High ceilings can add a sense of grandeur and openness to any room. But they can also pose some unique challenges when it comes to decorating and making the most of the vertical space. This week’s idea offers creative ways to work with high ceilings to maximize their impact and take your room to new heights!
Define and Measure Your High Ceilings
Before diving into high ceiling decor ideas, let’s clarify what constitutes a high ceiling. In general, ceilings above 9 feet are considered high. Normal ceiling height is typically 8 feet, sometimes ranging between 7.5 to 9 feet. Anything above 9 feet ventures into high territory.
When dealing with a high ceiling space, take exact measurements to understand the full volume of space you’re working with. Measuring ceiling height in multiple spots will give you a clear sense of the tallest and shortest points. This allows you to tailor decor accordingly.
Knowing accurate ceiling measurements enables proper sizing of lighting fixtures, chandeliers, pendant lights and other hanging décor elements. It also helps estimate the scale of furnishings needed to balance the space.
Consider Proportional Furniture
Furniture that appears too small will get lost, leaving visual gaps that disrupt cohesion. When furnishing a high ceiling room, use pieces that relate well proportionally to maintain a harmonious aesthetic.
Guidelines for proportional furniture include:
- Choose longer sofas and sectionals to anchor the room.
- Select substantial, oversized chairs with some height. Avoid low-profile pieces.
- Look for dining tables that can comfortably seat 8-12 people to ground the area.
- Bring in dressers, buffets, armoires and other tall furniture to fill vertical space.
- Use substantial coffee and side tables that won’t get dwarfed.
Go for wider and deeper proportions over low and sleek. Visually weighty, well-scaled furniture creates balance in a high ceiling room.
Incorporate Architectural Interest Through Moldings
Drawing the eye upwards, crown moldings and ceiling trim add pleasing architectural detail. Consider adding moldings to provide depth and visual framework.
Crown molding ideas include:
- Picture frame moldings: Simple, straight designs neatly frame the junction of walls and ceiling.
- Ornate, decorative moldings: Elaborate carved styles create old-world elegance.
- Two-tiered moldings: A second slim border below the crown captures more attention.
- Shaped wood trim: For a lightweight look, use square or half-round molding.
If your ceiling lacks crown molding, there are affordable DIY kits to create customizable options. Molding installation requires precise measurements and some carpentry skills. Seek professional help to ensure proper execution.
Extend Walls Upwards with Tall Architectural Elements
Using tall architectural features that visually stretch walls upwards is a great trick for high ceiling decor. The eye naturally follows vertical details from the ceiling down to the floor. Elongated elements act as connecting visual anchors, making the space feel more intimate.
Ideal vertical architectural features include:
- Floor-to-ceiling draperies: Hang wide panels that puddle on the floor to draw the eye down.
- Multi-level bookshelves: Stagger shelving heights for a cascading stairstep effect.
- Gallery walls: Arrange art salon style with pieces of varying heights and sizes.
- Built-in cabinetry: Custom millwork with soaring cabinets builds continuity.
- Wooden beams: Exposed or false beams slice horizontally through the space.
- Floor lamps: Select designs extending 60″ or taller to reach towards the ceiling.
- Plant stands: Ladder-style planters or narrow trellises bring greenery upwards.
Layering vertical elements creates a cohesive, wall-like effect that provides a sense of enclosure.
Define Separate Zones Within an Open Floor Plan
For homes with an open concept main floor, vast high ceilings can make the expansive space feel cavernous. Visually define separate living zones using floor coverings, area rugs and distinct furniture arrangements.
Ideas for delineating open floor plan areas include:
- Anchor conversation and media zones with large sectionals or multiple seating pieces.
- Use area rugs in distinct shapes, colors and patterns per defined space.
- Arrange furniture into intimate vignettes rather than broadly spacing all pieces.
- Float substantial room dividers or shelving units to divide cooking, dining and lounging areas.
- Mark off a home office zone with a large area rug and matching desk and shelves.
- Display accent tables, lamps and art pieces in coordinated groupings within each functional area.
Repeating colors, textures and cohesive decorative elements maintains an overall unified look.
Incorporate Canopy Beds and Dramatic Fabrics
Drawing the eye upwards, canopy beds fully maximize high wall space. Frame your bed in a floor-to-ceiling gauzy cocoon or opt for a shorter but still impactful wooden canopy. Hammock-style swing beds suspended from the ceiling are another novel option.
Experiment with bold, oversized fabric prints and wall coverings. Murals, wide stripes, large medallions or damask prints hold their own and stand out in a tall room. Use patterns along the ceiling line, on canopy beds or adorning window treatments.
Strategically Place Lighting Fixtures
With more ceiling real estate to cover, a high ceiling room needs ample lighting. Use a combination of central fixtures supplemented by accent, task and ambient lighting options. Lighting can also help define spaces within an open floor plan.
Smart high ceiling lighting placement includes:
- Chandeliers and pendant lights: Suspended directional lighting casts a warm glow both upwards and downwards. Place central fixtures at a length that hangs approximately 30 inches above the table or conversation area.
- Sconces: Mount decorative wall sconces at least 6 feet off the ground to push light upwards and highlight architectural details.
- Recessed cans: Recessed can lights provide flexible placement of concentrated task lighting where needed. Stagger multiple cans at varied heights in a stepped formation.
- Track lighting: Adjustable spotlights set on ceiling tracks offer customizable directional lighting. Follow the lines of bookshelves, display shelving or kitchen cabinetry.
- Room perimeter: Position floor and table lamps around the room’s edge to soften shadows and reduce contrast.
Proper placement balances ceiling height while directing ample illumination where needed.
Incorporate Mirrors and Reflective Surfaces
Strategically hung mirrors visually expand a space and reflect light. Place a monumental mirror above a fireplace or use a coordinating pair flanking a window or console. Cluster small decorative mirrors in groupings for increased reflectivity.
Add mirrors above furnishings, on closet doors or aligned with picture windows. The reflective quality makes the room feel larger while bouncing light around.
Glossy metallic finishes, glass surfaces and mirrored furniture also redirect light. Use a glass dining table, glam reflective coffee table or metallic bar cart. The shimmery surfaces catch and reflect light, brightening up gloomy corners.
Work in Layers From Floor to Ceiling
Achieving cohesion in a high ceiling space requires decorating in tiers from floor to ceiling. Maintain visual flow by decorating vertically in layers versus leaving bare walls. Graduating design elements draws the eye upwards.
A layered high ceiling décor approach includes:
- Floor level: Start with area rugs in lieu of leaving bare flooring, which exaggerates height. Include substantial coffee tables and ottomans.
- Seating level: Hang curtains puddling on the floor. Include tall lamp bases and side tables in corresponding height.
- Eye level: Position art and mirrors at eye level. Shelving and built-ins should be 7-9 feet tall.
- Ceiling level: Use a tall headboard wall, canopy or suspended decor. Add ceiling trim molding and chandeliers.
Connecting décor across varied planes creates cohesion and a custom built-in look.
Incorporate Tray and Coffered Ceilings
For a traditional elegant aesthetic, install decorative beams in a geometric grid pattern to create a tray or coffered ceiling. Visually lower the ceiling plane by dividing it into smaller segmented areas with wood cross-beams. Filling the heavy beamed coffers with plaster or other materials can help absorb sound.
Aim for beam depths around 8 inches for proper shadow lines. Grid spacing depends on room size but is generally in 2 to 4 foot intervals. Include perimeter trim details for a finished built-in look.
Add a Focal Point Feature Installation
Creating a dedicated feature or conversation area provides a focal point. Visually define the space with lighting, built-ins or décor. Potential statement zones include nooks for dining, reading or media enjoyment.
Focal point concepts include:
- Built-in wine bar accentuated with pendant lighting and barstools
- Fireplace surrounded by display shelving built floor to ceiling
- Banquette dining nook with dramatic lighting and artwork above
- Seating vignette with layered rugs, coffee table and soft lighting
- Home theater section devoted to a large screen and plush seating
Anchoring the area with a focal point draws people in and creates visual weight.
Paint Ceilings a Deep Color
Painting over ceiling white visually lowers the perceived height, especially in a room with windows. A darker ceiling color makes the vertical space feel less extreme. The color also defines the ceiling plane better than defaulting to white.
Deep, moody ceiling color ideas:
- Navy blue
- Charcoal gray
- Forest green
- Rich burgundy
- Chocolate brown
Stay away from black, which is tricky to work with and easily looks harsh. Test sample colors during both day and night to ensure the tone works 24/7.
Add Ceiling Accent Treatments
Beyond painting an entire ceiling, use touches of color just along the ceiling line or on the fifth wall itself. Painting the crown molding or adding vinyl decals, decorative wood trim or patterned wallpaper offers creative flair.
Ceiling accent concept options include:
- Contrasting color on crown molding or ceiling trim
- Removable wallpaper border along the ceiling edge
- Geometric or medallion vinyl decals
- Faux architectural beams or rafters
- Metallic silver leaf or distressed paint on ceiling boards
- Murals or skyscape scenes painting overhead
Keep the walls neutral to allow the distinctive ceiling to take center stage.
Consider Lowering the Ceiling
If you ultimately find the ceiling height completely unworkable, physically dropping the ceiling height is an option. Rest assured, great high ceiling decor solutions lie between leaving the vertical space untouched and drastically lowering ceilings. But for certain situations, a lowered ceiling may help.
Possible approaches to lowering ceiling height:
- Drywall ceiling – Frame a new ceiling with wood studs and drywall at desired height.
- Suspended ceiling – Drop-in panels easily install on a metal grid hung from the original ceiling.
- Lowered box beam ceiling – Wood slats create coffered squares, installed below existing ceiling.
- Drywall cove ceiling – Curved edges transition cleanly from walls to lowered central ceiling.
Ideally, preserve at least 10 feet of height. Lowering too far creates a claustrophobic, oppressive feel. The installation work also impacts any existing lighting, ductwork or piping overhead.
Style Ideas for High Ceiling Décor
Certain interior design styles naturally shine in spaces with generous ceiling height. Lean into these aesthetics for cohesive décor.
Styles suited for high ceilings include:
- Industrial: Exposed pipes and metalwork, unfinished wood, pendant lighting
- Modern: Clean lines, floating shelves, bold colors and prints
- Rustic: Vaulted wood beams, exposed brickwork, wrought iron
- Victorian: Crown molding, chandeliers, ornate wallpaper, canopy beds
- Bohemian: Woven textiles, globe pendant lights, eclectic layered décor
Incorporating authentic original architectural details will enhance the elegance. But thoughtfully blending old character with modern comforts prevents a space from feeling dated.
High Ceiling Decor Frequently Asked Questions
High ceiling decor often comes with many questions. Here are helpful answers to some frequently asked questions:
How do you decorate a living room with high ceilings?
- Hang long curtains that pool on the floor to draw eyes downwards.
- Choose substantial furniture pieces like an oversized sofa and armchairs.
- Add tall shelves, floor lamps and plants throughout the room.
- Use large area rugs and place furniture directly atop.
- Install crown molding and focus lighting along the ceiling line.
Should you paint a room with high ceilings a dark color?
Yes, a darker color is advisable as it will visually lower the ceiling height. Deeper hues like navy, charcoal, wine red or chocolate brown work well. Just test the color first to ensure it reads nicely at all times of day.
What color ceiling goes with white walls and wood trim?
With white walls and wood trim, consider a pale blue-gray or soft greige (gray-beige) for the ceiling color. Avoid stark white, which will exaggerate the height.
Do high ceilings make a room look bigger?
Yes, high ceilings create an airy, expansive look and the perception of increased space. But the vertical volume can make a room feel disproportionate. Use adequate furnishings and layered décor to balance the height.
Should ceilings be lighter or darker than walls?
For high ceilings, a darker ceiling color is recommended. For standard 8 foot ceilings, lighter ceilings help create the illusion of higher ceilings. Dark walls with white trim and a pale ceiling keep things visually lifted.
What color goes well with grey walls and white trim?
Some colors that complement gray walls with white trim include light blue, soft sage green, antique white, light taupe, and beige. Darker grays like charcoal also work well.
How do you decorate a living room with a high ceiling?
- Use a large area rug and scale up furniture like an oversized sofa.
- Hang long curtains from ceiling height down to the floor.
- Place taller shelves and floor lamps throughout the space.
- Add crown molding and pendant lights hanging 30″ above sitting areas.
- Divide open floor plans into separate furnishing zones.
While high ceilings offer a grand aesthetic, they require careful decorating to maintain proper proportions. Use these tips to embellish towering vertical space with customized lighting, expansive draperies, substantial furnishings and layered architectural details. Rethink scale and balance to create stylish harmony. With the right approach, your soaring ceilings can feel majestic rather than overwhelming. The vertical dimension provides ample creative opportunity to fulfill lofty décor goals.