightings for your low ceilings » DIY Guides Says:

    […] Reading: […]

  4. ann hills Says:

    Can low ceilings be structually altered? If so what are the options?

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