Do you feel like Shaquille O'Neal without the $20 million dollar NBA contract? You might not be able to move into a house with 10-foot ceilings but there are several tricks you can use "heighten" your room.
1. Paint your Walls
Paint your walls with light colors. The darker or warmer the paint color, the smaller your room looks. But this doesn't mean your walls have to be stark white. Choose a light tint of your favorite color. The best choice is a pale cool color from the family of greens, blues or purples. Even if pale walls are too 'blah' for your liking - there's lots you can do.
Paint one of your small walls with the color you want. Choose paint that's bright as opposed to dark. This will give the room the light, airy, open feeling you are going for. A dark color on the other hand can make your room feel like it's cozier. And this will only compound your low ceiling problem.
Feature large paintings on your walls to bring your favorite colors into the room. (There are more tips on selecting art to "heighten" your living space below.) Then you can leave the walls a light color. Not only does this help lift up the room, but it can also save you time and money. And you don't just save now; you also save because you don't have to repaint the wall when you get sick of that color down the road.
2. Paint your Ceiling
A dark ceiling can make a room with low ceilings feel even smaller and more oppressive. Fortunately, most homes already have a white ceiling. But if yours doesn't then pick up a roller and paint it white!
If you're adamantly opposed to white ceilings (I know some people who are) then choose another color. Just make sure the color is the same as your wall or a lighter shade of your wall color. The goal is to make sure your eyes can keep traveling upwards. A darker color on the ceiling will end that journey before it starts.
Consider this really cool way to add several inches of height to your walls. When you're painting your walls, extend the color to your ceiling by 2 or more inches. Measure it out and use painter's tape to make it look neat and consistent.
3. Use Dark Flooring
A dark floor grounds your living space. If you rent an apartment and can't change the flooring or have already invested a lot of money in hardwood or laminate, don't despair. Buy a dark colored rug. Make sure the rug is nice and large. Small area rugs can take away from your ceiling height.
4. Consider Your Architectural Details
Avoid crown moldings since they will only reduce the height of your wall even further. Paint your baseboards the same color as your wall. This will make your wall appear to stretch downward adding height to the room.
5. Hang Tall Art
Choose art with a portrait orientation. This will make your eye travel vertically. If you can, select a painting where the darker values are at the bottom and the lighter values are on the top. Again, your eyes will be drawn from the bottom of the painting upward. But any painting with a vertical composition will work really well here. Forget about art with a landscape orientation. It'll make your eye travel horizontally which is good if you have a narrow room but bad when you have low ceilings.
As an alternative to using one large painting, try hanging a few small paintings in a vertical line on your wall. This technique is great on a small wall that's ordinarily bare or doesn't have a piece of furniture in front of it.
6. Incorporate Tall Plants
Use tall skinny plants to decorate. If you don't have a green thumb and inevitably kill all plants (I have this affliction), then try bamboo or tall dried grasses and branches. Throw them into a tall thin vase and stick it in the corner of the room. It's fast, simple and zero maintenance (except for dusting).
7. Select and Arrange Your Furniture
Keep your furniture lines low by choosing couches and chairs with low backs. Use an open arrangement. When your guests walk into the room, there should be a sizeable open pathway leading to the sitting area. Minimize how much furniture you use. All of these techniques will open up the space, making it feel comfortable and roomy.
8. Lots of Lights
This may seem like common sense, but how many living rooms have you been in with very little lighting? In a room with lots of space less light can add to the ambiance. But in a room with a low ceiling it can just be depressing. Be generous with your use of light. Have as much light on your ceiling as possible. Tall standing lamps work really well for this. They draw the eye up and brighten up the ceiling making the room look taller. Small inset light fixtures in the ceiling will also work wonders.
You don't need to follow every single step listed here for success. Even using a couple of these tricks will give you the illusion of higher ceilings in your home. Have fun decorating and let me know how it turns out!