We are often asked how to deal with existing low ceilings in a home.  This is one of my favorite blogs on the subject:

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 and 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 a 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.

Photos by Rob Karosis  Curated Brochure by Crisp Architects: Portfolio

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About the Author: James Crisp

James M. Crisp has been an architect for well over 30 years. His architectural firm, Crisp Architects, designs projects throughout New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts. In April of 2007, Taunton Press published 'On the Porch' by James M. Crisp and Sandra Mahoney.

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  1. D57A3Db0B39B08E668444331Df33E41F?S=54&R=G
    Helene July 26, 2018 at 6:38 am

    Hello. Did you have to stain the beams.

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    James Crisp July 26, 2018 at 7:17 am

    No, all we had to do was scrape them with a wire brush.

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    Liz Bacon July 26, 2018 at 9:19 am

    Love your website. FYI, we also did this to create a basement playroom in an older house.. Removed the ceiling and sprayed the beams and mechanicals a flat black. The ceiling kind of disappeared!

    Liz Bacon

  4. Aa2Cbf39867Dfccabe80558316A86802?S=54&R=G
    James Crisp July 26, 2018 at 9:56 am

    Thanks, basement sounds nice.

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