In a narrow hall or landing the ceiling, although the same height as other ceilings in the house can seem unusually high. It’s partly the narrowness that gives the feeling, but the tall walls of the stairwell can add to the illusion – it’s always at least a 5m drop from the ceiling above a staircase to the ground floor below. So one improvement you might make in a hall is to lower the ceiling in some way. You can do this by fitting a suspended ceiling. A lightweight suspended ceiling of grid and panels is one choice, but such ceilings tend to look better in practical environments and, in any case, the narrow width of a hall ceiling gives you the opportunity to experiment with other ideas: to use materials which would be too expensive for a larger ceiling or too heavy for a wider span.
Whatever you do consider the fire risks, although a hall is perhaps an unlikely place for a fire to start, fires do spread rapidly through halls and up stairwells. (This is why the Building Regulations are strict about the fire resistance of the enclosure around a staircase.) You may need to use these areas as an escape route and smouldering, flaming and falling ceiling coverings will add greatly to the hazards.
Lower by illusion
Painting a ceiling darker than the walls and floor helps to make it seem lower – carry the colour down to picture rail height to increase the illusion.
The trick of making a ceiling seem nearer can be achieved by giving the eye something lower to focus on. Stretching a grid of white string or plastic-coated wire below a dark- painted ceiling and upper walls is one way of doing this.
More substantial grids of trellis say, or square-edged boards or slats installed with narrow spaces between the boards can be used with lights behind to disguise the height of a ceiling- the open frames can be used to suspend other things. The grids can be supported by battens screwed to the walls or suspended by chains from the ceiling joists above. Fabrics such as canvas and sailcloth are sometimes suggested for suspension overhead, but both these materials are highly flammable (mainly because of their waterproofing treatment).
A silvered ceiling to reflect light is another way to increase the feeling of space in a dark cramped hall – use silvered PVC attached with magnetic
In older houses hail ceilings were often given extra decorative treatment with unusual ornate plaster cornices and plaster arches on decorative brackets called corbels. If your hail has these features, they’ll be worth highlighting. For a hail with a plain ceiling you might copy the idea and install an ornate plaster (or polyurethane made-to-look-like plaster) coving or cornice to give interest. Most manufacturers make panel mouldings to match, which can be used on the walls or as a border on the ceiling.
Plaster moulding is screwed, nailed or stuck to the ceiling. When it is stuck it usually needs temporary support from below to stop it slipping as the adhesive dries. A temporary batten can be nailed in place or you can tap in masonry nails.
Coving or moulding needs mitring at the corners. These cuts which angle in two directions aren’t easy to cut and a gap at the corners is almost inevitable – it can be filled with plaster joint filler or finishing plaster. With a moulding that has a repeated pattern take the trouble to match the corners.
Timber moulding is another choice – this is available in many different cross-sections. Or, for a cheaper type of border you could use wallpaper borders on the ceiling and the walls.
Bamboo poles are used as a high-level A shelving. An ingenious pulley system lifts bikes out of the narrow passageway. Note also the ornate plasterwork common to many halls and also shown far right.
A grid of square-edged boards with narrow spaces between can be used with lights behind to disguise the height of a ceiling.