Decorating Dilemmas | Help for Low Ceilings


Dear Homeagination:
My husband and I own a 200-year-old home located on the Cape. It’s listed on the historic register and simply oozes charm and character. We’ve gone in and updated the plumbing, electric and HVAC as well as modernizing the kitchen and bath.

We absolutely love living in the house but there’s one thing we can’t fix – its extremely low ceilings. Hopefully there is something we can do to make the ceilings look higher. Unfortunately, we have no idea what that might be. Any tips would be greatly appreciated.
Low Down in Massachusetts

Dear Height Challenged:
There’s really no way to make your ceilings physically higher other than a major remodel, but we do have a few suggestions to give them a loftier appearance.

Paint: You mentioned your wall colors were a bit on the dark side. One of the best things you can do is to lighten that wall color. It doesn’t have to be white but the lighter the better.

Light colors have a reflective quality and will make the space seem larger and ceilings seem higher. If you don’t want to touch the original wood paneled walls, paint your ceilings in a bright white – that will allow your eye to travel up, creating the illusion of taller walls.

Lighting: Install as much lighting as possible – and make sure they’re on dimmers so you can control the output. If your ceilings will allow, install recessed ceiling fixtures to brighten and heighten. If you can’t get into the ceiling to install can lighting, use wall sconces and aim them toward the ceiling to create the same effect.

Furnishings: Furniture lines should be low, lean and simple. Avoid using too many dark, heavy pieces. If you love rugs, make sure they’re light in color and the patterns unfussy. Keep furniture legs exposed. Meaning no skirted pieces -- they will visually close off the space. Neutral upholstery colors are your best bet to prevent the space from feeling claustrophobic.

Mirrors: This is an interior designer’s favorite trick. Use mirrors all around the house. Mirrors reflect views and refract light, both of which have a surprising knack for expanding space. Plus, they’re wonderful decorative accessories.

A tall floor mirror would look great leaning against a wall. If you have a fireplace, a sizeable mirror above the mantel will literally make you think the ceilings are higher than they really are. Mirrored closet doors work wonders in bedrooms and bathrooms.

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