Decorating with Lower Ceilings

If you have soaring ceilings, then this post isn’t for you – nope, this post is for those of us (myself included) that can touch the ceilings in our homes if we try hard enough.

The Flip: Tackling the Great Room Ceiling

(I couldn’t resist the opportunity for this throwback to our second flip.)

Angela is a reader that is part of our little circle of cozy-ceiling-havers, as she’s about to buy a house with 8 foot ceilings.  Here’s what she had to say:

Looking to buy a two story (past home was a one story with high ceiling) this month and first floor ceiling look to be standard height. Any suggestions on how to make room feeling larger? Should I avoid ceiling fan or large light fixtures?

I love these questions!  Since our own home, and our flips, have had mostly 8 foot ceilings I am right there with Angela in wanting to make the most out of the lower ceilings.  Here are my tips for how to do just that:

1.  Make your lighting choices work for you, not against you. With low ceilings, you need to be mindful of the lighting that you choose to add to your home – you don’t want people whacking their heads on things or be left feeling like the room is closing in on you.  Here are some guidelines to follow for choosing lighting for rooms with low ceilings:

  • Use statement lighting in select areas.  I love a big chandelier as much as the next girl, but in a home with lower ceilings you can’t just put them everywhere all willy-nilly – reserve them for areas where people won’t be walking, like over the dining room table, the kitchen sink, the coffee table or an island.
  • statement lighting

    (Pencil & Paper Co.)

    statement lighting

    (Amber Interiors)

  • Wall lighting is your friend.  Some spaces just aren’t made for ceiling fixtures, such as some galley kitchens.  You can still add some bling to the space by mounting your lighting to the wall.
  • repetition & wall lighting

    (Urban Grace Interiors)

    wall lighting

    (Rachel Reider Interiors)

    wall lighting

    (Apartment Therapy)

  • Uplighting makes the room feel bigger.  Bouncing light off the ceiling is always a good thing.
  • uplighting

    (Better Homes & Gardens)


    (Young House Love)

  • Repetition can make an impact.  In a low hallway, for example, you don’t have the ceiling height for a big chandelier but you might still want the hallway to make a statement – so think about installing a series of flushmount fixtures that will give you plenty of head room while still providing something pretty to look at.
  • repetition & wall lighting

    (Urban Grace Interiors – showing off some wall lighting, as well!)


    (Estee Stanley)

    statement lighting

    (Amber Interiors)

  • Opt for wide rather than long.  A ceiling fixture can make a huge impact even if it doesn’t hang down into your line of sight.  Seek out lighting that spreads wide rather than hanging low.
  • wide fixture

    (Lizette Marie Interior Design)

  • When in doubt, go for recessed lighting.  While recessed lighting might not add color or drama to a room like a chandelier can, it will certainly illuminate the space without making it feel like the ceiling is coming down on you.
  • recessed lighting


2.  Opt for light colors on the walls and ceiling. While it’s entirely possible to create a cozy space with dark walls that envelop you, it’s not a fool-proof technique and can backfire by making your room feel like a cave.  To combat the cave-vibe that can crop up with lower ceilings, it’s always a safe bet to wrap your room in light colors that bounce light around.  My current favorite technique is to paint everything – walls, trim and ceiling – in Sherwin Williams Alabaster.  It instantly freshens and modernizes every room, and painting the walls and ceiling the same color makes it difficult for your eye to figure out where the walls end and the ceiling begins – hence, the feeling of higher ceilings.

"After" Flip Photos: The living areas, including the kitchen

(It’s Great to Be Home)

8th Flip - After - It's Great to Be Home

(It’s Great to Be Home)

3. Bounce light around with mirrors.  An abundance of light can make a small room feel larger – hanging a large mirror over a buffet or leaning a mirror against the wall will bounce light around and make the room appear to be more spacious than it really is.  And if you can reflect an awesome view from outside?  Bonus.


(Architectural Digest)


(My Design Chic)

4.  Hike up those window treatments.  Nothing makes a room feel squattier then window treatments that are hung flush with the top of the window.  Raise those puppies as high as they can go, and fill in any funky gaps between the rod and the window with stylish shades.

high window treatments

(I Suwannee)

high window treatments

(House Beautiful)

Do you have any tricks up your sleeve for decorating with lower ceilings?  Fill us in!

Our 8th Flip’s 2nd Floor – After

This is the last stop on the “after” tour of our 8th flip!  Just in time, because we officially sold the house yesterday – yippee!!

In case you missed them, you can check out the befores and afters of the exterior here, and the first floor here and here.

Here we go.  At the top of the stairs there is a little hallway – from this point of view, straight ahead are two bedrooms, to the right is the guest bathroom, and I’m taking the picture from the master suite.


Let’s go check out the bedrooms, shall we?

8th Flip - After - It's Great to Be Home

The first bedroom faces the street and has lots of funky angles – depending on your point of view, the quirkiness is either charming or it isn’t.


That’s something we learned with this house – quirkiness can be good or bad, just depending on the buyer, so try to avoid quirks when flipping houses so that it appeals to the largest number of people.  Sad face.

8th Flip - After - It's Great to Be Home

Directly opposite the front bedroom is the second bedroom, which overlooks the backyard.


Fun fact – these wood floors on the second floor are all original!!

8th Flip - After - It's Great to Be Home

I thought it was just a nasty subfloor, and I have never been happier to have been proved wrong.  We just had to have them patched in a few places, and I think they turned out really great!


Another fun fact – the way the house was originally built, you could only open the door to one bedroom at a time, or else they would hit each other and you could literally get stuck in the hallway or in a bedroom.  That, my friends, is a bad quirk.

You can kind of see in the photo below that the bedroom doors (in the background of the photo) don’t really play nice with one another.


Luckily this quirk is one that we were able to fix by changing the swing of one of the doors, and shrinking it a bit so that it would swing under a support beam.  Good times.

004 (2)

The two guest bedrooms share this bath at the top of the stairs:


I’m totally in love with how it turned out!  This is the first time we’ve done tiled wainscoting and it’s definitely going to make an appearance in future houses.  We also tiled the entire wall behind the vanity.

8th Flip - After - It's Great to Be Home

This terrible photo below is the only one I could find that shows the light fixture – it doesn’t really look that amazing in this photo but in person it’s killer.


Oh, and remember how we had this fun surprise when we removed the vanity?

This little set of stairs leads to the master suite:


A master suite that originally had sparkly popcorn ceilings.  Unfortunately the glitter isn’t quite catching the light in this photo, but I can assure it was there.


We opted for recessed lighting instead of fixtures in all of the bedrooms because the ceilings are on the low side – but now the rooms are all nice and bright!

8th Flip - After - It's Great to Be Home

A small bathroom is connected to the master bedroom, and it was really terrible.


The ceiling has a slope that makes placement of the vanity and shower really tricky.


Luckily, I think we figured it out and made the most of the space.  The shower stayed in its original location but we changed it from a tub to a walk-in shower.

8th Flip - After - It's Great to Be Home

The vanity moved completely, and we added a little makeup area at the end so that the sloped ceiling made some sense (which we chatted about here).  The grain in the vanity shows up more in the photo than it does in real life, and I’m really, really happy with the way the vanity turned out (even after my near meltdown when the painter prepped the vanity for paint instead of stain).

We tucked away the shampoo niche into the pony wall so that all of the showering necessities are hidden from sight.

8th Flip - After - It's Great to Be Home

The toilet moved by the door, and I think it might have been better if I’d turned it the other way, so that the back of the toilet was against the wall with the towel hooks.  But it’s better than where I originally placed it (yes, we had to move it, ugh!), which was much closer to the wall with the towel hooks – once it was in place it was obvious that a tall man would have a hard time with that placement due to the sloped ceiling, ha.  But where it is now is just fine.  :)

8th Flip - After - It's Great to Be Home

Remember when it looked like this?

master bath demolition

Here are a few close up shots for you guys.

8th Flip - After - It's Great to Be Home

The electricians were baffled by the sconces, but they thought they looked really cool – me too!

8th Flip - After - It's Great to Be Home

And the herringbone floor is definitely something that turned out spectacular – we’ve already repeated it in the kitchen of our 9th flip, and the kitchen of one of the rentals that we bought this summer.

8th Flip - After - It's Great to Be Home

We made the window as large as we could (there is a vent on the roof right outside the bathroom that we didn’t want to see from inside) and it definitely lets more light into the space.

8th Flip - After - It's Great to Be Home

If I had to pick a favorite part of the house, it would definitely be the master bathroom.  It turned out just as I’d hoped.

8th Flip - After - It's Great to Be Home

And that’s it!!  The 8th flip is done and gone – how do you think it stacks up to our previous flips?

Kitchen Plans

So, that wasn’t the last you’re going to hear about the kitchen at the 10th flip.  :)  And now that you’ve seen what the 10th flip looks like, I think it might be a bit easier to see where we’re going with the kitchen plans.

Thanks to all of your feedback, and Sarah’s excellent suggestion of a banquette, I came up with a few new options for the kitchen floor plan (plus one that I really like but doesn’t work due to space constraints).  Spoiler alert: I’ve already chosen a layout, but I still thought it would be fun to show you guys all of the options we were considering.  I hope you agree!

Option 1: Banquette


I envisioned the banquette looking something like this:

banquette - Southern Living

(via Southern Living)

or this:


(via I Suwannee)

I like this option a lot, because it’s a space dedicated solely to dining.  However, that might be a negative in a kitchen that could be perceived as being short on storage/counter space?  With this option, we’d have room to add a small counter area by the door to the laundry room – a wine fridge, kind of a beverage station area.  Ooh, and we’re changing the swing of the laundry room door like many of you suggested!

Option 2: Breakfast Bar

Final Kitchen Plan

(You may have noticed that the laundry room appears larger in this floor plan – turns out I had the wrong dimensions in my prior plans (but this one is correct), so you’ll see the size of the laundry room change from plan to plan. Sorry about that!)

This floor plan was my original thought, since the kitchen needed an eating area and a true island isn’t really an option due to the kitchen’s dimensions.  The bar stools would sit on the far side of the breakfast bar (the family room side), which is actually a step down from the kitchen (the family room was originally an attached garage, but a free-standing garage has since been built on the property and the original garage was converted to living space).  The breakfast bar would be counter height, but due to the difference in flooring heights you would actually need to use bar height bar stools at the counter.  Does that make sense?  It would be very similar to the setup below (and we could extend the cabinetry like is shown here so that the cabinets touch the family room floor, except it would be a peninsula instead of an island.

step down from kitchen to family room with breakfast bar

(via Virginia Kitchens)

The negative with this setup is that there isn’t a ton of room for seating, so you wouldn’t be able to have casual dining for an entire family.  I guess in theory you could put counter height stools on the kitchen side of the bar, but that might be strange to have two different heights of stools.  (Or at least I think it would be.)

Oh, and I’m thinking of doing a surface-mount door (like a barn door)!  That could be fun.

Option 3: Banquette on the other side of the kitchen

banquette on other side

Well, hello there!  I don’t know why this option didn’t occur to me sooner, but I think it addresses some of the concerns that people had with the original kitchen plan.  For example, there’s now a lot of room for seating, the kitchen and family room would really flow into one another without any division, and the fridge is now next to the family room.

I think it might look a little strange to have two free-standing banks of cabinets on either side of the laundry room door (one of which is really the fridge), so I toyed with this idea of adding cabinets across the top of the doorway to connect the two sets of cabinetry, like this:

decor pad - cabinets over doorway

(via Decor Pad)

cabinets over doorway.decor pad

(via Decor Pad)

Option 4: Peninsula AND Banquette

Optional kitchen plan

This one was interesting to me since it provides so many options for seating.  But, in the end, I think it made the kitchen kind of cramped, which is definitely something I wanted to avoid.

Option 5 (but not really): Skinny Island


I am in love with this option, BUT . . . it won’t work.  On paper the measurements work, but in person the walkways feel too tight.  The island pictured in the floor plan above is only 20 inches deep, which is very narrow (in comparison, kitchen cabinets are typically 24 inches deep).  It might have looked strange, so maybe it’s best that the measurements are saving me from myself.  :)

I envisioned it with solid sides, and a solid divider in the middle running the length of the island (so that the island wouldn’t be see-through like a table, and would look like it has more substance).  Here’s kind of what I was thinking:

Elle Decor - skinny kitchen island

(via Elle Decor)

I think that looks awesome!  Too bad.  But if the measurements had worked out, since the island is so long, we could consider adding cabinets or a wine fridge at either end, running lengthwise under the island, and still have plenty of room for seating.  Also, with this setup you could have bar stools on both sides of the island, which is pretty cool.  But if you got rid of the divider and just closed one side of the island (probably the side by the sink and stove), you could have larger bar stools that would fit entirely under the overhang and keep the walkway a bit clearer, kind of like this (although this island is deeper than what I have in mind):

Threshold Goods & Design - skinny kitchen island

(via Threshold Goods & Design)

So out of all of those options, which layout do you think we chose??

Drumroll, please…

Final Kitchen Plan

Option 2!!  Did you see that one coming?

I didn’t.

I thought for sure we’d choose Option 3 – for quite some time that was the one I was leaning towards.  But, in the end, I became concerned that while it may be something I would like, it might not appeal to everyone.  Some people may walk in and be like, “what am I supposed to do with this thing?”, or “my great aunt Edna’s table won’t fit here”, or “I’d rather have more cabinet space” . . . or something like that.

I’m not 100% sure of our decision, but I don’t think I ever would be, so we had to make our best guess and move forward.  Hopefully we made the right choice!

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