In my last column, I mentioned that crown molding will not visually shrink the height of a ceiling. In fact, it will give the illusion that the ceiling is actually higher than it really is. Anything that makes one look upward creates this same illusion. My own theory is that the “up” in upward tricks the brain into thinking that something is high or tall.
Generally, we are attracted to, or in awe of, height. Think of the Grand Tetons, the Empire State Building, Yosemite Falls or mature redwood trees. We can also simply be amazed by the infinite blue sky or the distant midnight stars.
So it seems natural that we’d like to create visions, tangent or not, of height in our homes. How do we do this? We already know that crown molding can do the trick, but what if it doesn’t suit the architecture or style of your home? There are other ways to accomplish this goal, such as building bookshelves and kitchen cabinetry that reach all the way to the ceiling. If building new, you can make your doors ceiling-height by eliminating their headers. You can also forego all passageway headers so that nothing obstructs your view, thus making your air space appear more grand. Transoms over windows and doors are smart features that not only add height but natural light as well. If you’re not building new, these ideas can be made with remodeling and retrofitting efforts.
Taking advantage of light fixtures requires much less effort. Vertical sconces, especially those that shine both up and down, elongate their walls. And, for about $10, buy a plug-in can light. Place it on the floor, hidden behind a tall plant (like an Acacia palm) and let it shine upward through the fronds. This will create interesting shadows and patterns on the ceiling and ambient lighting to boot. Torchiere floor lamps (those that shine upward) also light ceilings but I’ve never found an attractive one. Maybe you’ll have better luck.
Another trick is to paint ceilings, walls and baseboards the same color. This will lengthen the visual flow. If the color seems too dark to extend to the ceiling, dilute it for that one plane. If you eliminate baseboards altogether, you will produce an even taller illusion.
Give added thought to your furnishings. For instance, low-profile pieces such as sling-back sofas and chairs, simple-lined coffee tables and ottomans maximize their distance to the ceiling. Also, mounting draperies at the top of walls will move the eye upward. Choose slim and airy chandeliers and ceiling fans (if you must) rather than bulky ones that feel overbearing and intrusive.
If you don’t fancy the idea of vertically striped fabric or wallpaper, at least avoid shortening your ceiling with horizontally striped patterns. If your home’s architecture is not strongly traditional, setting rectangular tile vertically on an accent wall or in a shower will also raise your eye.
Think tall, aim high and ask Santa for a $10 can light.