Making the Most of High Ceilings

in Apartment Living, Decorating on by

A spacious apartment unit with high ceilings.

Almost every home comes with a set of design challenges. Sparse kitchen cabinets, tiny windows, creaky steps — unless you design it yourself, creativity is key to making it all work. While low ceilings are typically only a problem in basement or attic rooms, high ceilings are more prominent in converted warehouse/industrial spaces and houses built decades ago, when they were considered a sign of wealth and elevated social status.

If you live in an apartment with high ceilings, fear not: there are many ways to use that extra vertical space to balance the rooms out and keep your furniture from looking like it belongs in a dollhouse. Whether you choose to perform dramatic renovations or just want to follow a few simple décor tips, those high ceilings of yours are sure to start feeling like architectural assets in no time at all.

Simple Solutions

Bright Lights, Big Impact

Elegant party scenes in mansions and castles always feature a huge chandelier hanging from the ceiling. Though often seen as a sign of pretentiousness, these oversized, glistening light fixtures actually make rooms more inviting by connecting the ceiling to the floor. Your fixture doesn’t have to be a chandelier, but it does have to be large enough — and hang low enough — to draw everyone’s eyes upward. As the eyes drift back down, a sense of cohesiveness arises that really brings the whole room together.

Curtain Calls

Most rooms with dramatically high ceilings have normal sized, traditionally placed windows. If you use curtains or window coverings that barely fit those windows, the space between their tops and the ceiling will likely break up the flow of the wall and make the upper part of the room feel remote and unfriendly. The simple solution to that is to hang curtains at ceiling height and let the fabric dramatically flow to the floor, working in a simple tieback if you like. You’ll need a lot of cloth and a solid color, as prints that large tend to be overpowering.

Get Artsy

If you’ve always dreamed of an oversized painting or print embellishing a large wall in your home, high ceilings provide the perfect venue. Hang it high, like a museum piece, and place a credenza or other long table underneath it. Alternatively, you can create a montage of different-sized artworks that cascades from the ceiling downward to around eight feet above the floor, again creating a visual flow that prevents the feeling of an overwhelmingly empty atmosphere.

Chic Shelving

Ceilings that are moderately tall (10 to 12 feet high) are ideal for tall bookcases, but higher ceilings are perfect for collections of floating shelves strategically hung at various heights. Whichever style you choose, you’ll want to go a little crazy with mixed media. Figurines, small busts of historical figures, books, vases, sculptures, plants, and framed pictures all dress up a room and create points of interest that inspire conversation.

It’s All in the Details

Adding details to ceilings makes them connect more easily with the walls below. Exposed beams, available in lightweight materials with faux finishes that mock wood and stone, are easy to install. Old-fashioned molding with peel-and-stick backing is also a breeze to put up, adding a charming antique feel to the room.

Big Fixes

An apartment unit with an upper mezzanine space.

If your landlord or property manager agrees to it, you can also choose to make major renovations to your place to completely transform its look.

Magical Mezzanines

Instead of decorating walls and hanging light fixtures to make your high ceilings less intrusive, consider turning that open space into an extra living area called a mezzanine or loft. These balcony-style spaces are ideal for studies, extra bedrooms, home offices, and plain-old cozy spaces to go when you need some alone time. It’s also strangely calming to stand at a mezzanine railing and gaze down at the lower floor. For easy access, you can build a flight of stairs on either end of the addition or use a sturdy ladder on wheels (think old school libraries) to access the loft.

Serious Storage Space

Most people have a storage closet or a cubbyhole somewhere to stash their holiday decorations and camping gear. If you have high ceilings, however, it’s easy to transform all that open vertical space into serious storage space — the kind that has room for bicycles, small furniture pieces, and extra electronics. The easiest way to create that space is to simply buy floor-to-ceiling cabinets and install them on your own. For less intrusion on the style of the room, choose cabinets with hidden or no handles. To further decrease the aesthetic impact, paint the surrounding walls the same color as the cabinets to help them blend in.

High ceilings can be a blessing in disguise with a bit of imagination and hard work. Take the time to research a variety of creative high ceiling solutions and choose one or two that reflect your unique personal style.

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