Sites

Ask the Architect: Tips to make your ceiling appear higher

Ask the Expert Home Improvement

If you have a room with a low ceiling and you want to make it appear taller, here are a couple of tricks.

One strategy is to add detail both lower down and at the ceiling line. Contrary to popular belief, crown molding in a low-ceilinged room does not necessarily make the ceiling feel lower, but you need to choose wisely. The crown molding should be more vertically oriented; that is, there should be less horizontal coverage on the ceiling and more on the wall, leading the eye upward. At the same time, the addition of a chair rail lower down, perhaps lower than you would normally have one — say, about 24 inches off the floor — will draw the eye from the chair rail up to the ceiling, giving the illusion of height.

A second approach is to change the room’s proportions. For example, for a renovation I did with “This Old House’’ in Auburndale, a section of Newton, the master bedroom had a rather low ceiling — at 7 feet, 4 inches. Because the room was so large and wide, the ceiling appeared very low. By adding partial walls that created a “dressing corridor’’ within the room, the actual bedroom area had better proportions and the ceiling appears higher. In the before photo seen here, the wide, empty room accentuated the low ceiling; in the after photo, the proportions of the space were improved by adding a closet wall that did not shut off the room.

BEFORE

AFTER

Conversely, how do you take a high-ceilinged great room and make it feel cozier? I have a friend who had a high ceiling in hers. The walls and ceiling were painted the same color, making the room feel even more cavernous. Luckily, there was a small piece of molding at the line of where a ceiling is in a standard room. I suggested that she paint the wall below that point a more weighted color. This created a cozier feeling in the room. By creating two zones of color, the overly spacious great room became more grounded and created a richer experience.

Chris Chu is an architect in West Newton who specializes in residential design. Send questions to Address@globe.com. Subscribe to the Globe’s free real estate newsletter at pages.email.bostonglobe.com/AddressSignUp.