Tall look just an illusion

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 May, 2012, 12:00am


Low ceilings are common in Hong Kong homes, but there are ways of making them seem higher, and their rooms look more spacious. Just as women use fashion tricks to make themselves appear taller, designers have ways of making ceilings seem elongated.

Timothy Cheng, from TiRon Interior Architecture, says painting ceilings in darker colours will help make them fade into the background. Other designers suggest painting ceilings a lighter colour than the walls, preferably in a high-gloss or semi-gloss to reflect light, while others say a matte finish will help ceilings blend in more. If you have trim and crown moulding at the top of the walls, try painting these the same colour so as not to draw attention upwards, which would emphasise the low ceilings.

You can also make ceilings appear higher by covering the lower two-thirds of walls with beadboard or decorative panelling. Paint them a different colour, preferably darker or bolder, than the ceilings and upper walls. Doing this directs people's vision towards the colour of the trim, not the height of the ceiling.

If you have a preference for wallpaper, opt for vertical stripes and patterns. Vertical stripes create the illusion of height. This applies to certain furniture, too - a four-poster bed with tall, skinny posts draws the eye upwards. Most of the furniture should be low-profile or low-slung, and as close to the floor as possible, with fewer horizontal elements such as armrests. This creates open space and emphasises the distance between the furniture and ceiling.

Window treatments should be horizontal. Hang these as close as possible to the ceiling and let them extend to the floor as this will elongate the room.

Cheng says it is important to incorporate recessed lighting and avoid overhead lights. 'Recessed lighting draws attention away from the ceiling - ceiling fans or pendant lamps will make the space feel too closed-in,' Cheng says. Wall sconces, a wall-mounted light fixture, will also keep your eyes flowing throughout the space.

If structural changes are feasible, Cheng suggests narrowing hallways or corridors to make the ceilings appear taller. Other ideas include raising the interior door openings all the way up to the ceiling, or as close to it as possible.

If you want to hang paintings on the walls, place these slightly higher than you would normally do so. Hanging small frames above door openings and windows also tricks the eye into thinking the ceilings are higher.

When it comes to accessories, try using a tall vase filled with seasonal grasses or blossoming branches. This will slow down the eyes' movement as you look gradually upwards. Mirrors are great for making the ceilings seem higher if used along one wall. It is essential to avoid clutter and keep things neat and tidy, as every additional item in the room will add to the feeling of being boxed in.