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Tips to Make Low Ceilings Go High

Hello Friends,

It’s ORC Week 5 and we’re talking about ways to make low ceilings look and feel high. 

How to Make Low Ceilings Go High

I’ve often heard that “the heart wants what the heart wants.” In a round about way, the same is true about the eye. The eye wants interest and will naturally follow an interesting direction. To this end, we are sharing a few tips and tricks to lead the eye on an interesting path and away from low ceilings.


When a basement is dug too shallow, it’s tough, but not impossible, to create more height. Here are two ways to alter the low ceilings.

Air Conditioning Ducts:

  • One of the biggest space stealers in basements is the air conditioning duct system. In the bonus room, the ducts tuck between the rafters pretty well.

  • From a structural perspective, this all but makes them disappear. And that’s good.

Low ceilings do not have to be the end of story | Tips and tricks to visually lift #lowceilings are easy | #orc #oneroomchallenge #betterhomesandgardens #bhgorc | www.thechelseaproject.com

Metal Drywall Grid:

  • However, in the TV area, the ducts run perpendicular to the rafters. And that’s bad. Boo!

  • To rework the ducts would cost many $$$. Thank you, but no.

  • So to maximize height in the entire basement, we used a metal grid for the drywall instead of wood.

  • The inches gained using this system is somewhere between 3 to 5.

  • Whether the metal grid is cheaper than wood depends on the contractor. For us, it was significantly cheaper.


The goal for the low ceiling finishes is to make the ceiling recede until it disappears. Check out these tricks.

  • Use the same paint color on the walls, ceiling and woodwork.

  • Then color pops are added along the wall to draw the eye from the ceiling. Here only the door is painted because the woodwork is too close to the ceiling. To my eye, this creates better scale.

  • There is one more painting trick that I’ll edit into this post after next week’s reveal. But for now….I need to hold out. Sorry.

  • No crown molding is added since the very nature of crown molding is to accent where the ceiling and wall meet.

  • Semi-gloss paint is used on surfaces to bounce light.


If the goal is to deflect from a low ceiling, then it’s important to keep the eye interested and moving along.

  • One way to make this happen is to move color and texture along the walls at varying heights.

Got low ceilings? Keep the eye busy with all the pretty | Tips and tricks to visually lift #lowceilings are easy | #orc #oneroomchallenge #betterhomesandgardens #bhgorc | www.thechelseaproject.com

  • Another trick is to use regular-to-large scale furniture. 

  • When you stand at the bottom of our basement stairs and look slightly left, this powerful wall unit (which isn’t finished btw) draws the eye across the room and into the next room.

  • And the flooring, although very much a neutral, is laid across the rooms in order to drive the eye into and across the basement.

  • This helps make the space look wider instead of longer, hence visually adjusting the shape, while keeping the eye busy and away from that pesky low ceiling.

Use interesting flooring and upsized furniture to distract the eye from a low ceiling | Tips and tricks to visually lift #lowceilings are easy | #orc #oneroomchallenge #betterhomesandgardens #bhgorc | www.thechelseaproject.com


Three different fixed lighting fixtures also help to visually lift the ceiling.

Bonus Room:

  • The Bonus Room fixture sits flat against the ceiling, uses no shades and sprawls out along the ceiling.

  • Sitting flat against the ceiling as possible saves super valuable head space.

  • And the open bulbs allow light to bounce off of a larger area of semi-gloss paint. It almost creates a mirror effect and doubles the light.

  • The sprawling nature also sends light into the corners so that more of the ceiling is lit and therefore bouncing light.

  • We will use this fixture mainly at night since the Edison bulbs emit a warm, cozy light.

Flat, sprawling ceiling lights toss light to the corners of the room | Tips and tricks to visually lift #lowceilings are easy | #orc #oneroomchallenge #betterhomesandgardens #bhgorc | www.thechelseaproject.com

Dining Room:

In contrast, we opted for a large fixture that drops from the ceiling for the dining room.

  • Of course, volume and texture are my friends. So as long as a shade doesn’t obstruct views or create dead visual space, I’m all in.

  • And this fixture is height adjustable so if the dining room table should go away, it can easily zip up to hug the ceiling. 

  • Oh, and how about this cool texture? At night, it’s like having wallpaper on the walls.

Large light fixtures can work with a low ceiling | Tips and tricks to visually lift #lowceilings are easy | #orc #oneroomchallenge #betterhomesandgardens #bhgorc | www.thechelseaproject.com

Recessed Lights:

Recessed lights are found about every 3 to 4 feet throughout the renovated space.

  • All of the bulb light colors are adjustable to whatever light color you want, but ours are set at 5000k to mimic natural daylight.

    We use the recessed lights mostly during the day and it feels just like the sun is shining in….well….almost..

Recessed lights can be adjusted to any bulb color yoiu like | Tips and tricks to visually lift #lowceilings are easy | #orc #oneroomchallenge #betterhomesandgardens #bhgorc | www.thechelseaproject.com

  • All of the recessed lights point directly down to the floor except for three along a wall in the Bonus Room. These swivel 360-degrees and are pointed to wash light on and down the wall. From a lighting perspective, it looks like the wall has windows.

  • Sorry there isn’t a photo, but next week there will be one in the reveal. Promise.


And, of course, there are more ideas out in blogland. But whether one or the other is right for a specific room just depends on the room and the goals for the room. The tips here are based on our experience with this space. So please keep this in mind as you read through the post.

And that’s all there is to it. To keep this info for later, please PIN the image below.

Got low ceilings? Try these tips and tricks to make it visually go high | Tips and tricks to visually lift #lowceilings are easy | #orc #oneroomchallenge #betterhomesandgardens #bhgorc | www.thechelseaproject.com


In case you missed:

Week 1 – Basement Family Room and Bonus Space Plan

Week 2 – How to Refinish a Buffet Using a Paint and Stain Combo

Week 3 – Easy Patterned Wallpaper Using Paint

Week 4 – Short Cuts to DIY Upholstery

Week 5 – You are here

Week 6 – Bonus Room Reveal


Our Hosts

And as always, we extend a special thanks to our gracious hosts, Calling It Home , One Room Challenge and Better Homes and Gardens. And invite you to enjoy over 200 more room renovations,  click One Room Challenge. #oneroomchallenge #ORC #betterhomesandgardens #bhgorc



  • Reply Amanda - Life at Cloverhill May 1, 2019 at 10:07 pm

    Great tips! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Reply theChelseaProject May 1, 2019 at 11:17 pm

      Thanks so much, Amanda!

  • Reply Jen @ Jenron Designs May 1, 2019 at 10:25 pm

    I am loving this space so much! It is really coming together great! So excited for the final reveal next week!!!

    • Reply theChelseaProject May 1, 2019 at 11:17 pm

      Thanks Jen! Still so much to do…trying to stay cool…. LOL…

  • Reply Christine J Martin May 1, 2019 at 11:06 pm

    Great tips! Low ceilings can be so tricky to work with!

    • Reply theChelseaProject May 1, 2019 at 11:18 pm

      Thanks Christine! Looking forward to sharing the great disappearing ceilings next week.

  • Reply Nancy May 2, 2019 at 6:40 am

    Suzi Is it the light giving off the textured look? It is beautiful.

    • Reply theChelseaProject May 2, 2019 at 7:32 am

      Yes, it is the light shining through the shade. Thank you so much for stopping by. XO

  • Reply Susanne May 2, 2019 at 7:11 am

    Really great tips! The ceilings in our family room are just a tad under 8ft, so I painted the ceiling the same color as the walls. It really does make a difference. I can’t wait to see your reveal next week!!

    • Reply theChelseaProject May 2, 2019 at 7:33 am

      Thanks Susanne! Great minds…. amIrite??

  • Reply Emy May 2, 2019 at 7:21 am

    I’ve never heard of a metal drywall grid! I can’t wait to ready your secret painting tip next week!

    • Reply theChelseaProject May 2, 2019 at 7:36 am

      Right!! Neither had I and the builder said it was first time he had used it in a renovation. Since it made such a difference, I thought it might be a good choice for others,too. Thanks so much for stopping by!!

  • Reply Kristen May 2, 2019 at 9:01 am

    Nice work and great tips! Your basement looks like it coming along great!

    • Reply theChelseaProject May 2, 2019 at 5:06 pm

      Hi Kristen! It is coming along and we are so excited for next week. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  • Reply Mary K Hunnicutt May 2, 2019 at 10:09 am

    These are great tips! We used some of these tips in our basement to raise the super low ceiling. And I love the light fixtures you have selected. Can’t wait to see the reveal next week!

    • Reply theChelseaProject May 2, 2019 at 5:04 pm

      Hi Mary and thanks so much! I’m scrambling to get just one of the three rooms over the finish line. Wowzers. What a challenge of a challenge. LOL…

  • Reply jhambel1 May 2, 2019 at 10:57 am

    Sooo good Susie! Love all the tips! That light fixture is so pretty and the amount of texture it provides is perfect, when lit and when off!

    • Reply theChelseaProject May 2, 2019 at 5:03 pm

      Thanks so much, Joannie. I was horrified when that big light fixture came out of the box. LOL.. It looked so huge, but seems to work ok. I’ve adjusted to the size now.

  • Reply Marie InteriorFrugalista May 2, 2019 at 11:18 am

    Such a well written post, Susie with so many valuable tips! I did the happy dance when I opened my email this morning and saw that it was the ceiling tip ORC week, and worth the wait! We are going to be painting our basement next winter and your painting tip will be applied. Thank you! Can’t wait for the reveal 🙂 Pinned

    • Reply theChelseaProject May 2, 2019 at 5:00 pm

      Thanks so much, Marie. I’m sure you know this since you live in a cold climate, but I’ll leave this tidbit here for others to read, too. I kept the temp in my basement about 70 degrees and ran a dehumidifier round the clock. I kept the paint warm, too…meaning inside..not the garage. Since it is a semi-gloss, it can get a bit sticky. When this happened, I added several drops of water and stirred well. It seems to relax the paint and take away the stickiness while rolling it on and when it dries. How much water depends on the brand and level of stickiness. Just start with a few drops, stir well and test before adding more.

      • Reply Marie May 2, 2019 at 8:07 pm

        You’re the best! Thank you for even more helpful tips. Hugs from Canada 🙂

  • Reply Libbie May 2, 2019 at 9:48 pm

    Susie, loving all the tips. We are looking into a basement renovation in our future so I am saving this. Looking forward to your reveal next week. Oh, and love the three photos on the wall.

    • Reply theChelseaProject May 3, 2019 at 8:19 am

      Hi Libbie and thanks so much! Turns out my contractor has been in the business for at least 30 years and he said to me this week that he was stealing my paint tips for other clients. Say whaaaaaat? Anyhoo, it just goes to show that many resources are needed to get a complete picture. Just in case it could be helpful, I’ll tag you when I get the post up about how to paint with semi-gloss without getting streaks.

  • Reply Denise Zdziennicki May 7, 2019 at 10:49 pm

    Omgosh I love your home Susie. Simply gorgeous. And great tips on how to trick the eye with paint, furniture and varying heights.

    • Reply theChelseaProject May 8, 2019 at 7:29 am

      Thanks so much, Denise. The post featuring the entire room goes live tonight. So excited to share it with you.

  • Reply Corinna - TheBohoAbode May 9, 2019 at 2:34 pm

    Wow those lights are so cute and I love the black door. The floors are really beautiful. So many helpful tips!

    • Reply theChelseaProject May 9, 2019 at 4:41 pm

      Hi Corinna and thanks! We are truly lovin’ the lights…

  • Reply acraftymix August 8, 2019 at 2:36 am

    Love your tips Susie. We’ve been trying to create some height in our lounge area but I don’t think I’ve got it right just yet. These are going to help so much

    • Reply theChelseaProject August 8, 2019 at 4:32 pm

      Thanks so much, Michelle. Good luck!

    Thanks so much for your comment!

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