Scale of wallpaper, furniture can give a ceiling a lift

Rita St. Clair

April 07, 1991|By Rita St. Clair

Q: I've long been bothered by the 8-foot-high ceiling in my bedroom, which seems much too low for this otherwise generously sized space. At last I've decided to do something about it by redoing the room. My plan is to introduce floral wallpaper and painted furniture, but I wonder whether that will have much of a visual effect in regard to the ceiling's height. What do you think?

A: The combination you're contemplating won't, by itself, do much to change perception of the room's proportions. But you can produce the desired effect through the placement, color and, most of all, the scale and direction of the wallpaper and furniture designs.

The photo shows how an 8-foot ceiling in a bedroom was made to appear taller by manipulating decorative elements.

Instead of covering the entire wall with a floral motif, the designer installed a chair rail around the room at a 24-inch height, which is lower than the standard placement. The surface below the chair rail was then painted, and the wallpaper was applied only to the area above.

The illusion of greater height was further enhanced by selecting a floral-and-stripe combination rather than an overall scattered repeat of a single flower pattern. The stripes create a vertical effect that makes the ceiling look taller.

The ceiling itself, as well as the area beneath the chair rail, could then be painted in the same color as the background of the wallpaper, provided it is a fairly light shade.

A setting like this can easily accommodate painted furniture. It's

best if any painted images are limited to a sparse, vinelike design, with the major portion of the furniture done in a textured, two-tone technique with flowers as accents. Also, as the painted armoire suggests, doors could feature floral and ribbon patterns in a scale larger than what appears on the wallpaper.

Notice, too, that the bed here, like the chair rail, is lower than standard height. Along with the various vertical elements such as the window and armoire, low-slung pieces of furniture trick the eye into moving up toward the top of the room rather than focusing on a horizontal plane.

There's nothing new about this method of making a ceiling look taller. The same sort of techniques have been used by interior designers throughout the past half-century. As often as not, however, the addition of low seating and vertical accents failed to work as well as was intended, on account of the poor placement of the furnishings.

More recently we've learned to perfect this illusion, since the demand for higher-seeming ceilings has become more prevalent room sizes keep shrinking.

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