colors to paint low ceiling room walls, ceiling, and trim

stillerzSeptember 13, 2006


I am putting a finished room in my basement and the ceiling height is about 6' 7", so its very low down there and I'm trying to figure out what colors to use on the walls and ceiling to make it look as big as possible. It feels very small because the ceiling is so low, even though the room is about 11' x 22' total size.

My main questions are:

1. I've heard you should paint the ceiling the same color as the walls to make it look taller (assuming you pick a very light wall color). Any truth to that? I thought white ceiling paint made a room look bigger.

2. Should I paint the doors and baseboard trim the same color as the walls too, just in semi-gloss finish?

The carpet is going to be a neutral, light brownish color.

Any advice from folks that have painted rooms with low ceilings and had success would be appreciated. Pictures too if you have some.


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Well, I certainly qualify for the "Low Ceiling Club". Our kitchen ceiling is slightly under 7' high (or low, in this case). I painted our kitchen walls a deeper green and the ceiling is white. I don't necessarily ascribe to the theory that lighter colors make a small room appear larger, or that paining the ceiling the same color as the walls make a room look taller. Even though our kitchen ceiling is very low, noone has mentioned that to us in the entire time we've lived here ;o) The times we've pointed that fact out, the reactions have been one of surprise and the comments along the line of "Oh! I didn't notice". Which is good.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2006 at 9:12AM
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I absolutely believe that painting the trim the same color as the walls will help. I just did this with my living room and the effect is just great (sorry, no pics that show that very well). I bought a good quality scrubbable paint and didn't bother with semigloss except for the baseboards.

I find that painting trim in small rooms can make things look fussy, overly detailed and divided (kitchens notwithstanding - considering all the stuff found in kitchens, most of them look overly detailed, anyway).

You can also add to the size-illusion by using very simple window treatments, reducing clutter, using NO paperborders at the top of the walls, using verticals such as uplight floor lamps, and long-tall furniture that seem to stretch the room upward.


    Bookmark   September 14, 2006 at 10:48AM
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I painted a smaller room all in the same color including the ceiling. I had read somewhere that the more contrast you have in a room the smaller it will look. And indeed by painting the walls, trim, and ceiling the same color it almost feels like they disappear and do make the room feel bigger. I also used very simple window treatments and try to keep the room decluttered.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2006 at 4:51PM
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How you respond to color is TOTALLY PERSONAL. Some people find that the room seems bigger if they paint walls and ceiling the same color, while others (like me) feel boxed-in and claustrophobic. I prefer white ceilings, because they "lift the lid" on the box that is the room. (I have 7'6" ceilings in my current house, but I was just as adamant that the 9' ceilings in my previous house be white.) "Ceiling white" tends to be too stark and cold though, I prefer to use off-whites for warmth. I also don't personally find that rooms seem bigger if they're painted light colors or dark colors, maybe my brain doesn't "fool" very easily. Don't believe everything you read, try things out for yourself and see how your own brain works.

For MY taste, I strongly disagree with painting the trim the same color as the walls. To me it immediately "blands out" the room; unlike Chris I consider careful attention to detail a very important thing in a small space. I think trim makes a room look more finished (although that doesn't mean I like high contrast either, and the cold white-white many people use for trim is as bad as "ceiling white" IMO... ease off some, go for an off-white). I'm very conscious of trim after tearing out and replacing all the moldings in my master suite-lette, one of the best things we've done in this whole house. We hope to slowly extend it throughout the house. So I really notice trim these days.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2006 at 2:42AM
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My trim is painted white throughout the house....with the exception of my son's room. He decided to do it himself on a whim about a month after moving in. The room was baby blue with a hand painted sky on the ceiling which looked more like an angry galaxy. He couldn't stand it and used the buff color I had used for my living room walls. I was almost crazy watching him paint, he did it in 3 hours and covered everything including the baseboard,coving and ceiling in one color. Results really surprised me, it looks great and made the room feel larger, much more pulled together. Am not sure if I'd do this in any room, but for this one it worked out well.

All in the beholder, this sounds like a job you will have to play with. Buy some cheap oops paint or use something you have around and try an area. May be added work, but paint is easily changed and painting, as with interior design, is a personal decision.

While at Lowes for plumbing, I mentioned the return of blue/pink/yellow sinks/toilets which were on display. The two guys said "yeah, back to the 60s/70s". My kids (in their late 30s) were commenting on some green dishes bought to use for matching my kitchen paint picked out. They think these greens look exactly like the avacado they grew up with. My explanation that the greens are "herb" tones just brought a bunch of giggling. I love green and will still paint the kitchen an "herb" green. But admission that they have now tainted my seeing the different shades and in the back of my mind is avacado.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2006 at 6:56AM
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Thanks for all the responses. Great pictures, too. Very helpful.

One last follow-up question: What is the thinking on painting one wall a different color than the rest in a room?

If say I have a rectangular room (11' x 22') and I enter from one of the short ends, and I were to paint the wall at the opposite end a different color than the other 3 walls -- should I paint it a lighter or darker color than the other 3?


    Bookmark   September 17, 2006 at 11:18AM
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I agree that how one reacts to colors on ceilings and walls is a personal thing. I had all the ceilings and woodward throughout my entire house painted a rich ivory color semigloss - it adds a bit of sheen and light to my small space. This house does have simple crown moulding, which makes the ceilings look better in the contrasting ivory rather than same as the wall colors. I have had small rooms in houses with no moulding and they looked good with the ceilings same as the walls.

I personally cannot stand a room with one wall painted different, but there again it's a personal choice. The good thing is, it's only paint, so not a big commitment if you don't like it and want to change.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2006 at 1:28PM
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Accent walls are not my thing. Again, it's one of those things that's very personal. As gypsyrose said, it's only paint, and even more it's only one wall. :-)

    Bookmark   September 17, 2006 at 2:39PM
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I started to read this post because I am upgrading a small/long guest room and think a brighter trim might look good despite the general consensus that it should be kept lighter.
I have a large living room too. It was all a neutral off white when I moved in- though it has a lot of windows also which would make a difference. I just finished repainting it three colours- colour matched by glidden paints. One wall is called 'Bold Sangria'- a dark fushcia, (and a wall on the shorter end), the far corner is slate green. and all the rest is called Barely Jade, which is really almost off white/grey. The effect is great. I was worried about three colours so sporadic- but it does tie together well. The room is very big with cathedral ceilings and a lava rock fireplace in the middle which breaks it up as well as the windows- but I think that the accent walls can work very well in the right setting- though it seems a bit out of fashion. The walls make the room feel a little more intimate (though the room is so expansive) and complements furniture/carpet.
You can always paint over it!.... but after so many coats of primer/colour/peeling latex paint... it is nice to get it right the first time- I don't want to do this again soon!

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 3:02AM
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mama goose_gw zn6OH


LOL, how can you tempt us with those colors, and not show pictures?! :)

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 9:36AM
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I agree that for low ceiling, the paint should be lighter than the paint on the wall. You can use white for rooms that are big but for rooms that are small, use light color as candy tuft or antique white.

For lights, use vertical lights such as floor lamp or kobe lighting. Do not use chandeliers, because they only emphasize low ceiling or you are able to bump on them.

Moreover, use curtains that hang from ceiling to floor.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2011 at 4:03AM
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I prefer that ceilings be anything other than white. Sometimes it's great if they are 2 values lighter or darker than the walls.

Light colors advance & dark colors recede. Therefore, a darker color ceiling will make the ceiling recede.

I prefer trim to be lighter than the walls...usually white or cream. It gives definition to the space, keeping it from feeling flat.

I am also not a fan of accent walls, but in a long narrow room, sometimes having those end walls 2 values darker than the main long walls will help to visually shorten the room.


    Bookmark   October 2, 2011 at 11:19PM
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