Bring the Eye Up: 6 Ways to Elevate Your Design

published Apr 8, 2016
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(Image credit: Natalie Jeffcott)

We often think about the elements of a room that remain at eye level: furniture, artwork, accessories, and so forth. But it can be just as important to think about everything that’s going on above your head. Here are some ways that you can bring the eye higher in a room, as well as some examples to show just how open spaces can feel when they aren’t afraid to soar overhead.

Add an unexpected dose of color overhead. In the image above, a predominantly white interior is topped off with an archway of vibrant blue. The isolated jolt of color draws the eye upward, and it also accentuates an architectural feature that frames the space and draws attention to the tall ceilings. Even if you don’t have an archway like this in your home, think of applying this trick to doorways, pillars, or the edges of a room. It has to be used strategically, as it is in this space, but when done right, it adds the perfect amount of oomph.

(Image credit: Aditi Shukla Fozdar)

Stretch the space by using opposites. Tall plants draw the eye upward, while decorative accessories can hang from the ceiling, also accentuating the height of the space. Having elements that stretch skyward alongside those that hang makes the space feel expansive.

(Image credit: Jean Allsop for TRADhome)

Treat the ceiling like a fifth wall. There’s nothing wrong with a plain white ceiling, but sometimes, giving the ceiling a bit more attention can make the room. In this room, a chevron-patterned ceiling provides an unexpected counterpoint to the striped walls, and in addition to adding some visual interest, it makes the room feel self-contained and cohesive. Also, the eye is drawn upward to the busier pattern and magnificent fixture, which gives this small space a sense of grandeur and expansiveness. Pay attention to your patterns and colors, though, because in certain contexts, a painted ceiling can bring the height down, giving the space a cozier, more intimate feeling.

(Image credit: Amanda Nisbet Design)

Paint out the trim. By painting the trim the same color as your walls, you get all the architectural interest without cutting off any of the room’s height or breadth. The space feels more open and unified—and perhaps more dramatic, too.

(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)

Trim it up. Salvaged elements, like those above, offer an unusual and beautiful way to bring the eye upward. This is a particularly lovely example of what can be done with some ingenuity and an eye for architectural features, but even the most basic molding can give the eye something to admire.

(Image credit: Hayley Kessner)

Hang it high (and also go low). Gallery arrangements are tried-and-true for a reason. By taking art all the way up to the ceiling (and sometimes down to the floor), you can make your wall space feel even more expansive.