Lighting a space with a vaulted ceiling

Lighting a vaulted ceiling can be tricky
Lighting a vaulted ceiling can be tricky

Vaulted ceilings can add such character to a space. If you are the lucky owner of a home with high, vaulted ceilings, It was probably one of the reasons you chose the home and it would be a shame, if it looked like a dark dungeon at nighttime.
Often vaulted ceilings are high as well, which is wonderful in the daylight, when the sun is streaming into the room from lots of double-high windows. At night, these windows, however, turn into black expanses of reflective glass that can make the room appear extra gloomy and cold.
So the right lighting is crucial for making this grand space feel comfortable around the clock. During the day you want that airy, bright, sunlit feel, but at night you might be aiming for pools of light that draws everyone in around the cozy sectionals, a fireplace or other focal points.

Right now we are working on a really nice project: A beautiful mountain home with soaring vaulted ceilings, lots of wood and a peak ceiling height of 20′. Just gorgeous. But several factors have limited our options for lighting it properly and made it extremely tricky.
One: They can’t use recessed light. That would have been so easy and straightforward.

For recessed lights on a sloped ceilings there are special housings that shine the light straight down instead of at an angle, which is definitely what you want.
Before you buy the trims, check the degree of your slope and choose a housing that can work with that.   You should then also pair your housing with a sloped trim. If you are dealing with a slight slope you can get away with using a regular housing and an eyeball or gimbal trim.

Track lighting can bring the light to where you need it in an open space
Track lighting can bring the light to where you need it in an open space

If you have a gorgeous ceiling, show it off! Here the owners use linear uplights in coves along the top of the walls. The lights illuminate the unique beam structure and add ambient light to the room.
A suspended track brings a row of light down to the correct level for illuminating the beautiful Japanese artwork on the main wall.

Suspended track or rail is a great way of adding light to the center of a large, open space. It is a bold, straightforward way of getting the light where you want it.
So often we deal with situations where home owners or architects are getting so concerned with the aesthetics of the space itself that it is hard to find ways to light it properly. They want the light, but don’t want the fixtures that provide it.
They seem to overlook that lighting by itself can be aesthetic and how important it is to incorporate lighting into the planning and not let it be an afterthought.
Especially with uniquely shaped rooms and special architectural features like vaulted ceilings, lighting should be an integrated part of the process.

Tech Lighting Monorail on a sloped ceiling
Tech Lighting Monorail on a sloped ceiling

 

Monorail is a low voltage track that gives you the advantages of a track, but with less bulk. Love it and use it a lot.
When you choose your lighting for a high ceiling, you do, however have to ask yourself what it is you are trying to accomplish. In this case you clearly see where the cones of light hit the walls. Is this what was intended? Did they want two cones of light above the green square? or two random “hot spots” 0n the beautiful fireplace wall? Probably not. So why are the spots there? I assume that the designer just used the same fixtures and measurements he/she uses for every ceiling height and had a few good ideas and intentions, but didn’t have the knowledge to execute the plan. I call this “Random acts of lighting”.

In my own living room below with huge log beams (vigas) I used cable lighting to bring lighting to the center of the room because the cables take up so little visual space and virtually disappears against all the wood.

Cable lighting can be used inconspicuously because of its small profile
Cable lighting can be used inconspicuously because of its small profile

Cable lighting might not be an obvious choice for the more traditional pueblo style adobe architecture, but in our living room it allowed us to add light to the center of the room without it drawing attention to the lighting itself. So light and airy, cable lights practically disappear in the space. Because of the thickness of the beams, you don’t see more than a few of the heads at a time.

Chandeliers or unique pendants have a place in vaulted ceilings. This is where you can be bold and just use that extravagant chandelier!
Chandeliers bring the light to a more human level in a very tall room and since they hold multiple bulbs they add a lot of light to the center of the space.

A large chandelier adds a lot of light to the center of the room
A large chandelier adds a lot of light to the center of the room

 

 

The entry chandelier sets the stage for the space
The entry chandelier sets the stage for the space
Here the lighting was obviously just an afterthought. So many missed opportunities.....
Here the lighting was obviously just an afterthought. So many missed opportunities…..

 

 

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