A room with 7-foot or 8-foot ceilings can feel a little claustrophobic. But with these low ceiling design tricks, they don’t have to. Learn how to make ceilings look higher and get rid of that closed in feeling without spending a lot of money.
I have to admit that in some of the rooms in my current house, low ceilings are not that much of an issue (for the first time in my life!)
I have a vaulted ceiling in the living room, master bedroom and guest bedroom. It’s one of the reasons I bought this house.
However, the rest of the rooms have standard 8 foot ceilings.
And it seems to me that having a few rooms with taller ceilings makes those 8 foot ones look even lower!
Over the years, I have figured out some ways to make those low ceilings look higher.
And most of these techniques don’t cost a lot of money or require a lot of effort, so you can get them done pretty quickly.
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1 | Hang floor to ceiling curtains
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Hanging your curtains so that they go from the ceiling to the floor is an easy way to make a short ceiling look taller.
This allows your eye to travel all the way up to the ceiling without any breaks, which makes your brain think that it is higher.
To do this, simply hang the curtain rod at the top of the wall instead of immediately over the windows.
If your drapes aren’t long enough to reach all the way to the ceiling, add a band of fabric to the bottom of them to make them longer (like my mother did for the curtains in my master bedroom).
Longer draperies also gives the illusion of taller windows.
So to be honest, I always install my curtains this way (even in rooms with taller ceilings). I just think they look better in most situations.
2 | Keep Window Coverings Simple
Another trick for making ceilings appear higher is to keep your window coverings simple.
Almost everyone who comes into my house thinks this wall is at least 9 feet high, and it isn’t. It’s a standard 8-foot height.
The straight up and down lines of simple panels don’t break up the flow to the ceiling.
Having windows that take up most of the wall space and provide a spectacular view also helps. (But obviously that’s not an easy thing to add if your house doesn’t already have them.)
Curtains with frills or tiers focus your attention part way up the window which emphasizes makes the wall look shorter.
3 | Use Shorter, Horizontal Furniture
The third tip is to use low, horizontal furniture.
By using furniture which isn’t very tall, more of the wall is visible.
And that makes the visual height of the wall look taller.
Which in turn make the the ceiling look like it is higher.
The horizontal lines also draw your attention away from the ceiling, so you don’t notice it as much.
4 | Hang A Large Mirror
Tall mirrors that rest on the floor, or cover a large part of the wall, visually expand the space.
They reflect light and the view of the ceiling which makes the room feel larger.
A large window shaped floor mirror also provides the illusion of more windows. Which in turn, adds to the illusion of more space.
5 | Avoid Overhead Light fixtures
Overhead lights or ceiling fans that hang down draw attention to how low the ceiling is.
People walking under them feel like they are going to bump their head (which is a red flag for a low ceiling).
Using flush-mounted lighting, table lamps and wall sconces helps to avoid this situation.
Or hang a pendant that can be swagged over a table.
All of these lighting solutions also have the benefit of providing fill light that makes people look better.
Because the light source is coming from the side instead of above, it prevents the unflattering shadows that ceiling lights can cause.
6 | Install Floor To Ceiling Bookshelves
Floor to ceiling bookshelves act something like floor to ceiling curtains by drawing the eye upward and giving the illusion of height.
Position them at the end of the room so that’s what you see when you walk in the room, and they will immediately distract from the ceiling height.
The side walls in this office are only 5 feet high and the ceiling is 8 feet at its peak…but it doesn’t feel like that when you are in the room.
7 | Add Vertical Artwork
The next way to make a room look taller is to hang a vertical display of artwork.
Tall artwork also draws the eye upward toward the ceiling.
In this case, because the rug on the floor and the background behind the picture are the same color, it leads your eye into the room and up to the top of the wall.
A very effective way to make the room seem larger!
(In the picture above, the ceiling probably is higher than 8 feet, but the same principle works in shorter rooms).
In my guest bathroom, a vertical tile installation with a tall mirror provides the same function.
Which makes the 8 foot ceiling in this room look higher than it is.
8 | Paint (or Wallpaper) Vertical Stripes
Using vertical stripes on the wall is another way to lead your eyes up to the ceiling.
You can either paint them on.
Or hang some striped wallpaper (like the wide black and white stripe above).
If you prefer something a little more subtle, going for thinner lines with a less contrast-y color palette is also an effective use of stripes.
9 | Paint The Walls, Moldings and Ceiling The Same Color
If stripes aren’t really your thing, try painting the walls, crown moldings and ceiling the same color instead.
I did that in my master bathroom and it definitely gives the appearance of height. It’s hard to tell that these ceilings are only 8 feet tall!
By painting everything the same color, the corners that define where the wall ends and the ceiling starts are less obvious.
And that makes it more difficult to see exactly how high (or low) the ceiling is.
Find out more reasons to paint your walls and ceilings the same color.
10 | Go Dark To Light
Another great technique to make a low ceiling look higher is to paint an ombre horizontal stripe pattern.
It starts out dark on the bottom and gets lighter as it goes up making the ceiling seem like it is floating.
Paint the ceiling the same color as the top of the wall and you also get the benefit of camouflaging the corner.
If you don’t want to paint the whole wall like this, a large piece of artwork that uses dark colors on the bottom, and light ones on the top concept will also work.
Frequently asked questions
Here are a couple of questions that I often get asked.
Does crown molding make a ceiling look higher or lower?
A lot of people are confused about whether crown moldings make ceilings look higher or lower.
In my experience, it can do either, depending on its design and what color you paint it.
If you use a design that is fairly streamlined, deeper than it is wide (so it extends further onto the ceiling) and paint it the same color as the walls, crown molding will make the ceiling look higher. (For even better results, paint the ceiling the same color, too).
This will cause the eye to smoothly flow up the wall without stopping at the corner, giving the illusion of more height.
Conversely, if you use crown molding with an intricate pattern and paint it in a contrasting color, your eye is forced to stop at the corner. So the wall and ceiling will appear shorter.
What color to paint a ceiling to make it look higher?
There is a lot of discussion around the best paint colors for a low ceiling.
And as the queen of decorated ceilings, I think the trick to making the ceiling look higher with paint doesn’t have anything to do with the color.
Choose the color based on how you want the room to feel. If you want a cozy room, paint it a dark color. If you want an airy room, paint it a light color.
Then to make the room look taller, paint everything–the walls, the moldings and the ceiling–in that color.
That camouflages the corner definition and makes it harder for your eye to tell where the wall ends and the ceiling begins. Which makes the room look taller.
That’s it for our ideas on making a low ceiling look higher. Hopefully, you’ve found some easy inspiration for decorating your own rooms.
Other Decorating Ideas You Might Like
- How to make a small room look bigger
- 11 ways to brighten a dark room
- How to choose a whole house color scheme
Have comments or questions on how to make ceilings look higher? Tell us in the section below.
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This post was originally published on May 25, 2020 but was updated with new content on August 19, 2023.