Homes built before the advent of efficient heating systems and proper insulation often used fireplaces both as a source of heat and a place to cook. Lower ceilings and smaller rooms were much easier to heat with fireplaces, therefore many period farmhouses were built with a seven-foot or so ceiling height. Today, we can increase the insulation, install state of the art mechanical systems in these wonderful old homes, but we cannot raise the ceilings of most rooms without major construction.
I personally like the contrast within a home between low ceilings in some rooms and taller ceilings in others. Usually over the course of centuries, a farmhouse will expand to include both low ceilings and taller spaces.
When the major living space within a home has very low ceilings, we are often asked to help the owners make the most of the space they have.
There are usually only 3 options:
1. Open up to the floor/roof above (which won’t work if there is a needed bedroom above).
2. Drop the floor level (which rarely is a good solution).
3. Work with the low ceiling.
In many old homes, there are beautiful beams and wide board planking just above the sheetrock. The most cost effective way to change the character of oppressively low ceilinged spaces is to expose the historic structure and increase the amount of light coming into the room. French doors and additional windows brighten up the space while allowing for good ventilation. The addition of a fireplace can add to the ambiance of the room and focus attention on the details.
Wiring for the lights was run in exposed painted pipe. This worked well with the rustic beams and the 200 year old floor boards.