In the renovation and decoration of existing buildings, making a room with a low ceiling appear taller is often a challenge. There are several strategies to achieve this. Ceilings act as a light reflectors, so understanding the way that different paint colors and lighting interact in a room will help you achieve a spacious feel in a low ceiling space.
The average interior room ceiling height is 8 feet from the floor. A room with a low ceiling has a ceiling height less than 8 feet across the entire room or part of a room. Some examples of low ceilings that vary in a room include a sloping ceiling, or a room with a pitched gable ceiling where the ceiling is low at the perimeter walls and rises in height towards the middle of the room.
Ceilings function as a large, horizontal light reflector. When natural light comes through a window or a light is turned on in a dark room, the ceiling is a key surface that reflects and diffuses the light across the entire room. The larger the amount of light within the room, the more spacious it feels. A room with a darker ceiling reflects less light, and therefore feels lower.
The lightest and whitest colors work best at making a low ceiling appear taller. A bright white or a slightly gray white color are the optimal ceiling colors. Avoid using a color in a different hue on the ceiling if possible, as it will appear darker on the ceiling and not reflect as much light.
The colors of the walls in a low ceiling room are as important as the ceiling color itself. To create the illusion that the walls and ceiling are one continuous plane, paint the walls of the room in the same light color as the ceiling. Your eye will not be drawn to the junction between the wall and ceiling, making the ceiling appear taller. If you need to add a color to the walls choose a color that is only slightly darker than the ceiling color, or paint one accent wall with a darker color.
As with the ceiling and wall colors, the lighter the floor color in a room with a low ceiling, the more light it will reflect, making the room appear more spacious. It is sometimes not possible to change the color of a floor easily, however the color of the floor is partially covered by furniture and rugs. A dark colored floor can be counteracted with predominantly light or neutral colors in room furnishings and accessories.
A matte or flat finish acrylic is the most suitable paint finish for ceilings. A matte paint will mask imperfections in a ceiling and create a uniform diffusion of light within a room.
Linda Wong is a freelance writer located in Los Angeles, Calif., with a degree in architecture from the University of Auckland. She specializes in a broad range of project types, including residential and commercial buildings, plus interior and furniture design. Wong has been a Demand Studios writer since 2009, and her articles focus on home improvement and design topics.