Editor's Note: This is the second half of a two-part look at handling ceilings. Last week's center-spread covered high ceilings.

Designers call ceilings the "fifth wall" — a tribute to the fun we can have painting, decorating and faux-finishing them.

But for those of us with low-ceilinged rooms, it can sometimes feel like that fifth wall is closing in on us.

We talked to some of Tucson's interiors experts and HGTV's newest design star for tips on raising the roof — metaphorically, of course.


Our own physiology makes colors play tricks on us, says color expert and boutique paint store owner CJ Volk.

If we look at two objects, one red and one blue, the red object will appear to be closer and the blue one farther away. That's because the human eye tends to make cooler colors recede. So go for cool colors in a smaller room to make it appear bigger.

She also advises:

● Paint low ceilings any shade with blue in it — violets, blues and greens — to lift it up.

● Paint baseboards the same color as the walls to lengthen "short" walls.

● Paint crown molding the same color as the walls and the ceiling a different shade to create the feeling of more height.

Too many people paint their walls and stop short of the ceiling, says HGTV's Jennifer Bertrand. But by leaving a ceiling white or not tying it into the wall paint, they're drawing attention to it. She says: "Paint a small room first, like the bathroom ceiling, to see the difference it makes."

Metallic colors help open up a space because they reflect light. In the low-ceilinged dining room of Kathie and David Weishaar, interior designer Heather Pantel used a green metallic paint with gold webbing on top (get this in a can from craft stores) to do just that.


Murals and trompe l'oeil techniques date back to Greek and Roman times, and they're helpful now in opening up a room.

"If you look at Michelangelo's ceiling in the Sistine Chapel, he has a lot of columns and walls and moldings that are painted-on instead of being real. By manipulating lines, you push out your perspective," says Coffman.

Coffman helped transform two children's rooms in the Foothills with wall murals extended to the ceilings. One was based on "Alice in Wonderland," and the other was a desert scene. In both, she used predominantly blues and greens and turned the 10-foot ceilings into skies.


Hanging art too low draws the eye downward, says art installer Tim Diggles.

Make sure paintings aren't in line with the tops of furniture pieces or mantels, but rather a couple of inches above or below them. "Never put it on the same line because it gives a chopped effect."

Also, vary the heights of paintings, he says. If you use the 60-inch rule (see box above), then they should vary naturally.

Window treatments

So many of her clients think curtains should be the size of the window, says Bertrand. But hanging them above and below the window frame elongates a room.

"Hang them as high as you can go, and it's amazing what a difference it can make."


If the mantra for window treatments is "Go high," for furniture it's "Go low." Pieces that seem closer to the floor will help heighten a room.

Pottery Barn designed the low-profile sectional and 15-inch-high coffee table pictured on the cover especially for shorter rooms.

Japanese-style furniture is also a good bet.


The shorter the room, the more light you need. Reflect light with mirrors (above mantels and furniture, on coffee tables), metallic paint and, as much as possible, uplighting. Avoid low-hung lights, and instead go for recessed or track/directional lighting where you can play with where the light shines.

» It's all about the planes

Your room is split into three planes: floor, walls and ceiling. Chop up your planes and you chop up the space in your room, making it appear smaller. Keep them aligned — that is, similar in color and tone — and you'll give the illusion of space, says mural artist Kimberly Coffman.