Have you ever watched someone go spelunking? The spelunkers almost always come to a place in the cave where they have to squeeze their bodies between two huge slabs of rock and you think, my god, they’ll be trapped! How in the world are they going to get all the way through that tiny opening, and with all that gear to boot? You imagine the hard, weighty rock pressing in all around as you watch their tight, treacherous journey onward. Will they escape, or be stuck forever?
Bottom line. If you have a room that makes you feel this same vague, claustrophobish discomfort, it’s not okay. So your space doesn’t have ceilings like the Sistine Chapel. You’d be surprised at how airy and dramatic the right lighting can make your room feel – even if it has an extra-low ceiling.
Here are some tips to help you light that low ceiling:
1. Embrace width.
As a rule, the bottom of any hanging light should be at least 6’8″ off the ground – unless it’s over a table or island. When you have an 8′ ceiling, this doesn’t give you a whole lot of room to play. If you long for the grand impact of a decorative ceiling light, try a larger low-profile fixture that stays close to the ceiling, but holds some real estate up there. It’s dramatic without looking cluttered, and it will help you avoid the drama of a gash to the head.
2. Use more than one light.
A room with a single light fixture is depressing. Kick the shadows by adding multiple light sources. A few stylish flush-mount ceiling lights. Some table lamps. An accent light here or there. When you have multiple lights shining in different directions, the space will feel lighter and more open. Make sure to place ceiling lights at least 3′ from the wall, any closer and harsh shadows will make your ceiling seem lower.
3. Up lights are your new best friends.
Shining light up towards the ceiling will automatically make it look higher, opening up your room even more. If you have cabinets or tall shelving in the room in question, just run lights along the top. This will completely eliminate shadows close to your ceiling with an even sheet of light. Linear fixtures like microfluorescents, tape lights, rope lights, light bars, or light strips work best for this “over cabinet lighting” technique.
4. Accent any architecture with light.
If your ceiling is low, but still boasts some fabulous architecture, use that to your advantage! Use linear fixtures to accent coves, overhangs, or other neat features to create the illusion of more space. Playing up an interesting angle or structure will make your room seem larger – not to mention the added drama.