5 Golden Rules for Lighting High Ceilings

Most people long for a house with high ceilings.  Not only are they great spaces to design, which can be effortlessly elegant, their height also suggests freedom, miles away from the cramped-yet-cosy surroundings of low ceilings.

However, these rooms bring their own problems, mainly to do with the room feeling overwhelming and lacking focus.  To counter act this, lighting should be used to help draw the eye to all the fantastic features of the room, without overloading a person with the sheer scale.  Also if the lighting isn’t right, those fabulous ceilings won’t be shown to their full advantage, which is a shame after people spend years trying to obtain them!

So here are 5 Golden Rules for Lighting High Ceilings:

1) Rule of Thirds 

Artists and photographers will know this rule well.  Basically, the rule is to divide the room into three levels, Top, Middle and Bottom, and to light each level separately to create a cohesive whole.

Top= This is to provide your ambient lighting.  Currently, this is usually recessed lighting because it provides good, even illumination and it can ensure the ceiling itself it lit, which is often missed out.  This is also the level to put in statement pieces like chandeliers and pendants, even if they hang all the way to the middle section.  These give the illusion that the ceiling is lower, as this is where the eye is drawn to when looking up.  Strip Lighting can be used to accentuate coves and other architectural features too.  high-ceiling-lighting-ideas

Middle= This is where art pieces and any fabric hangings should be placed, and any accent lighting you want to go with it, such as track lighting.  Track lighting can’t be used for ambient lighting however, as it is too glary.  Also wall sconces, angled both up and down,are good on this level for making sure the walls are fully lit, and the ceiling is illuminated.


Bottom= As this is where all your furniture is, task lighting on tables is a must, and floor lighting is often popular, just to ensure the floor is fully illuminated.  This can also be called Portable lighting, as it can be moved round and changed if you choose to change the room.


Your lighting on all these levels can divide the room into different zones, depending on where you place them.  For example, a table lamp signifies the living room, whereas pendants over a table indicates it’s the dining room, even if the space is open plan.

2) Rule of Layering 

Don’t forget your layers: Ambient, Accent, Task!  Get your Ambient light sorted first, as this can influence where the other lamps go.

With a bigger space, making sure there aren’t ‘hot’ spots of too much light and ‘cold’ spots of not enough, is really important, as even illumination can make the space feel more homey and flowing.  This is where our favourites, LEDs, can be really useful as they provide a lot of bright light and the issues with the light being too directional have been addressed. Most importantly they don’t have to be replaced for ages, something you definitely need when it’ll take more than a step ladder to get to the ceiling.

When using Accent lighting, make sure it’s enough to cover the whole of the piece.  The art used in large rooms is often big too, and under lighting can lessen it’s impact.


3) Common Features

Although not strictly about lighting, there should be a common feature on all three layers.  The most common running theme is a certain colour which often vibrant to keep people’s interest and to make it easy to see the pattern.  Lighting can help with this, either by having holders which are in the same colour (or you can try and upcycle by using the spare paint on an old shade, although you should check that this is safe to do first), or you can use it to highlight the features with that colour, or material in it.


4) Less is More 

Although there seems to be a lot of lighting needed for these spaces, less is more in terms of objects, which can make the lighting easier.  Also, many rooms with high ceilings often have good natural light which needs to be factored in, so lighting might only be a necessity for night.  Dimmers are a good option in this case, as it makes the room more versatile.


5) There are No Rules

Yes, we know we just made a post full of rules, but in reality, it all depends on the space you are using.  Although we encourage you to factor in these ideas, it’s up to you and your personal taste because at the end of the day, your lighting should be as free and versatile as the room you are designing.


Resources used:



Further Resources:

Our other home lighting posts:

8 Biggest Home Lighting Blunder and How to Fix Them: http://news.lampshoponline.com/the-8-biggest-home-lighting-blunders-and-how-to-fix-them/

10 ways new lighting can transform your home: http://news.lampshoponline.com/10-ways-new-lighting-can-transform-your-home/

Open up Outside: http://news.lampshoponline.com/open-up-outside/

Better Bathroom Lighting: http://news.lampshoponline.com/better-bathroom-lighting/

And for Low Ceilings: http://news.lampshoponline.com/how-to-make-a-room-bigger-using-clever-lighting/


Abigail Houseman

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