Two-story rooms offer unique lighting opportunities.

How to Light a Room That Is Two Stories High

by Amy Milshtein

Soaring, airy and majestic, two-story rooms add elegance and grandeur to your home. They also pose interesting lighting challenges, as all of that vertical space can seem cold and daunting. High ceilings were a solid building trend from the late 1990s to the early 2000s; if you have a newer house, chances are you are facing this problem firsthand. But there's no need to feel overwhelmed. The right lighting choices can add cozy warmth while celebrating sweeping heights.

How's the Weather Up There?

Tall rooms can feel like a warehouse if overlit, or cavernous if underlit. The trick is striking the right balance. The perfect place to start is with a signature pendant luminary or hanging light. One large-scale chandelier or several smaller fixtures grouped together becomes a focal point that accents the room's height. It's a bonus if the fixture includes a ceiling fan, as the circulation can help with cooling and heating large spaces.

Bring It Down a Notch

Playing with scale is the key to making double-height rooms more livable. Wall sconces bring attention down to a more human level while still accenting soaring vertical spaces. A bar area or countertop that connects a two-story great room to a kitchen is a perfect place for a series of lights hung in a line at the eight- to 10-foot mark. This delineates a cozy gathering space without breaking up the grandeur of the room. Consider a line of LED rope lights hung above the molding, which will highlight your ceiling's architectural details while subtly changing the perceived scale.

Take It to Task

No matter what the style or decor of your great room, task lighting provides the illumination to get the job done. Whether that work is reading, playing games or socializing with family and friends, task lighting makes any room more usable, comfortable and inviting. Table lamps on either side of a seating area create a warm glow without taking up valuable floor space. If floor space is not at a premium, try standing lamps. They add light and help bring down the room's scale.

Light Smart

Because of all that volume to light, two-story spaces can be a burden to your energy bill. Some smart choices, however, will keep costs down. If the room features double-height windows, try covering only the lower half with window treatments. This will let daylight stream in and still maintain privacy. Choose energy-efficient bulbs, such as LEDs or compact fluorescents. Not only do they use less electricity and add less heat, they last longer, so you'll spend less time changing out hard-to-reach bulbs. Finally, install dimmers on your lights. They help save energy and let you change the mood of your room on a whim.

About the Author

Portland, Ore.-based writer Amy Milshtein has covered interior design for over 20 years. Her articles have appeared in "Unique Homes" and "Contract Design" magazine. She has won a ASBPE Regional Silver award for a feature and holds a Bachelor of Arts from Rutgers.

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