Don’t let low ceilings bring you down!  Interior designers have been faking high ceilings for years.  With the right tricks, you create the perception of height and craft a more open and inviting space.  The key is to draw the eye up, tricking the brain and giving the illusion of height.

1. Paint some illusions


Ensure your ceiling is always brighter than your walls – ideally, white!  Shades of fresh white, silky cream or soft pastels open up the room visually by reflecting light and making the ceiling appear further away.  If you’d really love a bit of colour, pale blue is a great choice as it gives the illusion of a distant sky.

Keep the walls as bright as possible – even with a white ceiling, dark walls will make the room appear smaller.  If dark walls are unavoidable, then also avoid bright white on the ceiling, as the contrasting line will be harsh and draw the eye.  Instead, paint the ceiling in a lighter version of the colour used on the walls.

If you're feeling bold, you can’t go any taller than floor-to-ceiling vertical stripes.  The bigger the contrast between stripes, the more effective this strategy will be.

Use a matte paint to make the ceiling ‘disappear’ by hiding flaws and faults on the ceiling.  While high gloss paint bounces around the light, it also emphasises the ceiling’s location.

Traditionally we paint mouldings the same colour as the ceiling – but by painting your moulding to match your walls or removing them altogether, you can give the appearance of pushing the walls up a precious extra few inches.

2. Reach up with built-in components


For some reason, we seem to build kitchens with an awkward space above the cabinets, creating a blunt line short of the ceiling.  Instead, when planning built-in cabinetry ensure they extend up to the ceiling and the exaggerated height will appear to push the ceiling up.  If your existing kitchen features a gap, it is entirely possible to fill them in with additional shelving or decorative moulding.

If you have an existing 'kitchen gap' and new shelving isn't in the budget, the most cost-effective way to disguise it is with clever accessorising.  Go big, or go home - the distance up means fussy ornaments or dense patterns will be hard for the eye to identify - and ensure you pick a colour theme and stick to it.

If you have a built-in fireplace, you can use this to your advantage - build the mantle all the way to the ceiling to create an eye-catching vertical feature.

3. Use soft furnishings to your advantage


A great way to create the illusion of space is by forgoing curtains altogether - but this is often impractical in New Zealand where we need the extra insulation.  If you've got curtains, make them work for you by hanging them just below the ceiling and letting them drape all the way to the floor.  This is similar to the idea of vertical stripes on the walls - heighten, and brighten!


Sheer curtains have the added bonus of offering privacy while diffusing light towards your ceiling.

4. Light up, not down


Hanging lighting like pendants or chandeliers will bring the focus down – which is what you’re trying to avoid – and throw shadows up on your ceiling, making it seem oppressive.  Wall lights and well-placed lamps are perfect at throwing light upwards, and it’s best to opt for recessed ceiling lights that don’t protrude down.

5. Choose low-profile furniture


By choosing furniture that sits close to the floor, you create an expanse of space between the top of your furniture and the ceiling.  Low-profile sofas and lamp tables, beds and bedheads – even low toilet tanks – will make your room seem more spacious.

Accessorise with tall items such as floor lamps, plants and tall vases.  Place these in the corners of your room and watch your ceilings soar.

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