Lighting high ceiling rooms can be a daunting task. In such rooms, using regular table lamps and installing wall sconces simply won’t do. Even a ceiling light (or two) will be insufficient to provide the needed general lighting to rooms with high ceilings. In order to adequately light high ceiling rooms, different lighting strategies must be followed.
To begin with, a high ceiling room should be evaluated on the basis of where furniture and appliances will be or already are located. These areas can be focused on during the electrical wiring setup with additional lighting outlets for high traffic and use areas.
Likewise, if there are any interesting features in the ceiling itself, such as plaster moldings or murals, lighting outlets may be installed either directly opposite or over these features. Finally, keep in mind that a high or vaulted ceiling is a feature in and of itself, and should therefore not be hidden but shown off with appropriate lights. As a consequence, specific light fixtures should be planned and installed along the ceiling corners and used to emphasize the height and expanse of a high ceiling room.
Lights that are most beneficial for providing ambient lighting to a high ceiling room include flood lights and hanging fixtures such as chandeliers. Such lights may be installed at regular intervals along a ceiling area, with stronger light bulbs used for sitting or other high use areas. A higher number of such lights may be installed in areas of interest such as fireplaces, entertainment centers, and display cases. Chandeliers are especially useful in high ceiling rooms because they help bring lighting to eye level.
Sconces can also be used for ambient lighting in a high ceiling room. Such lights may be installed at regular intervals around the room, or they can be grouped in order to create visual appeal. When considering sconces for lighting, keep in mind that high ceiling rooms require larger and taller sconces than lower ceiling rooms. Up to 3 feet or 1 meter is a good length for a sconce; placed vertically, it breaks up the wall and adds visual appeal. If a group of vertical sconces is installed, this will create the illusion of a ceiling being at the top of the light line, making the room more inviting as a result.
When installing general lighting, make sure that it can all be controlled by a set of dimmer switches. This will help save energy on lighting, as well as allow the room’s illuminance to become a function of need.
Accent lighting can be used to emphasize the architectural or decorative features of a high ceiling room. Spot lights are typically used for such a purpose, and are an ideal choice because they illuminate a constrained 30 degree field. Murals and moldings can be illuminated by spot lights placed either directly opposite or at an angle from them. Recessed corners, cupolas, and arches are also best featured with spot lighting.
Task lights should not be overlooked when it comes to lighting a high ceiling room, since they are still needed to illuminate work areas such as desks and kitchen counters. However, because of the ceiling height of the room, lamps and torchieres of regular size will not do the room justice nor add to its aesthetics. For such a room, taller and larger lamps and torchieres should be used.
What should one do when attempting to illuminate a space with an extremely high ceiling, such as a theater or even a cathedral? In general, the same rules apply for the use and types of general, accent, and task lighting. A greater number of flood and hanging lights will be required in order to adequately provide general lighting. Because theaters, and especially cathedrals, are bound to have recessed corners, extensive murals, and intricate décor at the ceiling line, spot lighting must also be used to show off these features. The same holds true for wall murals, paintings, and alcoves; spot lights that are installed at lower points along the walls will be required here. Finally, task lighting will require even taller and larger lamps and torchieres. In some cases, task lighting may even become the function of spot lights that are installed in recessed areas of the walls. Such lighting will help minimize shadows in the task area while highlighting given features and items.