Question: How can I make my ceiling seem higher?
Updated: Feb 11
(Originally published in the Napa Valley Register)
Anything that makes your eye look up will help. For instance, place a can light on the floor, at the base of a potted plant, and shine it up through the leaves or fronds. A tall palm or ficus works well. This technique creates patterns high on the wall and ceiling. Recessed canned lights are better than hanging pendants or chandeliers that cut into your air space. Note: Pendants and chandeliers are fine and this tip is only meant for those who are purposefully trying to visually raise their ceilings. Cove lighting, typically hidden by moldings or ledges, is another way to attract your vision upward while also creating a lovely ambiance.
Use vertically striped fabrics for draperies or shades and mount them just short of the ceiling. Actually, any fabric with or without a pattern (other than a horizontal stripe) will keep your eye moving up and down as long as you mount it close to the ceiling. You could also paint your base and crown molding the same color as your wall. This gives your eye one long, continuous swoop of color instead of chopping it into two or three parts. Vertically or diagonally striped wallpaper also tricks you into thinking the ceiling is higher than it really is.
When people want to visually raise their ceilings, it’s usually because they feel cramped. So, one way to remedy this is to declutter. Edit furnishings and accessories and keep them to a minimum. Speaking of furnishings, sofas and chairs should have low backs.
Another reason people want to raise their ceilings is that the space is dark. So, if a literal ceiling raise is not feasible, maybe adding a skylight or enlarging a window is. Ideally, transform an entire wall into a series of floor-to-ceiling windows. This will not only bring in more light but also encourage you to create interest outside. Imagine sitting in a low-back chair, in your decluttered space, enjoying all the new natural light shining in, and having a beautiful landscape to admire. In such a case, your nagging low ceiling will be out of sight and out of mind.
I have easily practiced each of these strategies at various clients’ homes but it has not been as easy to convince a few to do the following - paint the ceiling sky blue. “Sky” being the operative word. Color is closely tied into psychology and emotions. When we picture a blue sky, we can’t help but sense its soaring height. Sky blue fits into any color scheme. It really does. You wouldn’t say no to a skylight just because the color of the real sky doesn’t fit with your furnishings. I understand if you’re not convinced, but give it some thought.
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