How to Make Your Low-Ceiling Rooms Appear Taller

updated Apr 13, 2022
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Credit: Ellie Ohiso

Floor-to-ceiling windows and high ceilings are undeniably dreamy, but these kinds of architectural features not always the reality for many homeowners and renters. Oftentimes, you get stuck with low-ceiling rooms that feel like they’re literally cramping your style. Fear not though—low ceilings don’t have to be a stylistic setback. Thankfully, there are quite a few ways to make your walls appear taller and your home more expansive.

In fact, working with a shorter structure can actually amp up your creativity. “Low ceiling rooms can be fun to style, if you don’t allow the height to restrict your design,” says Ariene Bethea, interior designer and founder of Dressing Rooms Interiors Studio. “I like playing with scale, so I still style with a few large statement pieces to anchor the room and draw attention to the coziness of the space.” 

Saudah Saleem, designer and owner of Saudah Saleem Interiors, also offered several helpful tips for adding some illusionary height to your ceilings. “Ceilings are the forgotten fifth wall in a room,” says Saleem. “Apply wallpaper or a fresh coat of paint in an interesting hue to the ceiling to draw the eye up in a space. You’ll forget all about how low the ceilings are if there’s something captivating to see when you look up.” Hanging your drapery super close to the ceiling line is also a smart move, according to Saleem, since longer panels fool the eye and create the illusion of larger windows and an overall loftier space. 

Saleem also suggests leaning an oversized mirror against a wall in your low-ceiling room to reflect light. In fact, sometimes the more you work your walls, the better. “Utilize vertical space by installing floor-to-ceiling bookcases or a gallery wall of framed art to create a visual display that will make the space feel taller and add interest,” she says. To help you further realize your dreams of a chic home—in spite of your low ceilings—here are some other useful ideas worth copying.

1. Illuminate your walls

Adding some uplighting to your walls is a clever way to not only add some brightness to your space, but also to trick your eyes into moving upward. These wall sconces from Restoration Hardware illuminate both up and down, which can both add height to a room and provide functional lighting as well.

2. Light fixtures that blend

In her hallway upgrade, @homesweethorton cleverly disguised a low ceiling by incorporating light fixtures that blend into the ceiling. Glass fixtures allow everything to flow nicely, which can trick your eye into thinking there’s more space than there actually is. 

Credit: Lula Poggi

3. Accessorize with tall items

If you’re unable to incorporate clever lighting (thanks, rental guidelines!), try adding a tall plant or other elongated item to draw your eye upward. This uber-chic home in Spain does just that with a large Monstera plant. 

Credit: Erin Derby

4. Use a bold rug

If guests spend all their time looking at your awesome rug, they’ll never even notice you have a low-ceiling room! Cop this look that we found in an NYC apartment

Credit: Kaviya Ravi

5. Use vertical patterns

Nothing draws the eye up like a vertical pattern, like the one seen in this colorful Kentucky home.  The multicolored, elongated squiggles of the painted stripe motif instantly heighten the space. Even if you prefer a more subdued palette, this design principle will work every time.

6. Lean on minimalism

In a low-ceiling room, clutter will only add to that small, cramped feeling. If you keep your space airy, clean, and bright, as is the case in this South Carolina apartment, the room will feel larger and more spacious.

7. Anchor the space

Like Bethea said, anchoring a space is just as important when you’re dealing with not-so-tall ceilings as it is in a super lofty home. This gorgeous Brooklyn abode is a perfect example of that. Both the oversized artwork and statement chandelier make a statement and toy with your perception of height. The blue counters and all white walls and ceilings are pretty helpful in tying the room together, too.

Credit: Ellie Ohiso

8. White from floor to ceiling

Nothing opens up a space quite like white, as exemplified by this bright Seattle apartment. By keeping the same snowy color from floor to ceiling, you instantly create an illusion of height that’s not actually there. Save those bold colors for all your decor and furniture pieces to cash in on this optical illusion. 

Credit: Seana

9. Level up

Mounting artwork on a wall at different levels, as seen in this North Carolina home, is a great way to create a perception of height. 

10. Bring in black

Black can also work wonders for elongating a space if used correctly. As seen in this Colorado Springs home, working black into your ceiling and walls can create somewhat of a “void” and tricks the eye into thinking there’s more space than there really is. The key to pulling off this look? Lots of natural light, which will prevent a low-ceiling room from seeming closed off and dark.

11. Stretch the space with curtains

Curtains and drapes can work wonders for elongating a low-ceiling room, Saleem explains. Take a note from this Argentinian apartment—all you have to do is mount your curtains higher than your actual window frame. Just make sure they’re long enough to reach the floor for the full effect.

Credit: Minette Hand

12. Utilize a lavish mirror

Expertly placed mirrors allow light to bounce around your low-ceiling room and make it look like it has gained some square footage. As made evident in this Chicago apartment, a well-placed mirror can lift your ceilings and “visually” expand a room that could benefit from this trick, which is often used in smaller restaurants.