4 decorating solutions that seem like magic

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Have a low ceiling? A small guest room? Pockmarked walls? Here are a few ways to make those flaws seem to disappear.

What the eye sees isn’t always reality. Magicians make a living on the basis of that very premise. Taking a cue from the David Copperfields of the world, homeowners can make flaws in their homes disappear just as effectively—if not as quickly—as a magician makes a quarter vanish from the palm of his hand. The trick to getting rid of those flaws is to use some fool-the-eye decorating solutions.

Low Ceiling: Several painting tricks can be used to add height to the ceiling. Paint vertical stripes on the walls to make the walls seem taller. Paint the ceiling itself white, possibly using a semigloss finish to make the paint more reflective and thus visually seeming farther away. (A word of caution: Only do this if the ceiling doesn’t have flaws that would be accentuated by the glossier paint.) Avoid using elaborate light fixtures, which will draw your eye to the surface you’re trying to de-emphasize. Instead, use recessed lighting that’s flush with the ceiling. Other ideas to give the illusion of height to the room: Choose furniture such as bookshelves and TV stands that sit lower to the floor, thereby drawing the eye downward; hang window treatments at the ceiling line to give the room a sense of height; and display artwork vertically to accentuate the vertical elements in the room as much as possible.

Small Guest Room: Use lighter, cooler paint colors on the walls, as well as lighter-colored flooring materials and window coverings, to make the space seem bigger. Hang a floor-length mirror opposite the door to make the room seem larger upon entry. Make the room seem less cluttered by using a minimalistic approach to furniture, but dress the bed in a sumptuous bedspread and lots of pillows to yield an appearance of richness and opulence that draws the eye away from the walls.

A Long Hallway: Paint the wall at the end of the hallway a warm color so that it appears to advance toward you. Also use some tricks to draw the eye elsewhere rather than down the full length of hall. There are various ways to do this—for instance, painting the ceiling a darker color or adding an interesting light fixture that draws the eye upward. If you have a hardwood or laminate floor, use an area rug to break up the look of the long, narrow boards that may be making the already lengthy hallway look even longer. If you have the opportunity to lay a new floor, consider installing the boards sideway to help the hallway look shorter. Hang artwork, photographs, or a mirror on the side walls to draw your attention away from the far end of the hallway.

Damaged Walls: If a previous decorating project damaged your walls, patching and repairing is the best solution before repainting. However, if all your efforts still leave you with pockmarked walls, consider a paint treatment to hide the problem. For instance, a Venetian plaster finish may be the perfect way to update. In burnishing the wall, you may make the wall smooth enough to repaint with a standard latex paint at a later date. You can also use multicolored wall finishes, applied with a textured roller, to create a wall that will hide the sins of past paint jobs or wallpaper removal gone wrong.

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