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Guide to Decorating a Great Room with Vaulted Ceilings

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By : Fiona Creech    99 or more times read
The great room with cathedral ceilings is a must-have on many homebuyers’ checklist – until the awe wears off and they are left with a huge amount of space that is difficult to decorate. But you can manage that cavernous space and make it look stylish and more to scale.

Deemphasizing Height

Deemphasizing the height of your cathedral or vaulted ceilings can be accomplished in several ways, including:

  • Painting the ceiling with a dark color (at least darker than your walls). This draws attention away from the ceiling. Choose flat latex paint so that the color will absorb (in lieu of reflecting) light, which will also work to reduce the visual impact of the high ceiling.

  • Creating a focal point at eye level (or just below eye level). Think about repeating the color of the ceiling at a point that is just below eye level with semi-gloss paint. You can sponge a lighter color on top of the darker color.

  • Creating a border. Bring the eye down with a border of assorted photograph frames. This line will draw the eye around the perimeter of the room instead of drawing it up the wall.

  • Installing chair rail and wainscoting. The wainscot will give vertical appeal while a horizontal line is created with the chair rail. Paint the wainscot one color, the chair rails a second color and the wall a third color.

Putting an Emphasis on the Horizontal

Because you want the eye to travel anywhere but up in a great room with cathedral ceilings, you must emphasize the horizontal. A great way to accomplish this is with mirrors. Hang a round or square mirror in lieu of a rectangular mirror, or, if you do hang a rectangular mirror, hang it in a horizontal position. Hang taller mirrors in twos or threes to minimize their vertical effect.

The same is true of artwork. Choose large artwork (three feet wide is good) that is framed horizontally. And don’t “overstuff” your walls. Covering your walls in photos or art can cause you to lose your horizontal emphasis, and you will find that an open wall space is more relaxing.

Choose furniture that is befitting to the size of your room; keep it to scale. Overstuffed furniture is often the best choice for a large great room. If your great room is small (even if the ceilings are tall), go for more minimalistic pieces in brilliant colors that will add oomph without being too overwhelming.

Tying the Ceiling In

And last of all, don’t let the cathedral ceilings or vaulted ceilings of the great room become the 800-pound gorilla in the room. They’re there, and they’re going to be noticed, so tie them into the room with a tall element. This might be a tall potted plant or potted tree, a dramatically beautiful chandelier, or a room screen. These items will work to balance the horizontal with the vertical. Other elements like pillar candles and tall vases filled with wide floral arrangements are also great for balancing your room’s look. Select candles or vases that are at least three times taller than their width.
Top designer and writer, Fiona Creech of, has many ideas for bringing style to your home with yacht metal wall hangings and dragonfly wall decor.

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