Tricks to make your ceilings seem higher

A key setting in the 1999 film "Being John Malkovich" is an extra floor between the seventh and eight stories of an office building, where stooped-over office workers cope with an extremely low ceiling. The office's orientation film explains that Floor 7.5 was created after a woman with dwarfism appealed to the building's owner about the difficulties she faced, including how "high-ceilinged rooms mock my stature."

Your home probably doesn't have such dramatically low ceilings (or a portal into John Malkovich's consciousness, for that matter). But the top of the room may be closer to the top of your head than you'd like.

Elevating the height of the ceilings won't be an option unless you want to do a major overhaul of your home. However, you can make use of optical illusions and other tricks to help make the ceilings seem higher than they really are.

The way you paint the ceiling can have a major effect on how tall the room appears. Brittney Smart, writing for the interior design site Homedit, says using white paint or a lighter hue than the surrounding walls will help make the room seem more elevated. Extending the ceiling color a few inches down onto the walls can help blur the boundaries of the room and make it seem a little higher.

Choose paint with a glossy finish for the ceiling. The finish will brighten the space and mirror home features below, giving the illusion that the ceiling is at a higher height.

Any features at ceiling height will make the room seem more cramped. Becky Harris, writing for the home design site Houzz, says it helps to remove crown molding, track lights, and similar features. Smart recommends using recessed lighting or wall-mounted illumination instead of hanging lights.

In some rooms, you may want to remove the ceiling to expose the beams. This can create a more visually pleasing appearance in some rooms; while the beams will still limit your headroom, you'll get a little bit of extra space overhead.

Wall features can also play a role in making the ceiling seem higher. Faith Towers, writing for the home improvement professional Bob Vila, says painted stripes or a wallpaper with vertical stripes can draw the eye upward and make the room appear taller.

Other features on the wall or floor can also enhance the vertical look of a room, such as taller window treatments. Catrin Morris, writing for the home design site Apartment Therapy, says decorative paneling or towering houseplants can have this effect.

If you are renovating a space, add some floor-to-ceiling features to help exaggerate the room's height. Harris says tall cabinets or other built-ins will improve the look of a kitchen, while decorative millwork will also work well. Towers says mirrors will amplify the light in a room and make it seem more expansive.

Alternatively, you can try to distract the eye from the low ceiling. One option is to make the horizontal features more pronounced, such as installing long shelves along a wall.

Scale down the furniture and other features to make a room seem larger. Some options include toilets with low tanks, hanging artwork a little higher than usual, and using chairs, tables, and sofas that are situated closer to the ground. Smart says the last option has the added benefit of maximizing views from the home, since the lower furniture is less likely to block the windows.


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