Site icon Erin Kestenbaum

How to make 8-foot ceilings look taller

I dream about having high ceilings one day, but in the meantime, like many of you, I’m living in a home with standard 8-foot ceilings. As we’ve been sharing the renovations and design of our home, I hear the same question over and over “wait, are your ceilings really 8-feet? I didn’t know I could do that…”, so I figured the topic was worthy of a blog post. Here is my best advice for how to make your 8-foot ceilings work for you, not against you.

1. You can install crown moulding

One of the most common misconceptions around 8-foot ceilings is that you can’t install crown moulding without making the walls look squat. I don’t agree with this at all. When it comes to crown moulding, I would keep two things in mind when working with 8-foot ceilings:

  1. Be very intentional with the scale of your crown moulding. I typically keep my crown moulding between 4.5-6.5″ (measured on the diagonal), but don’t err on the side of smaller over larger where small crown moulding can look dinky and too large moulding can look completely off too.
  2. Try to paint your crown moulding and baseboards to match your walls in order to visually elongate your walls. The reason why many people think you can’t install crown moulding is because when the crown and baseboards are painted white and your walls are a colour, it will make the ceilings look low, but when all the trim is painted the same, your eye considers the crown to be part of the walls and not the ceiling.

2. You can install hanging lights

Don’t be scared to hang those pendants over your kitchen island, just be considerate of scale. You don’t want your pendants to be too small that they don’t match the scale of your island or peninsula, but you also don’t want them to be too large that they overwhelm the space. When you’re looking for light fixtures, pay attention to the minimum height on the fixture, as well as how much of that is cord length, where you want to make sure that you’re still able to have enough cord length that the lights look suspended from the ceiling. In our kitchen, we went with 14.5″ diameter light fixtures in white, so while they are reasonable in size, the visual weight of the pendants are not heavy. Similarly, you can absolutely hang a chandelier over your dining table, just stick to the same principles as with the pendants around scale and hanging height.

3. Take advantage of full-length curtains

When hung correctly, curtains can elongate your walls, making your ceilings look taller. Make sure to hang the curtain rod high (with 8-foot ceilings, I typically place the rod midway between the window casing and the crown moulding), and wide (so the curtains aren’t covering the windows when they are pulled back). It’s amazing how some vertical elements like curtains can trick your eye into thinking the ceilings are taller than they really are.

4. Anything that can be installed up to the ceiling, should be

If you’re tiling your shower or a kitchen backsplash, don’t stop your tile short of the ceiling. Taking the tile all the way up will visually extend your walls. If you leave a foot or two of wall above your tiles, it will make your ceilings look short. The goal is to minimize as many places where you’re breaking up your walls, which is what leads to 8-foot ceilings looking squat.

The same advice applies to cabinetry, where you want to make sure your cabinets are meeting the ceiling, which not only gives you some extra storage space, but also makes your ceilings look much higher.

5. Embrace painting your ceilings

Much like how crown moulding and baseboards painted to match your walls extends your wall height visually, so does carrying that same colour on to the ceiling. If your eye can’t find a stopping place, then it makes your ceilings feel much higher. Many people were shocked when we carried the black paint on the walls of our bathroom on to the ceiling, citing that black ceilings would make the ceilings feel extra low, but actually the opposite is true. A dark ceiling paired with a dark wall will make the ceilings feel endless. Similarly, I carried the light greige on my office walls on to the ceiling in order to minimize the contrast between the walls and ceiling, effectively making the walls look taller than they really are.

6. Install full-height decorative moulding

While I broke this rule in my bedroom (for good reason!), installing decorative panel moulding or picture frame moulding to the entire height of your wall can add visual height. Skipping a chair rail can help even more, as you aren’t creating a horizontal breakpoint around the room. By creating vertical lines on the length of your walls, you keep your eye moving upwards towards the ceiling, the same way that adding stripes on a wall can lengthen your walls.

Have you discovered any other tricks to making your ceilings appear to be much taller than they actually are?

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