Design Ideas for Tall Walls

Michelle Radcliff
vaulted ceiling

A tall wall can be an intimidating area to decorate, especially if you have no idea where to begin. However, with a few insider design tips, you can emphasize tall walls and high ceilings as impressive architectural features without them feeling too imposing or overwhelming.

Room Scenarios for Tall Walls

Different types of ceilings create walls that are taller than the average eight or nine foot walls typical of a conventional ceiling. Walls along staircases and in great rooms can also be considerably taller than average walls.

cathedral ceiling

Cathedral Ceilings

Cathedral ceilings have two equally sloping sides that come to a point in the middle of the room, creating the shape of an upside down V. While the side walls are often a standard 8 feet tall, the end walls can be 15 feet or more at the highest point, depending on the height of the ceiling.

Here are some solutions for cathedral ceilings:

  • Warm colors, dark colors and rich earth tones create a cozy, comfortable atmosphere in a room. Warm hues make walls appear to advance or come closer visually. Paint one or both end walls a deeper color than the side walls such as deep crimson, burnt orange, chocolate brown, charcoal gray or yellow ocher for a dramatic effect.
  • Take advantage of the extra space a tall wall provides by going big with wall art. Use a statement piece such as a large painting or an oversized mirror.

Vaulted Ceilings

Vaulted ceilings are asymmetrical, with one wall in a room being much higher than the opposing wall. The end walls are also asymmetrical, being standard height on one end and several feet taller on the other.

Here are some solutions for vaulted ceilings:

  • Hang a large painting, tapestry or mirror with a vertical orientation on the tall wall. Draw the eye upward by hanging vertical groupings of wall art, going above the standard eye level area.
  • Hanging asymmetrical groupings of wall art on slanting end walls allows you to add to the grouping as you acquire more art. This is a great way to display family photos, which always tend to grow with time.
  • Only hang pictures on the diagonal along staircases or on walls with slanted ceilings, where a natural diagonal line already exists.

Cove and Barrel Ceilings

Cove and barrel ceilings have curved, concave surfaces, giving the room a very fluid feel. These types of ceilings can create taller than average end walls.

Here are some solutions for these ceilings:

  • Add texture to a tall end wall with brick or stone veneer panels. Add faux texture with decorative painting techniques such as sponging or color washing, using warm earth tones.
  • An oversized clock makes a dramatic statement on a tall end wall. The curved shape would also complement the curve of the ceiling.
contemporary-style great room

Staircases

Some staircase walls can stretch two to three stories high but almost always contain windows to keep the area from feeling dark and cavernous.

Here are some solutions for staircases:

  • As with the end walls of vaulted ceilings, asymmetrical picture groupings hung on the diagonal also work well along staircases, making it easy to add to the grouping as you acquire more pictures. Oversized wall art is also an option.
  • Paint staircase walls in warm, dark colors or add interest with wallpaper.

Great Rooms

Great rooms are typically located on the first floor of the home and usually combine different living spaces such as living rooms, dining rooms and kitchens with open floor plans. Most have high ceilings in one section, creating at least one or two tall walls and often feature balconies for overhead viewing from upper floors.

Here are some great room solutions:

  • Dividing the wall with a chair rail and using a two tone paint effect visually shortens the wall and makes it seem less imposing. Take the guesswork out of choosing harmonious paint colors by selecting two shades off the same paint chip. Use a darker shade on the bottom to keep the look balanced.
  • Wall ledges help break up the expanse between floor and ceiling while providing a surface to display collectibles or add greenery with plants.

Additional Tall Wall Tips

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Complement a tall wall with some of these ideas:

  • Soften the look with long, floor to ceiling drapery panels. Use custom, eye-catching designs that will add excitement to a tall wall such as cascading swags and ornate valances.
  • Take wood fireplace trim or stone or brick facades all the way to the ceiling.
  • Add architectural detailing with crown molding, chair rails and wainscott paneling.
  • Provide additional accent lighting with recessed lights in built-in soffits or cove lighting under crown molding or along the back of a wall ledge.

Scale and Proportion

When decorating a wall of any size, use proper scale and proportion to keep a balanced, harmonious look to the room. Simply put, this means the size of the wall art or grouping of wall art should relate to the size of the wall or the area of the wall it will occupy.

Blank Walls

If the wall has no furniture or any other artwork, the art should occupy approximately 2/3 of the length or height of the space. To make the math easier, use the decimal equivalent of 2/3, which is .6. Multiply this number by the length or height of the wall. If your wall is 15 feet high, the painting should be around 9 feet tall, including the frame. In this scenario, the center of the painting should be hung at eye level, which is roughly about 65-67 inches from the floor.

Over Furniture

Wall Art

When hanging art over furniture, use the length of the furniture to determine the proper proportion. The length of the framed art should be approximately 2/3 the length of the furniture. If your sofa is 6 feet long, a painting hung above it should be approximately 4 feet long. The bottom edge of the frame should be about 6 to 12 inches above the sofa.

If other objects or architectural features occupy some of the wall space, measure only the blank area that will contain the art.

Other Considerations

Make sure to unify your accessories such as wall art and window treatments with other décor at ground level such as area rugs, lampshades and accent pillows. Keep the eye moving by repeating colors and shapes throughout the room for a harmonious feel throughout the entire space.

With color, trim, paneling, texture and decor, you can bring tall walls down to size and create a comfortable living space in large rooms.

Design Ideas for Tall Walls