Good Questions: How To Paint This High Ceilinged Room?

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Hello AT,

My husband and I just bought a new house and are overwhelmed at the prospect of painting and furnishing it. Our family room has very high ceilings (14 ft), and we have decided to paint the walls pale blue. Because the upstairs loft can be seen from the family room, this pale blue color will extend to the walls in the loft too...

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One wall downstairs where the first flight of stairs stops and the second one starts will be accented in a darker blue. Another wall upstairs (in the loft) will be accented in the same darker blue shade.

My concern is that painting almost the entire family room and the loft in pale blue will make the family room seem cold rather than cosy. I'm thinking of accenting one of the walls in the family room (may be the center one) in chocolate brown, however to my husband this is a definite no-no.

He is very averse to such contrasts and if at all accenting would prefer a darker shade of the the same color that the entire room is painted in.

Would appreciate any thoughts on this issue i.e. about whether pale blue is a good color for a high-ceilinged room, whether to accent one wall in the family room to give it a less cold look, and whether brown instead of dark blue would be a good accent color.

Any other suggestions are more than welcome. FYI the living room which is adjacent to the family room will be painted in a light shade of green with a darker green accent wall.

Thanks a ton! Noela

Dear Noela,

This is a tricky situation, but there are a few pointers that will help you out.

1. blue is a cool color and a lot of it will definitely cool this big space. This is fine if are using warm colors elsewhere as it will all balance out, but we would recommend a warmer color if you are using cools elsewhere.

2. Because blue is cool, if you accent you should stick with a cool color. Brown is a tough mix with blue because it is so warm, but that doesn't mean you can use a different cool color like a green, lavender or grey.

3. Use your darkest colors downstairs. Dark colors have weight and they will make you uncomfortable if they are all over your head. Move lighter as you go up and the room will open up nicely like a sky overhead.

4. We recommend using one color over the entire room upstairs and down to unify the space. Then we recommend choosing a few walls to accent and signal the distinction between downstairs and upstairs. Here is also a nice example of accenting the tallest wall which dramaticizes the height of your ceilings:

Tyke and Jon's Living Room.

Anyone else?

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Maxwell left teaching in 2001 to start Apartment Therapy as a design business helping people to make their homes more beautiful, organized AND healthy. The website started up in 2004 with the help of his brother, Oliver.