Now let’s look at the cover illustration for this post. It shows the same room decorated two different ways. In the upper part of the illustration you see a living room with a tall ceiling, but most / all of the elements in the space are horizontal format. They weigh down the room bringing your attention to the bottom half and lead your eyes across the space.
The drawing that is below it shows the same room, but a lot of attention was put into adding elements and making groupings of horizontal format items, that when grouped together turn into vertical format arrangements.
Now let’s examine the two spaces… In the upper living room, the picture over the fireplace is wider than tall. Its short height does not fill in enough of the wall space between the fireplace’s mantel and the crown molding that runs around the top of the room. When you look at the top edges of both the picture over the fireplace and the picture over the sofa, your eye thinks that is the top of the room. For some reason the mind does not think about the two plus feet of space above the tops of the picture frames and the ceiling line. By properly picking and hanging your decorative accessories, you help the eye to move up the walls, and help the mind to realize how tall the space your are in really is.
Also notice in the upper illustration how the Chinese urn, even though it is taller than wide does not do much to draw the eye upward.
Now look at the picture and Chinese vase over the fireplace in the lower illustration. The artwork is taller and the Chinese urn, which is missing its top, is now filled with tall decorative branches which direct your eyes upward on that side of the room.
Next let’s look at the artworks over the two sofas that are in the center of the rooms. In the upper illustration, the picture is hung fine for a room with a low ceiling. It is properly distanced above the back of the sofa. Again, look at the large amount of wall space above it. The horizontal format landscape instead of directing your eye upward, makes you think the wall it is on is wider than tall. It promotes horizontal tension, directing your eyes left to right across the space.
Now look at the lower illustration. It portrays the exact some wall, with the exact same amount of space, but look at how, by stacking the artworks, one above the other up the wall, it all of a sudden makes the room look taller. That is what vertical tension is all about.
Next let’s move on to the right side of the room and look at the collections of Chinese blue and white dishes hung up on the wall. First look at the top illustration, then look at the bottom one. By stacking the plates (lower illustration) in a taller vertical arrangement, the dishes accentuate height in the space. Notice in the lower illustration how the top edge of the picture over the fireplace, the top edge of the top picture over the sofa and the top edge of the top plate in the arrangement of Blue and White are all the exact same amount of inches down from the crown molding that goes around the top of the room. Also notice that in the lower illustration, that the combined height and visual weight of the fireplace, picture above it and urn on the left side of the room is counterbalanced on the right side of the room by the wing chair, credenza/buffet and collection of Blue and White dishes. Interior decorating is all about counterbalancing elements placed across from each other in a room.
The final thing that I want you to notice about the comparison of rooms on the cover illustration is that the top illustration has a lot of horizontal format items in it (the sofa, low chair, picture over sofa, table against wall, coffee table, and picture over the fireplace). In the bottom illustration, other than the re-stacking of the artworks, the introduction of the wing chair, Chinese folding screen and candlestick / buffet lamp on the credenza are all vertical format items and help fill in space and direct you eyes upward.
A list of Furniture and Decorative accessories that help suggest Height (vertical tension) in a room.
Sofas and Chairs with tall backs(wing chairs)
Large Paintings and Mirrors that are taller than wide (24wX36h, 36wX40h, 36wX48h, etc)
Four Poster Beds
torchere lamps (taller than floor lamps, more or an accent lamp when it comes to room illumination)
Large vases with tall branches in them
Tall urns on pedestals
Many horizontal format pictures hung one above the other
Many vertical format pictures or mirrors stacked one above the other
Upright Pianos, open-topped Baby and Grand Pianos
Highboys, Secretaries and other tall dresser-desks
Tall Plant stands with plant on top of them
Potted trees (real or artificial)
Tapestries that are taller than wide
Curtains that are hung high above the window frame
Tall floor lamps (about 64 inches)
A telescope on a tall tripod
An antique ladder place upright against a wall
Vertical striped wallpaper
When interior decorating a room with a tall ceiling, having an assortment of different sized pictures, mirrors and other kinds of wall art in the room is an ideal. If you can, have that really big picture over the sofa that is 40 inches wide and 60 inches tall. It would definitely be an eye-catching focal point in the room. Also think about adding some smaller pieces to the mix for visual interest. I bet you already have some of those around the house to work with.
When hanging groupings of paintings, prints, photos, dishes, plaques, or any kind of wall sculpture, etc, the rule of thumb is Larger and/or Visually Heavier looking pieces are always hung above smaller lighter looking pieces. The smaller piece(s) act as a pedestal holding the larger piece up in space. If you look at the bottom illustration for the cover of this post, you will see that the large painting over the sofa is supported by two smaller artworks hung below it.
Now look at illustration 1 in this section. It shows exactly what I’ve just talked about (larger being supported by smaller).
Illustration 2 shows three artworks being hung one above the other, with the largest and heaviest on top, and the smallest on the bottom.
Illustration 3 shows a large painting being hung between two smaller, with the smallest on the bottom.
Illustration 4 portrays two vertical format pieces hung one above the other.
The different patterns of hanging artworks, illustrations 1-4, are to get thinking about how to hang framed pieces in corners of rooms.
Illustration 5 shows the common mistake most people make when hanging a picture above a chair in the corner a room. First of all, the space between the edge of the drape and the corner of the room is taller than wide. That space possesses vertical tension. The picture’s shape, which is wider than tall (horizontal tension) goes against the vertical tension of the space.
Illustration 6 portrays how 2 or 3 artworks that all possess horizontal tension, hung one above the other, together form one vertical format grouping. The grouping is taller than wide.
Illustration 7 is like illustration 3 where different shapes and sizes of artworks hung one above the other become one vertical format grouping. Illustrations 8-13 show different ways of stacking elements to promote vertical tension in a room.
Illustration 8 shows a low profile platform bed that is a horizontal format item, with two large horizontal format artworks hung above it. The three different horizontal pieces, placed together become one vertical grouping.
Illustration 9 shows how a horizontal format TV can be hung over a horizontal format credenza, and an art object or mirror can be hung above everything to make one vertical tension grouping.
Illustration 10 gives you some ideas about how decorative accessories, placed on top of a tall chest or armoire, can add extra visual height to a piece of furniture.
Illustration 11 shows many individual pieces, combined together making one vertical grouping.
Illustration 12 portrays how one vertical format chair (taller than wide) can be the starting point of an even taller vertical grouping with two other elements hung over it.
Illustration 13 shows how you can even make a doorway look taller by adding a decorative accessory above it.
So there you have it, some ideas on how to decorate a room with a tall ceiling. All of the just written about things also apply to suggesting height in an average room with an 8 foot tall ceiling. I now want you to start going through decorating magazines, and look at how the professional decorators have stacked things to make vertical arrangements. I want you to also look at/for all the different kinds of things they used to decorate those spaces. Just be on the look out for things taller than wide. This post is only a starting point, I have written many other posts that will give you a lot more insight into decorating your rooms. I have listed many of them below, Happy Decorating!
Hanging a collection of Plates/Dishes up on the Wall 1-19-2013,
A bridge unites a Tablescape and Wall Decor 6-10-2011,
Arranging Your Decorative Accessories (Knickknacks and Collectibles) 6-7-2011,
It’s Easy to make a Grouping of Pictures 6-29-2011,
Picking and Hanging the RIGHT size Picture or Mirror over your fireplace 6-23-2011,
Arranging Living Room furniture so sofas talk to chairs, 9-7-2012,
Arranging furniture TWELVE different ways in the same Room 9-15-2012,
Arranging furniture around a Fireplace in the Corner of a room 9-29-2012,
When buying living room furniture, FORGET the LOVESEAT, buy two Wing, Club or Occasional Chairs instead 10-13-2012,
Arranging Furniture in a 15 foot wide by 25 foot long Bedroom 1-24-2016.