Ask a Designer: How Do I Decorate a Room With High Ceilings?


Every week, we’re asking designer Scot Meacham Wood, formerly of Ralph Lauren and now owner of his eponymous design firm, a question from our readers. This week’s topic is all about decorating a room with high ceilings. Have a decorating dilemma? Comment below and yours might be featured in a future installment.

Q: What are your best tips for decorating a room with high ceilings? —Heather K.

A: Heather, first off, it’s always tough to label “high ceilings” as a design problem! But, you are correct, they can often create certain challenges when you first begin working in the space to keep the proportions correct. Let’s take a look at a few ideas to consider as you furnish the space.

1. Using the Height
A good deal of this is going to be about the architectural details in the room, so have a close look at your doorway and window heights. If you have high ceilings, but only traditional, builder-grade doors and windows, you will be better served by creating a bit more height here. I’d mount your window treatments well above the existing casings, maybe even adding a valance above to help to even out the scale. Also, think about hanging some larger artwork over the sofa or fireplace — again, to use the wall space that you have to provide a visual anchor for the room.

2. Creating Intimacy
Very often in one of these soaring-height rooms, the human form can feel a bit overwhelmed by the mass of the space, so, I always like to keep it feeling cozy, despite its grand attitude. To accomplish this, one of your best opportunities is with lighting. Even hanging a very grand chandelier will help bring the eye down to create a more snug feeling. Think about using slightly oversized table lighting to help keep the eye from wandering up into the rafters!

3. Exploring Topography
I think the topography of a room is always incredibly important — especially when you have the extra ceiling height. What I mean is make sure that your space isn’t existing all on the same eyeline. You should work in some taller pieces (especially some larger case goods like a bookcase or a pair of étagères) to avoid a flat horizon line as your experience the space. As I mentioned above, lighting is another great opportunity to keep the horizon of the room more interesting.

4. Exploring Scale
You’ve got the space — be bold. Layering in a few “oversized” pieces will help to ground the room. Think of it this way, in the past I counseled against using teeny-tiny furniture and artwork in a small space because you’re better served by using a few boldly-sized pieces to give the room some weight. Now that we’re in a larger space you need to up your “proportion game” a bit.

As an example, take a look at this image from one of our own projects here in San Francisco. We used the size and proportions of the existing windows to give the space some soaring height and drama. We used case goods in varying heights to take advantage of the expanded wall space. We also hung the artwork and mirrors high — not only to, once again, take advantage to the space, but also to help reflect the light in this purposely dark, moody space. The dramatic handblown chandelier helps to bring the eye down from the expansive loft-style ceiling.

Copyright to the original publisher House Beautiful.

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