How to light a room with low ceilings


Low ceilings? No problem - open up your space with these crafty lighting tips...

There’s no reason for a room with low ceilings to be a dark or oppressive space. Whether it's a living room, a basement, a study or a bedroom, the right lighting can help to open up a room and make it feel airy and inviting. In fact, some cleverly placed lighting can be one of the most effective ways to visually lift a room with low ceilings. Here's our expert guide to making the most of yours… A room is generally considered to have low ceilings if they are under 8 feet (2.4 metres) high. While low ceilings can be a challenge, by choosing the right lighting scheme and layering your lighting you can make the room feel bigger and brighter.

What's the best type of lighting for a room with low ceilings?

If you have low ceilings it's best to avoid large, low-hanging light fixtures. Not only do they have the effect of bringing the ceiling down into the space and making the room look smaller, they're also at risk of getting in the way (especially for any beanpoles in the household!) The good news is, there are plenty of lovely alternatives to pendant lights, from wall lights and floor lamps to table lamps. (Though you don't have to rule out pendants completely, as we'll see.) When lighting a room with low ceilings, the trick is to aim for an even spread of light and avoid any dark corners or areas of high contrast. By using a variety of light sources, at different heights and levels, you can help to draw attention away from the ceiling and emphasise the wider space.


Beautiful use of table lamps in a country cottage. Photos: JH Designs

Layering light in a room with low ceilings

The best lighting schemes use a combination of different types of lighting - known as layering light. There are three main types of lighting: ambient lighting, which is the overall level of light in a room, including the main light; task lighting, which is targeted lighting for specific activities; and accent lighting, which is used to highlight features and create mood and atmosphere. Uplighters are a very effective way of lighting a room with low ceilings and will provide plenty of good quality ambient lighting. Uplighters include a wide range of wall lights and floor lamps. Meanwhile, floor lamps and table lamps are great for practical task lighting, while also adding ambience. For that extra level of flexibility, choose an adjustable style so you can really target the light. Finally, some well-placed accent lighting will help to highlight the wider space by adding depth and atmosphere at different levels. Use a combination of lamps or recessed lighting in alcoves, under ceiling beams, inside shelves and under cabinets. And for maximum control, why not add in some dimmers, so you can create the perfect mood. (You can find out more about layering light in our guide.)

Using wall lights in a room with low ceilings

Wall lights are a great substitute for overhead lighting in a room with low ceilings. Stylish and versatile, they will provide plenty of practical light, while also building warmth and atmosphere - and without encroaching on the ceiling space. An uplighter or a pointy-uppy style of wall light will wash the light upwards and along the wall, helping to elongate the space and draw the eye away from the ceiling. Wall lights should normally be positioned around 5-5.5 feet (or 1.5-1.7 metres) above floor level, although this can vary depending on the exact height of the ceiling. As a general rule of thumb you should aim for the top of the wall light to sit slightly above eye level, to avoid glare from the bulb. A series of translucent wall lights placed at even intervals around the room will diffuse the light beautifully, while a pair of stylish matching wall lights either side of the sofa will provide balance and ambience.


Pooky's 'foliage' wall light fitting in brass with a marbled paper shade in green and blue roya

Using lamps in a room with low ceilings

Floor lamps and table lamps are a real asset in a room with low ceilings. As well as providing practical ambient and task lighting, they're great for brightening up those darker areas and enabling a more uniform spread of light across the space. With their striking upright form, floor lamps can really help to make the most of the vertical space in a room, adding the illusion of height - and they come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and styles, so you can choose a style that matches your design theme. For a low-ceilinged room, make sure the size of the lamp is in proportion with the space - oversized floor lamps can make a room with a low ceiling feel more enclosed. Meanwhile, table lamps offer yet another layer of lighting options. A pair of striking designer table lamps placed on a desk or next to a sofa will help to draw the eye while making a real style statement. By combining a range of floor lamps and table lamps, you can provide excellent multi-level lighting, while also making the space feel warm and inviting.


Image: Astman Taylor

Can you use pendant lights in a room with low ceilings?

While some pendant lights might be a definite no-no for a room with low ceilings, with a bit of careful planning there are still some good options available. First, think about the style and size of your pendants relative to the space. Naturally, you want to avoid choosing pendants which take up a lot of ceiling space or have a large drop. Instead try a sleek pendant with a short or adjustable fitting, and opt for fixtures that will cast the light downwards and outwards. Now think about the placement of your pendant lights. While you should avoid hanging them near any walkways, a pendant or a group of small pendants can be very effective placed above a seating area, a table, or over a kitchen island. Or for a real design statement, try featuring a single striking contemporary glass or crystal chandelier.


Pooky's Cookie pendant in stone

Other ways to decorate a room with low ceilings

As well as your lighting scheme, there are some other key design choices that can help a room with low ceilings feel bigger, brighter and more open:

Opt for lighter colours

Many designers recommend painting low ceilings white and using creams, beiges or pastels for the walls, as darker colours can have a foreshortening effect and make the space feel more enclosed. Using a paint with a high sheen or satin finish will also help to reflect the light around the space.

Choose simple furniture and accessories

A simple design theme will help to make the room feel more open. Choose low level furniture with clean lines, and use a similar light colour scheme to emphasise the space between the walls and the ceiling, lending the impression of extra height.

Create a focal point

Creating a focal point can help draw attention away from a low ceiling. Try placing a pair of attractive designer wall lights either side of a fireplace, or creating a single feature wall to draw the eye. Or for a touch of drama, try putting a striking designer floor lamp or table lamp next to a favourite piece of artwork or furniture.

Go long

Floor length curtains are another great way of helping to maximise the vertical space. Hang curtain rails just short of the ceiling for the best effect. Similarly, using full height glazed doors can help to increase the sense of light and space.

Use mirrors to maximise the light

Mirrors are a fantastic way of helping to reflect light around a space and adding depth and interest. Hang a large mirror, or a series of mirrors, opposite a window or near a light source to bounce additional light around the room. See our range of mirrors here.


London penthouse featuring a pair of Pooky’s Bobboli resin table lamps. Photo: Carlos Garcia Interiors.

At Pooky, we create affordable designer lighting for beautiful spaces. View our range of lamps and shades here.

Image top: Salveson Graham