Decorating living rooms with high ceilings can be quite an intimidating task. With all that wall space, you run the risk of creating a living area that can feel cold and stark. But interior designers are on hand to offer their best tips for filling in all that wall space or embracing it in its entirety, inviting visitors to stop in their tracks and look up.
For Houston-based interior designer Nina Magon, the obvious solution is to draw the eye and go big and bold. “A great way to design a balanced high-ceilinged interior is to include larger, more eye-catching pieces like furniture, art and decor versus lots of small items that can clutter your space,” she says.
From wall art to clever crown molding, and statement lights to beautiful shelving, these interior design ideas can easily transform the space.
1. Get creative with shelves
If your living room has high ceilings and you want to break up that wall space with decor, one smart way is to install living room shelves. Play around with the architectural features of your room – if you have a chimney breast, shelves flanking either side of the chest will reliably look good.
Keep things symmetrical where possible, and don’t be afraid to go tall, you can fill the space with decorative pieces that bring interest to your walls, keep the space full of character and personality and draw the eye upwards.
Think about creating your own vignette – go for ceramics, sculpture, hanging indoor plants, and stylishly and purposefully placed coffee table books, but resist the urge to overfill and embrace the negative space. Too much clutter can just look sloppy. Light your shelves from above if you want to make even more of a spotlight on the shelves. In this example from Scrafano Architects (opens in new tab)the shelves go all the way from the living room to the ceiling for a stylish storage solution.
2. Embrace the architectural features
Instead of desperately trying to fill the white space, embrace it and make a feature of it with crown molding and cornice details. This prevents the space from appearing two-dimensional, gives some texture and brings interest to the walls, with vertical lines that draw the eye upwards.
“When I design a high-ceilinged interior, I like to always think about balance,” says Nina, who designed this living room in a neighborhood of Piney Point, Houston, Texas. ‘One way to add a nice balance to the high ceilings is to add architectural details, such as trim, to the walls and ceiling. This allows you to add depth and interest to the walls without clutter.’
Crown molding is the decoration on the wall, typically where it joins the ceiling. It comes in a range of styles and comes from different time periods, which means that when you decide to add crown molding to your home, it’s not that simple. If you’re working with a period home, look to the architectural history to decide how you might want to decorate your wall—some are more decorative than others, including crown roses and floral motifs, while plain moldings are seen in more modern spaces.
3. Go bold with statement lighting
Sometimes it’s about filling the void of space between the ground and the ceiling, and for high-ceilinged rooms, this can create a room that feels far too airy and not conducive to relaxation. A great living room lighting can do the trick and help fill the space.
‘For this living room we wanted to make it more spacious and connect to the upper level by creating a large void. It also allows air circulation and natural light to enter the space,’ explains Agatha Carolina of Jakarta-based firm, Bitte Design Studio (opens in new tab). The lighting helps create a destination to focus the eye on. ‘We placed pendant lights to create a scale of intimacy,’ says Agatha.
4. Use natural light to your advantage
Natural light is your best friend when working with high ceilings and white walls. Even in the airiest of spaces, if there are no windows, even if there is plenty of space, a room can feel cavernous. Try to eliminate this by letting in light where possible, facing your living room windows and working with daylight as seen here where a slit of light comes in through the windows of the yard. “This living room is the first space you walk into from the entryway,” says Matt Garcia, architect and designer at the modernist residential design firm, Matt Garcia Design (opens in new tab). “The clients wanted it to be dramatic and full of natural light.”
‘The windows of the church building do two wonderful things. They bring in light from two sides and the horizontal break prevents the artificial wall from feeling too high. You get glimpses of the treetops and sky from different eye-catching vantage points. We wanted to showcase the natural lighting on the wall surfaces as much as possible.’
5. Go bold with color
Think big and don’t shy away from bold colors that will help you fill the space with ease. Decorate the wall with one large piece of art, or perhaps a gallery wall. This living area by Regan Baker Designs in San Fransisco (opens in new tab) prioritize decorating a white wall with bursts of color. Wall art over the fireplace is a kaleidoscope of color and that sunshine yellow staircase is a joyful addition to the room.
6. Try a wood fire with flu
Draw the eye upwards by making a feature of a log fire and its flue. This design by Regan Baker Design in Tahoe leads the eye up to the ceiling and directs the eye to the beautiful wood ceiling and emphasizes the rustic farmhouse style. a real feature of the beautiful wooden ceiling. The result is a pleasing blend of contemporary and cabin style, the perfect modern rustic living room.
7. Paint the ceiling
Referred to as the ‘fifth wall’ by designers, the living room ceiling is so often overlooked. But there are endless paint options that can help you create a feature living room ceiling instead of going for the same white paint you always do. the ceiling to draw the eye upwards. If you’re working with a high ceiling and want to make the space feel cozier, giving yourself a dark ceiling creates a cocoon-like feel in the room. Think carefully about the color you are going for. “Dark ceilings can make bold statements, especially with contrasting white walls,” says Jennifer Morris of JMorris Design (opens in new tab). “It can add unexpected drama to an often underrated area of the room.” Alternatively, go for a tone in the same family as your wall paint to create harmony in the space.
8. Create a feature wall
Go for a bold lick of paint to create a living room accent wall. A dark accent wall can even make a room look bigger and feel wider, even if it’s a narrow space. It all depends on the way the eye perceives color and light. Dark colors distract the viewer, so the accent wall visually enlarges the space and creates contrast that makes a room appear brighter.
In this example from OAD Interiors, a black wall was used to make the room appear larger. “We wanted to emphasize the height of the space, so we chose to have the fireplace in black to provide contrast and a wow factor,” says Melissa Anderson of OAD Interiors in Brooklyn. (opens in new tab).