There are a lot of qualities that can make a home feel luxurious — lots of windows, for instance, or intricate millwork — but one sure bet is high ceilings. Ceilings that are 9 feet high and taller make a space feel airy, spacious, and downright expensive. But if your home has low ceilings, it may feel like there’s not a lot you can do about it.
Enter: this ingenious paint hack from decor influencer Melissa Warnock. In her viral Instagram Reel, Warnock shares how she painted a faux alcove around her bed that makes it look nestled into a nook, while the rest of the ceiling around it then appears higher.
Warnock first painted one accent wall — a robin’s egg blue, which pops against the surrounding white walls — then taped off a section of the ceiling and the two adjacent walls to create a faux alcove that’s about 16 inches deep. Painting that “alcove” the same color as the accent wall creates an optical illusion, making it appear like it’s set back from the rest of the room and giving the ceilings a visual lift.
DIYers and aspiring DIYers alike are captivated by the hack. Warnock’s video has reached over 1.5 million views on Instagram and she’s been overwhelmed by the response and amused by the reactions. “One person referred to those of us with standard ceilings as ‘low ceiling peasants.’ Others have argued that my ceilings are actually high, failing to grasp the fact that the illusion has clearly worked,” says Warnock. (How’s that for a marker of success?)
Warnock says the best way to replicate the effect is with two colors that have enough contrast to draw attention to the lines of the faux alcove. She offers a few tricks for those trying it themselves at home: “I use a laser level to mark the line and tape along the line with yellow Frogtape, which is perfect for more detailed projects,” she says. “I painted along the tape with the ceiling color and allowed that to dry. I then painted up onto the ceiling and along the tape with the wall color. This way you avoid paint seepage and get a perfect, crisp line every time.”
If you don’t have quite the right space for a faux alcove, there are several other tricks of the trade to fake a higher ceiling. Here are four more designer-approved paint hacks to make your ceilings look taller.
Skip the crown molding.
“To make ceilings feel taller, I often forgo crown molding entirely and carry the same wall paint color onto the ceiling for a natural transition,” says Becca Casey of Becca Interiors. The seamless line keeps your eye moving upwards and envelopes the entire room in color.
Paint vertical stripes.
Monika Nessbach, founder and chief interior designer at Designbar, suggests, “Paint vertical stripes on the walls to draw the eye upward. This vertical pattern creates the illusion of height.” Nessbach suggests trying subtle colors, just slightly off from each other, to give the optical illusion a more elegant look.
Use color blocking.
You can also use color blocking to create the look of a higher ceiling. Nessbach explains, “You want to paint the lower portion of the wall a slightly darker color than the upper portion, which draws the eye upward and makes the ceiling seem higher.”
Paint the entire room — including trim — in the same color.
Then, there’s always color washing with trim or molding. “Painting the crown molding the same shade as the wall will add several more inches to the perceived height of the room,” says Jen Bienvenu, interior decorator and vintage dealer at J. Bienvenu Interiors.