At first, having tall ceilings may not seem like a problem you have to “work with.” But, things can get tricky when it comes to hanging the right pieces on the walls. One of my readers emailed me who was having this problem:
“I have 14 or 15 ft tall ceilings, but the rooms are also small. When they were painted a dark color, the house looked even smaller. I painted them off-white and the rooms look more spacious, but now I’m struggling with art work. I continue to struggle with the mantel because of the tall ceilings. Everything I have put on the mantel in the last two years looks wrong. I’m contemplating using pattern on the wall, but don’t really want to do all that work since I’m not sure what it would look like. The only wall I’m happy with in the living room is where I stacked botanicals. The other walls are still in a confused state.”
What’s working here:
She’s absolutely right about the lighter, neutral paint. A darker color in a tall space can feel daunting. I also love how she’s gone up instead of out when hanging the botanical prints.
What not to do:
To me, the biggest thing that’s not working is the size of the mirror. It’s getting lost in all of the wall space above the fireplace. (I did another post here about why scale is important.) She also mentioned possibly adding pattern on this wall. I would stay away from doing that as a way to fill the space. Because of the height of the ceilings, this could feel a little overwhelming.
What to do:
I think one simple change in this room would make a big difference. I would use a big, vertical mirror in a black frame to take advantage of the height of the room. The black frame would tie in the framed botanical prints, and the rectangular shape works well against the archways (of the doorway and bookcases) that it sets between.
(I think a big piece of art would work here, too, but in this case, I like a mirror since the ceiling fan is hung high enough so that you wouldn’t see its direct reflection. I would also keep the mantel styling super simple with maybe a big potted orchid or fern. Lots of little accessories would also get “lost”.)
More tips for working with tall ceilings:
It's all about scale. This goes for decorating rooms of all heights, but it’s especially important for tall spaces. If the artwork is too small, it’ll end up looking like it’s floating in outer space all by itself. Consider grouping smaller frames and stacking them for height.
Scaled perfection via Style at Home
Consider the architecture of your room. Take a cue from the height of your windows, bookshelves or other architectural elements in your space. What you hang on the wall can be as tall as they are. I like how this whole room feels grander because of the way they’ve stacked the artwork upward:
Dillon Kyle Architecture (image found here)
Take advantage of high ceilings instead of fighting against them. Your first instinct may be to hang art at eye level, but going up to the ceiling with your frames can make for a pretty dramatic space. I especially like this look in small spaces, like the one shown here:
And, a quick thought on two-story great rooms. . . While all of the rules about scale still apply, my general thought on the two-story living room is to keep it cozy by establishing an invisible ceiling line around the room and keeping your artwork (and curtains) within that space.
I think home owners (and decorators) sometimes feel the need to do something grand to the highest heights when it comes to these rooms, but I don’t think it’s necessary. I’m personally not a fan of the floating art, tapestry or scrollwork hanging almost to the ceiling. (You’ll see this a lot in model homes. Search “two-story rooms” if you don’t know what I’m talking about.) To me, art should fulfill a purpose in a room besides just taking up wall space.
Do you have experience working with high ceilings? Any tips to share?
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