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When it comes to interior decorating, lighting does not tend to get the consideration that it deserves. After all, the right choice of lighting can help to completely transform a room. In a space built with a low ceiling, however, not putting proper thought into the lighting can leave you with a space suffering from an air of claustrophobia (not to mention quite a few bumps on the head).

Low ceilings are usually found in older properties, though they can also be common in newer kitchens, bathrooms and hallways. While there is a strict minimum ceiling height that all properties must adhere to, a lower-than-average ceiling can still make a room seem smaller than it is. Still, a room needs to be well lit, so how can we get around this problem?

While you may not be able to choose low-hanging pendant lights or elaborate chandeliers, you will still find that there is a lot of choice out there for lighting for low ceilings. It can be good to speak with a local interior designer if you need help, or to book a lighting design consultation service. As always you will also find a huge amount of inspiration online, both from larger retailers and independent designers.

Always keep in mind that new light fixtures and fittings should be installed by a qualified local electrician.

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Choosing low ceiling lights

Before you start searching for your new light fixtures, there are a few things to keep in mind. Firstly, when you buy a fixture its lowest point should be at least 6 feet 8 inches above the floor if you want to avoid hitting your head. Measure the distance between your floor and the ceiling to give yourself a clear idea of just how tall your new lights can be.

Next, consider the size of your room. If the space is particularly small, too-large a fixture will make the room seem even tinier. That said, a low ceiling can usually seem more oppressive in a larger room anyway, requiring a little more creativity in choosing the lighting. 

Another thing you will need to consider is how much moisture is in the room. In a kitchen or bathroom, the lights will need to have a certain amount of moisture resistance to prevent electrical accidents. A good bet will usually be to choose glass or polycarbonate shades, though if you want to be sure about a fitting before buying it you just need to check the IP (Ingress Protection) score. This refers to how resistant a light is to moisture, with higher-scoring options being most suitable for wet rooms.

It will also be a good idea to take a good hard look at your ceiling. If your ceiling if painted a darker colour, it will absorb light. While this can be a bold design choice, helping to show off the rich colour you have chosen, it will not do you any favours when it comes to illuminating the room. By painting your ceiling a lighter colour, you can have it reflect any light that shines on it. You can also paint your ceiling with the same colour as the surrounding walls to make the height far less obvious.

One final thing to keep in mind with a low ceiling is that the height can make it much easier to spot any defects. If you need to have your ceiling repaired, speak to a local plasterer.

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Low ceiling lighting ideas

When choosing lighting for a room with a low ceiling, there is one thing that many people tend to forget: the lights do not have to actually go on the ceiling itself. You could make illuminating the space much easier by choosing lights to go along the walls. Surf lights, for example, protrude from walls and direct light up and down, allowing it to reflect from both the floor and ceiling. Coloured wall lights can be particularly useful when it comes to diverting attention from your ceiling. Floor lighting can also be quite striking, whether regressed into the flooring itself or in the form of standing lamps. Some even choose to have lighting embedded in fitted furniture, such as shelving. Not only does this help to light a room, it can also draw attention towards the furniture as a feature.

That said, there is still a great deal of choice for ceiling lights. ‘Uplifter’ styles are particularly helpful, as they have bulbs facing upwards rather than hanging down. Other fittings can also take side fitting bulbs. While it can be annoying to change the bulbs on fittings like this, the closer they are to the ceiling the less likely they will be to cause problems. As we mentioned previously, however, a bulb will not typically cause trouble as long as it does not hang lower than 6 feet 8 inches above the floor (not to mention the fact that downwards-hanging bulbs generally provide better illumination).

The best advice that we can give is to begin your search by looking at flush-fittings. These are lights which attach with barely any space between the fixture and the ceiling, leaving plenty of room beneath. A semi-flush fitting has a stem or other part between the ceiling and bulb, creating a gap. These can still be suitable at the correct height, especially if they are hung above pieces of furniture such as tables.