Good Questions: How Should I Deal With My Low Ceilings?

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Hello AT,

I am in the delightful process of Curing a new apartment from scratch. It is a great space, but poses one interesting design challenge.

The living room/ dining room space is long and spacious, about 11' x 22' and open to the kitchen. However, the ceilings are very low, only 7' 3" high. I'm only average height and I can almost touch the ceiling without jumping.

It is immediately noticeable when you walk in the front door. Tall friends duck instinctively as they move around the space...

I am looking to choose furniture and lighting to minimize the claustrophobic impression. My gut says to go with low furniture, because tall pieces would look like they're squeezed into a doll house.

Lighting is a particular challenge. There are zero ceiling lamps in the entire room. I would normally love to hang a pendant lamp over the dining room table, but it wouldn't have far to hang down and just might look ridiculous.

I like indirect lighting, but torchiere lights might be too close to the ceiling. I don't think my landlord would go for wall sconces. I'm really not sure where to start.

Any tips for decorating and lighting low-ceilinged spaces on a
Craigslist-to-second-tier-Ikea budget?

Thanks! Sasha

Dear Sasha,

Go with your gut. Avoid torches, tall furniture and pendants. Here are the places you can look to bring down the center or "waistline" of the room:

- (if you're thinking of changing the floor in any way) darken the floor: either through staining, carpeting or a few darker rugs, a dark floor with "drop away" and extend the impression of space from ceiling to floor.

- go with regular furniture. you don't need to go LOW on everything as long as you avoid tall pieces like armoires, high back chairs and standing lamps.

- capitalize on the low, decorative aspect of table lamps. we love table lamps, because they offer great, indirect light with a sculptural element. Use these on side tables around the room and you'll have plenty of light as well as opportunities to inject color and style.

- paint the ceiling white, but apply light color to the walls. separating the ceiling from the wall will help to create a transition as your eye moves upward. it will also direct your gaze to the walls and away from the ceiling. an accent wall of stronger color can be very powerful, while beautiful off whites add warmth and style without overpowering.

Anyone else??

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Maxwell left teaching in 2001 to start Apartment Therapy as a design business helping people to make their homes more beautiful, organized AND healthy. The website started up in 2004 with the help of his brother, Oliver.

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