How To Light A Living Room With High Ceilings

I recently moved into a new apartment and the living room ceiling is super high. Now, the lighting-obsessed guy that I am, I would not have it. I had to find the perfect way to light my living room using the high ceilings to my advantage.

This is what gave me the idea to write an article about how to light a living room with high ceilings and explore all the nuances of this topic. Hang on tight because it’s gonna be a big one!

light a living room with high ceilings

Why Is Proper Lighting So Important?

That’s an interesting question. And I say interesting because it’s a lot more complicated than you might think, yet people often overlook it.

It’s easy to just set up a couple of lights and be done with it but we often don’t realize how much of an impact proper lighting can have. Let’s look at the main reasons why you need to make sure your living room lighting is on point.

  • Functionality

That is an obvious one. Artificial lighting first of all aims to replace sunlight when the latter is not available. Good lighting ensures that everyday activities such as reading, working, watching TV, and socializing can be carried out comfortably and efficiently. Adequate illumination helps reduce eye strain and enhances visibility for tasks.

  • Aesthetics

Lighting plays a crucial role in the aesthetics and overall architectural design of a space. Whenever you’ve visited a space where something just felt slightly off, I can guarantee most of the time it was bad lighting. Well-designed lighting enhances the overall appearance of the living room. It highlights architectural features, décor, and artwork, creating a visually appealing environment.

  • Mood, Atmosphere, and Health

The living room is a versatile space used for relaxation, family time, friend gatherings, and even work. That’s why designing a well-thought-out lighting plan for the living room can be quite tricky. You have so many things to cater for. Warm, soft lighting creates a cozy and relaxing ambiance, perfect for unwinding and social gatherings. Brighter, cooler lighting is more energizing and suitable for tasks and activities that require focus. Exposure to natural light and well-designed artificial lighting can regulate circadian rhythms, improve sleep quality, and boost mood. Good lighting can also reduce the likelihood of headaches and eye strain.

But I digress. The important thing to note is that lighting can significantly impact the atmosphere of a room, as well as affect our mood and overall health.

  • Space Perception

Effective lighting can alter the perception of space in the living room. It can make a small room appear larger and a large room feel cozier. Properly placed lights can draw attention to specific areas, creating focal points and enhancing the room’s depth and dimension.


Subscribe To Our Newsletter

And Get Cool Design Tips Directly To Your Inbox
We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Challenges Of Lighting A Room With High Ceilings

High ceilings mean that the living room is more spacious and has a larger volume, so it requires (in general) stronger, brighter lights. But that’s not all.

We also need to make sure that the distribution of light is even across the room and that we don’t accidentally create any dark or overly bright areas. This is where traditional lighting techniques may fall short. So keep reading to figure out exactly how to light a living room with high ceilings. But first, take a look at this:

Pro Tip: Before you continue, read my article on how to calculate the ideal lumens for the living room. This will help you understand how much brightness you need in the living room. For high ceilings (over 10 feet), use approximately 5% more lumens for each additional foot.

living room with a high ceiling

Key Principles To Light A Living Room With High Ceilings


Put simply, layering is the use of different fixtures and bulbs for different purposes.

The three main types of lighting used in layering are:

  • Ambient
  • Task
  • Accent

Ambient light is used for the ambiance of the room. It’s the main light, the light that illuminates the entire room. Its purpose is to help us see when it’s dark outside, so it should be evenly spread and easy on the eye.

Think of the main light source in your living room, like recessed can lights – that’s your ambient light.

Task lighting, as the name suggests, is light used for tasks. For example, in the living room, task lighting would be a light source directed to a reading nook to help you read without straining your eyes.

In such cases, ambient light might not be strong enough, or it might be positioned in a way that you cast a shadow on your working space.

Accent lighting is quite special to me because it allows you to add your own personal touches and I love it when people get creative with light.

This would be for example light over some wall art or uplighting behind your furniture to set the mood.

You should incorporate all three of those layers into your lighting plan to make sure you have a well-balanced and versatile living room.

layered lighting high ceilings

Rule of thirds

The rule of thirds in lighting is a principle borrowed from visual arts and photography, applied to achieve balanced and visually appealing lighting arrangements. Here’s how it applies:

  1. Dividing the Space: Imagine dividing the room into three equal horizontal and vertical sections, creating a grid of nine equal parts.
  2. Placement of Elements: Key lighting elements such as fixtures or focal points should be positioned along these imaginary lines or at their intersections.
  3. Creating Balance: Placing lighting elements at these points or lines helps create a balanced composition. It avoids placing everything in the center of the room or using a symmetrical layout, which can sometimes appear static or less interesting.
  4. Enhancing Depth and Interest: By following the rule of thirds, you can create a sense of depth and dimension in the room. In short, it allows for a more dynamic arrangement of light sources.
  5. Applying to Different Lighting Types: Whether it’s ambient, task, or accent lighting, the rule of thirds can guide the placement of each type to ensure they complement each other harmoniously while serving their respective functions.

Now you basically have three layers: top, middle, and bottom.

The top layer is where your ambient light should be placed (recessed can lights, chandeliers, pendants, and so on). It doesn’t matter that hanging lights will fall to the middle layer – in fact, this will make the living room feel more cozy.

The middle layer is for accent lighting, such as picture lights or track lighting, as well as sconces. Track lighting should be reserved for highlighting wall features and décor, as it is too glary to be used for ambient light.

The bottom layer is reserved for task lighting, such as table or floor lamps. When performing tasks in the living room, you need a light source closer to you than the ambient fixtures. This is especially true for high ceilings, as the ambient light sources are even further away from you.

Pro Tip: Make sure to distribute multiple light sources at different levels and positions within the room. It helps in avoiding overly bright or dim areas, creating a harmonious lighting environment.

Best Lighting Fixtures For High Ceilings

  • Chandeliers

Chandeliers are a classic choice for living rooms with high ceilings. Select a chandelier that is proportionate to the living room.

The chandelier’s diameter in inches should be equal to the sum of your living room’s length and width in feet. For example, if your living room length is 13 feet and the width is 11 feet, the diameter of the chandelier should be about 24 inches. I like to go for slightly bigger chandeliers, so you can increase this estimate by a few inches. However, your final decision can be made based on what looks good on the eye.

The chandelier’s height in inches should be equal to your ceiling height in feet multiplied by 2.75. For example, if your ceiling height is 10 feet, the chandelier’s height should be about 27.5 inches. Just make sure that the bottom of the chandelier is not lower than 7 feet (210 cm) – however, this rule is flexible if you don’t need to walk underneath the fixture.

Dimensions of chandelier

For the metric system, you will have to do the conversions yourself, as there are no similar formulas that you can use.

Finally, chandeliers should be hung about 30–36 inches (75–90 cm) above the living room table. This general rule is so that it doesn’t obstruct anyone’s view and to avoid any unfortunate head bumps.

Use the tallest person in the house as a reference!

  • Pendants

Pendants are versatile and come in various styles, sizes, and designs. They can be used individually or in groups to create visual interest. For high ceilings, consider using long-stemmed pendants or fixtures with adjustable height to bring the light closer to the living space.

I have written an entire guide on how to use pendants in the living room, so be sure to check it out if you are more interested in this option.

  • Recessed Lighting

Recessed lighting is an excellent choice for high ceilings and it can even be combined with hanging lights. I would highly suggest connecting them to a dimmer switch, as this gives you a lot more versatility in creating the perfect mood. I personally love my recessed cans!

Pro Tip: For high ceilings, you need more focused light, which means a beam angle of less than 50 degrees. That is because the light from wider angles will get too dispersed by the time it reaches the floor.

  • Track Lighting

Track lighting consists of a series of lights mounted on a continuous track, allowing for adjustable positioning. It is ideal for high ceilings as it provides targeted lighting for specific areas or objects, such as art pieces or architectural features.

Based on the rule of thirds, this is a great fixture for the middle layer.

  • Wall Sconces

I recently made a poll asking my subscribers what’s their opinion on wall sconces in the living room. You can see the results here. My opinion on the matter is the following:

“The reason I’m not so crazy about sconces in the living room is that I prefer cove lighting or recessed can lights for ambient light and floor or table lamps for task light. If a wall is empty, I prefer installing wall art with a picture light or even wall light art. If I want to accentuate the wall itself, I prefer wall washers or grazers instead of sconces.

So this is my reasoning. Of course, it completely depends on the individual space, as wall sconces can look extremely good in certain living rooms or even be necessary.

Things change a bit for high ceilings, as it may be more appropriate to fill in the empty space and make the living room feel more cozy while bringing the light closer to eye level. If you want to give wall sconces a try, here are my 9 favorite contemporary sconces.

  • Floor Lamps

Floor lamps are portable and can be placed in various locations around the room to add light where needed. They are especially useful in corners or next to seating areas. Tall floor lamps with adjustable heads are ideal for rooms with high ceilings.

high ceilinged living room

Special Lighting Techniques

  • Uplighting

Uplighting involves directing light upwards to illuminate the ceiling and upper walls. This technique can make a room feel taller and more spacious. It is particularly effective in high-ceilinged living rooms, adding a dramatic and elegant touch. You can even use it behind plants or furniture.

  • Downlighting

Downlighting directs light downwards, typically from the ceiling. It provides focused illumination for specific areas and is often used in combination with other lighting types to create a balanced lighting scheme.

  • Cove Lighting

Cove lighting involves installing light fixtures in a recessed manner, typically in a ceiling cove or a wall niche. This creates a soft, diffused glow that enhances the room’s ambiance without harsh shadows.

  • Spotlighting

Spotlighting uses focused beams of light to highlight particular features or areas within a room. It is ideal for accentuating artwork, architectural elements, or decorative objects, adding depth and visual interest to the living space.

Wrapping Up

These are my top tips for how to light a living room with high ceilings. Start by calculating the required lumens depending on the square footage of your living room and move on to the next tips.

To avoid underlighting your high-ceilinged living room, make sure you use plenty of different fixtures to cover all the layers. Use distinguished fixtures for ambient, task, and accent lighting, and place them according to the rule of thirds on different vertical levels.

Connect as many of your fixtures as you can to dimmer switches, so that you can turn down the brightness depending on your mood. This will ensure that you avoid overlighting your living room. You can also read more ideas over at

And there you have it. Even though it’s a tricky topic, you can definitely create a perfectly balanced lighting scheme for your high-ceilinged living room – I believe in you!


Subscribe To Our Newsletter!

And Get Cool Design Tips Directly To Your Inbox

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Scroll to Top