Q: My parents just moved into an older, smaller house. The ceiling in the hall is two inches lower than the other ceilings, and there's a visible edge that meets the living room ceiling, which is bumpy. The hall ceiling is also different from the kitchen ceiling. Why is it like this, and how can I make these ceilings match?
A: It's great to want to tackle this project for your parents. But without tearing everything out, you may never know why the ceiling in the hallway is lower. In an older home, varying ceiling heights could be the result of remodeling to hide imperfections and add lighting. Or it could have been that way from the start. Unless there is a leak, peeling paint, falling plaster, or other obvious problem, I would leave the ceilings intact. But talk with a licensed contractor to be sure. There could be asbestos or lead in the ceiling paint or finishes.
If there is nothing wrong with the ceiling — except looking odd — there are some easy DIY solutions if you have some basic carpentry skills and your parents like the idea. Ceiling tiles and crown molding will hide that edge to the dropped ceiling. Or create a frame, like a doorway, around the entry to the hall. This will also visually separate the hall from the living areas. Match the trim that's around the existing doors, or create a bigger, modern farmhouse version with new or salvaged boards. Decorate with old hardware, nails, or hooks for an authentic touch.
Depending on your parents' style and the house, a refined version of that doorway idea is to have an archway built seamlessly to match the walls. Getting the look right will be trickier, however.
For the ceilings in the other areas, you could simply apply a new texture over everything and paint. Or simply paint a border on the ceiling, using your creativity to disguise the line between the two rooms. Ceiling tiles could work, and crown molding at the top of all the walls will create a cohesive look. Or make some faux-wood beams and hang them at regular intervals across your entire living room and kitchen. Paint to match the trim or the ceiling, or use old, salvaged boards. By adding interest, you'll improve the look of the ceiling and disguise the flaws.