Very high ceilings may seem spacious and dramatic, but defaulting to white ceiling paint can blunt their impact. Coloring high ceilings dark instead of light creates a sense of infinity and draws the eye back to the walls and your eye-level furniture and accessories. Use the height of a room to inspire unconventional but memorable decor choices -- even in the nursery.
A high-style living room by day becomes a roofless theater set by night when you top all-white walls and trim with a charcoal, black or almost-black Russian violet ceiling. Recessed ceiling star-lights on dimmers "erase" the boundary between building and sky, opening the room to the night heavens. Painting the high ceiling in a dark shade is an easy way to transform a family-friendly room into grown-up turf after the kids are in bed. Hardwood floors, stained dark and polished; a sectional, upholstered in a deep shade that complements the ceiling paint; patterned poufs that pick up colors from the sectional; and carefully curated accessories are sophisticated and relaxed. The spare, uncluttered room is inviting in the shadows as the night stars twinkle overhead.
Toddlers in a high-ceilinged bedroom can have their own piece of the sky, twinkling over sweet dreams. Paint the ceiling navy or midnight blue in a room with powder-blue or blush-pink walls with a deep blue carpet. Use metallic silver or platinum paint to copy the constellations on the ceiling over the beds. Stellar accuracy gives little ones an early start on studying astronomy; fantasy provides a star canopy for fabulous bedtime stories. A modern star-shaped pendant lamp underscores the astral theme, and a crescent or full moon painted on a dark-blue pull-down window shade is the catalyst for a calming rendition of "Goodnight Moon" at the end of a busy day.
Big, Wide World
The kids' room should be a land of imagination. High ceilings just give creative minds more room to roam. Paint the ceiling pewter, an elegant neutral shade, and "wallpaper" the center of it with very large maps or a map mural that can be at least partly deciphered from a vantage point below. Instead of traditional overhead lamps, focus a bar of mounted ceiling spots to highlight various continents or destinations. Collect globes to display on bookshelves, and add an oversize, kid-friendly atlas to a shared bedside table or desk. A map-ceiling could inspire a nautical or transportation theme for the room's decor. Framed travel posters or more maps will enliven dove-gray, mint-green or pastel maize walls.
A family room, dining room or kitchen with high ceilings takes on an old-fashioned ambiance when you cover the ceiling in faux tin tiles in dark or tarnished metallic paint. Real tin ceiling tiles are expensive and heavy to install, but the plastic reproductions look just as authentic after they are painted. Forget about white, cream or silver. Pewter, antique bronze or copper, nickel or brass are deeper, richer shades to set off color-washed walls, vintage tile and wooden-blade ceiling fans. Tiffany pendant lamps scatter mosaics of colored light on an aged-looking faux tin ceiling. In a kitchen, add a butcher-block island, styled like a solid, four-legged work table from a bakery or butcher shop. The dining room needs an antique pie safe with tarnished tin perforated door panels. A family room is ready for neighborhood pizza parties -- or the big game on the flat screen -- with a reproduction or salvaged wooden bar, complete with matching bar stools and mirrored back shelf.