MAKING THE MOST OF HIGH CEILINGS
Soaring ceilings of 10 feet or more are a huge selling point in homes and condos, because they make the space appear larger and airier. But having so much room overhead presents a number of challenges around lighting, window treatments and colour palettes.
We asked two Montreal interior designers to share their best tips for making the most of high ceilings.
ADDING ARCHITECTURAL ELEMENTS
“When I see that a client has a high ceiling, I get totally excited,” said designer Cindy Brownstein, owner of CindyB Décor (cindybdecor.com).
“Having a high ceiling is an asset for any decor and, today, everybody wants high ceilings.”
Create surprising views by incorporating lots of texture on the ceiling, suggested Brownstein, who likes to repeat materials like reclaimed wood on floors and ceilings, which warms up a room.
“I've worked on projects with 10- to 15-foot ceilings where I've done coffers and beams, and I've also done panelled ceilings and wood treatments, which are very popular now,” she said.
“There are plaster moulds you could have made and do some very interesting coffers, or you could do some big squares or rectangles out of wood surrounded by mouldings.”
One budget-friendly option if you want your ceiling to look like cement, wood slats or big marble tiles, is to put up gorgeous textured wallpaper, Brownstein added.
LET THERE BE LAYERS OF LIGHT
You can create many moods in homes and condos that have high ceilings, so it's wise to install various light sources, said Eugenia Triandos, a designer at Hibou Design & Co (hiboudesignco.com).
“Recessed lighting is good general lighting, even when ceilings are high, and the new LED fixtures give off a strong diffused light while minimizing the need to install so many,” said Triandos.
“It's also very important to bring down the lighting with pendants and wall sconces installed at — or just above — eye level. Incorporate table and floor lamps to allow you the flexibility to create an awesome ambience while adding depth to the decor.”
Very tall leaning floor mirrors also bring in light and call attention to the ceiling height, she said.
When ceilings and windows are high, natural light pours in beautifully, said Brownstein, but for evenings, you'll need extra lighting. In addition to recessed lights, she likes to add a couple of chandeliers and accent lights.
“As the sun goes down, you want a layered lighting effect, so I work with lights going from the ceiling all the way down to the floor; a great room can handle a lot,” she said. “I'll put in a lot of hidden LED strips in the millwork or the shelves of a wall unit or on the floor. Having layers of lighting allows you to turn on as much or as little as you want.”
There are also lighting systems you can control with your smartphone or tablet, Brownstein said.
GLAM UP YOUR WINDOWS
One common dilemma property owners face is how to handle the floor-to-ceiling windows that frequently come with high-ceilinged homes and condos. Leaving them bare means little privacy, plus intense heat from the sun. Brownstein said there are many options at different price points.
“Window treatments today aren't like 20 years ago; these are not your grandma's drapes,” she said. “Now, curtains are very straight and the hardware is very simple. We do a lot of ripple-fold curtains; they warm up the space, help with the echo and looks great when you want that hotel look.
“If clients have the ability and budget to do some construction, I build boxes into the ceiling, so that when you roll up your blackout blinds, they're recessed into the ceiling so you have a clear view with completely open windows.”
Custom-made options make more sense, because store-bought treatments won't likely be available in the exact size you need, Triandos said. Because all that fabric can be heavy and challenging to open and close manually, she recommends motorized window treatments to cover walls of high windows often.
“We recently designed a loft in downtown Montreal with nearly 12-foot-high ceilings. Roller blinds are too commercial and uninviting, so we opted for motorized roman shades to add warmth to the new penthouse.”
POP THINGS UP WITH PAINT
People have been conditioned to always paint a ceiling white, but in rooms with high ceilings, that will just add to the starkness of the space, said Triandos.
“Sometimes, in a smaller space like a powder room, it's nice to bring the ceiling down by painting it in a darker colour,” she said.
“Paint can play an important role in accentuating the ceiling if it's placed on an accent wall or on a fireplace that goes right to the ceiling.”
Cindy Brownstein added that rich colour can create an instant focal point.
“We've done ceilings in charcoal, greys and blacks,” she said. “It's really nice, and gives you automatic wow factor.”
AVOID THESE COMMON CEILING MISTAKES
Eugenia Triandos often sees homes and rooms with high ceilings where artwork and lighting are hung too high in an attempt to fill the space.
“We adjust the art placement on 95 per cent of our projects during the initial consultation with the client, because artwork and lighting should always be installed around eye level,” she said.
“The goal is to bring some of the visual interest down rather than fill the empty space on top.”
In kitchens with ceilings higher than nine feet, Triandos suggests bringing cabinetry up to the ceiling whenever possible to maximize storage and draw the eye up.
If you have stunning ceilings, don't be afraid to show them off in all their glory.