Thursday, April 3, 2014

Design Dilemma: Decorating Rooms with High Ceilings

Rooms with high ceilings are often architecturally interesting and can make a room feel bigger than it appears. When I think of high ceiling rooms my mind drifts to the modern industrial look of loft living. Brick walls, detailed ceilings. The height of the space is a character in the overall design of the space. 

Ok, now back to reality. Chances are if you live in a home with high ceilings, your space probably looks a bit more like this:

Tall and intimidating.

My living room has cathedral ceilings and so I have spent a lot of time looking at pictures and reading design articles on how to make a tall space cozy and inviting. Here are some consistent rules of thumb:

1. Scale: Furnishings, artwork and lighting should work in tandem with the scale of the room you are decorating. Generally, tall spaces call for furnishings, art, etc. of a larger (or taller) scale.

Here, the large scale of the artwork automatically brings the height of the room down and works in scale with the tall ceilings.

If you don't have the budget for a wall-size masterpiece, consider hanging smaller art in stacked groupings for a similar effect.

The neutral wall color in both of these rooms also helps to focus on the furnishings and art. The tall walls become a backdrop instead of a focal point.

The scale of window coverings is another element to consider. Taller window coverings of the same or complimentary color as the wall will unify and soften a tall wall.

Here, the majority of the curtain is the same color as the wall (softening the space), while the dramatic trim detail brings your eyes down towards the furnishings.

Of course, rules are meant to be broken! The bold curtain color in this room balances the bold hues in the floor covering and artwork. The neutral wall color is the unifying backdrop.

2. Focal Walls: Another way to tackle high ceilings is to create a focal or accent wall. Here, a fireplace wall is made the focal point with color and the large scale artwork that balances the mantle.  

Floor to ceiling artwork also unifies a tall wall and gives a focal point for the room. 

A floor to ceiling bookcase works in a similar fashion. 

Ceilings are walls too! Here, a painted ceiling combined with stacked artwork brings the ceiling height down and unifies the room. 

3. Architecture: You can also use architecture as a design tool. There is a rule of thirds that some designers use for tall spaces.  This general rule says that the bottom third of the room is furniture, the middle third is artwork and the top third is open space. This room is a perfect example of this design rule. The trim above the curtains and the varying wall colors draw the eyes to the lower two thirds of the room.  

The repetition of architecture plays a key role in unifying this tall space. 

Beams and architectural detail are also a popular way to bring ceiling heights down and unify a tall space. The large lanterns also bring the eye down. 

Looking at a before and after sketch using these principles tells the best story. In the first sketch, the room has furnishing and decor that look dwarfed by the tall ceilings.

 In the second sketch, the same furnishings are balanced by tall window coverings, stacked artwork, a tall mirror over the fireplace and a large pendant light that helps move your eye down. 

Happy Decorating! {Erin}


  1. Tall ceilings are always go pretty! These images are so inspiring for decorating!

  2. I love a good tall ceiling - I hope to have them in my house one day!


  3. these are great tips. The scale of furniture is s important...and I think art is a great way to balance out the walls.

    1. I agree! Thanks so much for reading Albertina.

  4. WOW what a FAB and classy post :) I hope you had a great week so far.

    Check out my new post....Colorful bedroom inspiration :)

    I wish you a sunny weekend dear :)

    LOVE Maria at inredningsvis - inredning it's, Swedish for decor :)

    1. Thank you Maria, I will check out your blog!


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