Vaulted ceilings are lovely, but not every home is built to accommodate them. In fact, according to the International Residential Code, habitable rooms like bedrooms, kitchens, and living spaces are only required to have a ceiling height of 7 feet. So what can you do if you’re stuck with low ceilings and feeling cramped, shy of completely reconfiguring the architecture or moving? Bloomin' Blinds has put together some tricks to make it seem like you have more headroom than you do—and none of them require major remodeling!
Try These Tips to Fake Higher Ceilings
It’s all about tricking the brain and drawing the eye upward. Here are a few tricks to make it look like there’s more space between the floor and the ceiling.
Get rid of ceiling fixtures and pendant lights.
For rooms with low ceilings, recessed lighting is your friend. Recessed or canned lighting is set into the ceiling to create a smooth plane. It provides overhead light without hanging fixtures or pendants that draw attention to the low height of the ceiling. If you aren’t able to add recessed lighting, use floor lamps or table lamps. Floor lamps can give the illusion of height when the light is focused upward. Table lamps, meanwhile, work best for creating height when you choose a few in varying shapes and sizes.
Create with paint.
Think of well-known optical illusions, like the art of M.C. Escher, Magic Eye posters, or even the internet-famous dress debate. Colors and lines can make us think we’re seeing things we aren’t or keep us from seeing what’s actually there. To that end, use paint or wallpaper to create an optical illusion of higher ceilings:
- Keep it white – Most designers recommend sticking with crisp white when painting low ceilings. White is bright and airy, which encourages the brain to ignore it or perceive it as open.
- Paint everything the same (light) color – Take white ceilings a step further and paint the walls the same color. When it isn’t immediately obvious where the walls end and ceiling begins, the brain reads the room as having more space. This can also work with light colors other than white, but stay away from bold or dark hues to avoid a cave-like feeling.
- Bring the ceiling color down onto the walls – If your walls are a different color than your ceiling, stop the wall color anywhere from chair-rail height to a few inches below the top of the wall and paint the remainder the same color as the ceiling. Disguising where the walls end and ceiling begins creates the illusion of height.
- Get glossy – Use a high-gloss finish on the ceiling for a dramatic, reflective effect. Like a mirror, this can visually extend the room—but make sure your ceiling is extra smooth, since gloss can bring out bumps and imperfections.
- Elongate with stripes – Most people have heard that wearing vertical stripes makes you look longer and leaner, while horizontal stripes can make you look shorter and wider. The same is true in decorating! Vertical stripes on the walls—either paint or wallpaper—can add height to a room by drawing the eye up.
Find more inspiration for colors and more, check out our Photo Gallery!
Play with proportions.
When furniture and other décor details are too big or bulky, it can make ceilings seem lower than they really are. Opt for furniture that’s lower to the ground or smaller in scale and that doesn’t have a lot of excess horizontal lines so it appears further away from the ceiling. If you choose to install crown molding, go with a narrower size; a wider option can draw attention to the low height of the ceiling.
Create vertical displays with art or photos.
Take art or photos all the way up the wall. Try a gallery wall with an arrangement that’s taller than it is wide—even up to ceiling height. Alternately, one long, narrow statement piece also draws the eyes up while creating an illusion of length.
Extend the room with mirrors.
Place a large, full-length mirror at an angle against the wall. The reflection visually expands the space, and angling the mirror to include part of the ceiling make the room feel taller than it is. No full-length mirror? Get similar results by incorporating wall mirrors into your décor and hanging them higher on the walls.
Hang drapery or curtains at ceiling height.
This one is our favorite at Bloomin' Blinds, because the results are always even more impressive than expected. Install floor-to-ceiling drapery panels at or just below the ceiling, no matter where the top of the window is. The brain reads the height of the drapery as the height of the window, which then adds the illusion of length to the room. When curtains are installed at the top of the window, it visually cuts off the room at that height in the same way horizontal stripes would. Request a free consultation to see this tip in action!
Check out these other blog posts to help you design with window coverings:
About the Author: Karen McGuffin, Bloomin’ Blinds
Karen is the original founder of Bloomin’ Blinds. She has nearly 30 years of experience in the window treatment industry and is an expert in window covering sales, installations, and repair. In her free time, Karen enjoys traveling, volunteering at the local food bank, being an active in the chamber of commerce, and “cruising” through her neighborhood in her little blue and white polka-dotted golf cart she calls a buggy.