How to light rooms with high or vaulted ceilings – an expert guide


High ceilings in a home are both glorious and challenging – but get the lighting right and you can really make the most of all that wonderful space. Whether you have a historic townhouse, a rustic barn conversion, or a contemporary open-plan apartment, find out how to light a high or vaulted ceiling, with our expert guide…

One of the biggest challenges when lighting a high or vaulted ceiling is the sheer scale of the space, which can sometimes be a little overwhelming. Without sufficient lighting tall ceilings can end up feeling anonymous and lacking in warmth and focus.

With the ceiling height of an average home standing at around 8–10 feet (or 2.–3 metres), many of the standard lighting rules need to be adjusted for higher or vaulted ceilings. The good news is, with a well-designed lighting scheme you can really emphasise those lovely tall ceilings, provide depth and balance, and create a space that’s full of warmth and personality.

What do you need to think about when lighting a high or vaulted ceiling?

When lighting a room with a high or vaulted ceiling, it’s particularly important to make sure that you have enough light, and that the light is spread evenly throughout the space. Light fittings that are too small or situated too high in the ceiling will get lost in the room, resulting in an underlit – and underwhelming – space. Including some bigger, brighter overhead light fittings as part of your lighting scheme will help ensure that the room is sufficiently lit and eradicate glare, shadows or dark spots, while also adding a sense of style and elegance.

Find out more about calculating the right amount of light with our guide: How much light do you need in a room?

barbara ramani

 Dining room with Aquila pendant lights by Barbara Ramani. Photo: Fiona Murray


Lighting rooms with high ceilings: 7 expert tips

By using a combination of light sources, including hanging ceiling lights, wall lights, and floor and table lamps, you can create a space that’s beautiful, well-lit, and makes a stunning style statement. Here’s are seven ideas…


1) Create ‘layers’ of light

There are three main types of lighting: ambient lighting, which refers to the general overall lighting in a room; task lighting, which is stronger, targeted lighting for carrying out activities; and accent lighting, which highlights features and areas within a room. The best lighting schemes use a combination of these three types of lighting – known as layering light.

When lighting a room with a high or vaulted ceiling, you need to take into account the height of the ceiling, the available natural light, how you want to use the space, and the kind of look and feel you want to achieve. By layering your light, you can ensure that you have plenty of practical light for carrying out tasks and activities, while also being able to create the perfect mood and atmosphere for relaxing or entertaining.

Learn all about layering light in our guide.


Layers of light, with Charlotte chandelier


2) Apply the ‘rule of thirds’

The ‘rule of thirds’ essentially divides your space into three levels – top, middle and bottom – with each of these levels featuring its own specific lighting, and working together to create a well-lit, balanced and cohesive space.

Taking it from the top, in a room with a high or vaulted ceiling you might start with a set of recessed ceiling lights, and combine this with a set of pendant lights or a chandelier suspended from the central point of the ceiling, and reaching down towards the top of the middle layer. This will provide plenty of ambient light, while drawing the eye and making a style statement.

Meanwhile, a set of wall lights or sconces will beautifully illuminate the middle level, adding warmth and ambience and providing a connection between the upper and lower spaces. Finally, a combination of floor lamps and table lamps will illuminate the bottom layer of your space, providing useful task lighting and creating highlights and accents.


The showstopping Zeus chandelier - photo: @strikeme_pink


3) Create a centrepiece with a show-stopping chandelier

A high ceiling is the perfect excuse for a big, stylish, showy ceiling light – so why not a chandelier? In a large space with tall or vaulted ceilings you need to think big. A statement chandelier becomes a focal point and will really highlight the vertical space.

A quick tip for dining room chandeliers: while normal lighting rules recommend that the bottom of the chandelier should sit around 30-36 from a dining table, in a room with high ceilings you can afford to hang your light fitting further above your central point.


4) Play around with pendant lights

Pendant lights come in so many different styles and materials that there’s something to suit every space.

A larger, higher space gives you the chance to do something a bit different. Try placing multiple pendant lights at different heights for visual interest. An adaptable ceiling fitting set like the Equilibrium or Heath allows you to play around with two or three shades in any style you like, at any height.


Pooky's Equilibrium double rise and fall pendant set in this kitchen by Naked Kitchens


5) Emphasise those architectural features with wall lights and sconces

Wall lights and sconces are just the thing for providing a layer of lovely warm, diffused light, and for making the most of the architectural features that often come with high or vaulted ceilings, such as natural stone walls or exposed wooden beams.

A set of uplights will cast the light upwards along the wall and towards the ceiling, creating a beautiful glow and helping to highlight your high ceiling in all its glory. Meanwhile, downlights can make a large room feel cosier and more intimate.
See our collection of wall lights, sconces and picture lights.

6) Introduce warmth and ambience with floor and table lamps

Floor and table lamps play an essential role in lighting a room with high or vaulted ceilings, providing that all-important bottom layer of lighting, adding character and atmosphere, and helping to pull everything together.

Lamps are also ideal for creating different zones within a large, high-ceilinged space. Place a floor lamp next to an armchair to create a cosy reading nook, and try a pair of decorative table lamps on either end of a long console table for a lovely, balanced look.

7) Go for warmer lighting

Colour temperature refers to how ‘warm’ or ‘cool’ a lightbulb looks, and is measured in Kelvins (K). Warmer, yellow-white light is at the lower end of the scale, while cooler blue-white light sits at the higher end. To create a sense of warmth and cosiness in a room with a high or vaulted ceiling, you should generally aim for a warm light of around 2,700-3,000K.

Read more about warm lighting and colour temperature here.


The Alblafloss chandelier. Hang large light sources - but not too high - to create warmth and cosiness in a room with a high ceiling. 

With the right lighting, you can create a space that’s practical, beautiful, and really celebrates those high ceilings. Browse Pooky's full range of lighting  here.

See also

Home lighting design: A guide to layering light
How to position wall lights - an expert guide
How to light a room with floor lamps
How to light a room with low ceilings