Design Ideas for Low Ceilings

Written by katherine harder
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Design Ideas for Low Ceilings
A coat of glossy white on the ceiling makes the room look taller. (paint image by Aleksandr Ugorenkov from

Areas with low ceilings, such as basements and attics or rooms in low-slung ranch style homes or small apartments, can feel cave-like or downright claustrophobic. The key to making low ceilings appear higher is to raise the "waistline" or centre of the room through ceiling and wall paint choices, appropriately sized furniture and complimentary accessories.

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Decorating your low ceiling room in shiny white will visually expand the space, especially if you put a heavy dose of high-gloss white on the ceiling. The high-gloss paint gives the ceiling a reflective quality, effectively doubling the ceiling height in the room. Other bright white features such as artwork, furniture and accessories keeps the room from having that cave-like feeling. If entirely white walls are too bland a design choice, paint the trim in the room a contrasting colour, preferably a bold hue that will grab the eye and take away focus from the low ceiling.


Choose furniture that has a low profile and features many straight, vertical lines. Low furniture against short walls makes the room look proportionate while the vertical lines visually elongate the furniture without taking up extra space. Furniture with metal, reflective accents also expands your perception of the size of your space.


The vertical lines created by a set of floor-length drapes add drama to a room's design while drawing the eye upward, visually increasing the space between the floor and ceiling. This effect works best when curtains are hung close to the ceiling and have enough length to just graze the floor.


Avoid ceiling fans, chandeliers and other hanging overhead lighting that will look out of place in the room, draw attention to the low ceiling height and possibly bump one of your guests in the head. Same goes for torchiere lamps, which will also look awkwardly tall against a low ceiling. Wall sconces, table lamps, track and recessed lighting can create plenty of ambient light without drawing attention to your room's shortcomings.


Dark floors can visually recess the ground, creating more space between the floor and ceiling. If you can't stain your floors, a few dark, large rugs will produce a similar effect.

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