How to decorate tiny rooms with high ceilings

 
 
Posted5/13/2018 6:00 AM
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  • Notice the large art over the fireplace and how it forces the eye up toward the thick crown molding above the fireplace.

    Notice the large art over the fireplace and how it forces the eye up toward the thick crown molding above the fireplace. Courtesy of Troy Lighting

Editor's note: Christine Brun is taking some time off. The following column originally published in 2015.

Julia Child famously towered over most people. She said being tall always gave her an advantage in the business world; there was clean air to breathe in a crowd.

For a small room, having a high ceiling makes all the difference. You can get away with doing several things that would not be possible with an 8-foot ceiling, and a room looks much larger with all that vertical space. Yet there are legitimate concerns about how to get the balance just right.

As you see in this photo, windows can reach much higher and thereby lift up the entire room. It's best to run drapes floor to ceiling to elongate the room. What the room lacks in square footage can be disguised by creating a vertical focus. Notice the large art over the fireplace and how it forces the eye up toward the thick crown molding on the fireplace projection. If the design was demure and stayed low around the actual firebox, none of the upper dimension of the room would be noticed.

Sometimes there is the challenge of how to keep the proportions correct and how to make the space cozy. Here a sizable central light fixture projects down into the area, serving many functions. The mass of the fixture makes you see the upholstered seating and moves your eye downward to create a cozier scene.

Sound confusing? Often a boon in one sense can become a negative for a completely different reason. The art of design demands that we pay attention to all of the qualities of a room in order to coax a full and perfect balance out of any particular space.

In small rooms with high ceilings, two things are true: the vertical space makes the room feel larger than it is and the vertical space presents a challenge in terms of appropriate scale and warmth.

When there are 16-foot ceilings in a room, you will need to pull that ceiling down somehow. It can be as simple as hanging a tall mirror on a wall. Don't skimp. Buy the right size even if you must scour local thrift stores or consignment shops.

I bought a 7-foot mirror for about $400 that makes a huge difference in my small living room with 20-foot ceilings. Hanging something of this size and weight is a two-man job or a project for a professional installer. You might also hire a pro to hang a collage of art pieces high above a wall unit to extend the height of your furnishings along a wall. If a typical piece of wood cabinetry is around 84 to 96 inches, hanging framed art above that will extend the visual assembly upward another 30 inches or so.

The basic principal at work here is this: create ways for the eye to move from the floor up to the ceiling. In a bedroom, this might be achieved by painting the entire headboard wall an accent color. Or you might consider papering the headboard wall. In a home office, you might hang photos, diplomas, work-related memorabilia or hobby-related items in a collage that reaches up to the ceiling. Confine this collection to the width of the desk, for example.

Another tried and true trick is to install crown moldings in a little room with a high ceiling. Be sure to make them ample enough! Look at 7 inches or wider to achieve the desired result.

• Christine Brun is a San Diego-based interior designer and the author of "Small Space Living." Send questions and comments to her by email at christinebrun@sbcglobal.net.

2018, Creators Syndicate

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