How to Light a Vaulted Ceiling (An Essential Guide)

Last Updated on October 9, 2022 by Barry Gray

Striking the proper balance between form and function may be difficult in any room with a vaulted ceiling. Still, good lighting design in a home with vaulted ceilings towering 20 or more feet into the air adds a new layer of difficulty. Unfortunately, standard room lighting designs do not work with vaulted ceilings; therefore, let’s explore how to light a vaulted ceiling correctly.  

Beautiful angled, sloping, and curved ceilings provide more options for the placement of lighting fixtures to create the best lighting design ambiance. Combine chandeliers, strip lights, pendant lights, and recessed lighting to bring your vaulted ceilings to life with extra light layers and flare.

If you have a home with vaulted ceilings, you want to make sure that the room is well-lit. Beautiful lighting is a great way to highlight the enormous volume. For the best atmosphere lighting, we will discuss a couple of possible combinations below and how to incorporate them in any room with a vaulted ceiling.

The Best Lighting Design For Vaulted Ceilings

A single light source is insufficient to light a room since it cannot create contrast, depth, define shapes or make the colors pop. As a result, you’ll need a well-thought-out lighting plan with several layers to finally create the ambiance for the room. 

First, to create contrast and emphasize color and textural qualities, we must include numerous lighting sources in the environment. There are three distinct layers you need to incorporate into your lighting plan.

Creating General Ambient Lighting

Ambient lighting is the general illumination necessary for a well-illuminated room. Begin with ambient lighting for overall brightness. Ambient lighting should be the first layer of lighting that establishes a space’s tone and generates a consistent and uniform lighting intensity. It is frequently softer and evenly dispersed. 

Using ceiling-mounted or recess lamps that direct light downwards or tuck away strategic strip LED lights will create the general ambiance your room needs. Lamps on the walls like sconces and floor standing lights illuminate upwards along the walls to the ceiling. Another alternative is to use pendant lights that reflect light off the ceilings and walls.

Using Accent Lighting Correctly

accent lighting

Accent lighting enhances visual interest in a room. For example, accent lighting will draw attention to architectural details, wall art, or precious objects. In addition, this lighting layer highlights design elements in your environment to generate more defined shadows, giving each aspect and the overall appearance of the room more depth.

A lunette is an architectural element with a round or crescent-shaped aperture in a vaulted ceiling or wall. Accent lighting is an excellent example of utilizing this sort of lighting layer to draw attention to the lunette. Accent lights are three times sharper than ambient lights in terms of brightness. Track or wall-mounted lights are handy in living or common areas because they can be tilted and aimed to produce a spotlight.

Focused Task Lighting

Task lighting enhances the brightness of the task locations where you carry out everyday duties. In addition, task lighting should be devoid of glares and shadows to reduce eye strain. As the name indicates, purpose lighting is light created for a particular job, such as reading, writing, dining, or cooking.

It is brighter than ambient light and focuses on where you perform the task. As a result, purpose lighting will be the most functional component in your lighting plan. Task lighting includes recess and track lighting, pendant lamps, under-cabinet strip lighting, floor, workstations and table lamps, and bathroom vanity lights.

The Best Ideas For Vaulted Ceiling Lighting

Vaulted ceilings are a desired architectural element that might allow for unique lighting options in your house. Chandeliers and pendants are ideal for these higher ceilings since they provide flair and utility to your rooms. Use the extra space for giant statement chandeliers or elaborate pendants, which you can mix with recessed lights for ideal layered lighting. 

Chandeliers

Chandeliers, for example, provide a sense of elegance and decadence to a vaulted ceiling by emphasizing its grandeur. Chandeliers cast light upward and forth over the vast area created by this ceiling type. Avoid hanging only lights that focus light downward since this will create a black zone at the highest point of the ceiling, giving it a slightly scary appearance. 

Recessed Lights

Recessed lights are installed in the ceiling to provide downward-facing lighting. If your vaulted ceiling is in an area where you want to work, read, or chat around a table, this is a good alternative. While recessed lighting is uncomplicated and does not interfere with the room’s design, it does give it a contemporary feel. 

You may focus the light in whatever direction you like using directional spotlights. This accent lighting is usually upward in a space with a vaulted ceiling to show the structure’s beauty. The advantage of employing directional spotlights is that you can easily direct the light to where you are seated if you wish to read. The disadvantage of spotlights is that they can have a detrimental impact on the design of the space since, unlike recessed lighting, they might appear obtrusive.

Skylights

Don’t forget to include skylights. It is not just necessary to illuminate a vaulted ceiling at night. We think it would be beneficial if you explored installing skylights to allow natural light to flood the space throughout the day. A gloomy room with a high ceiling does not make for an attractive environment. During the day, the natural light beaming down on your enormous chandelier will bring everyone’s attention to that focal point.

Here Are The Six Most Popular Types Of Vaulted Ceilings

Consider the general ambiance of the room and utilize your lighting fixtures to enhance that ambiance, whether light and airy or radically futuristic. We recommended staying with a more classic lighting style, such as chandeliers, unless your space is modern.

Arched Vaults

Arched vaulted ceilings have a curved self-supporting framework instead of consecutive beams parallel to the roof. The curvature of the arch determines the shape and height of the top. The angle and radius differ from a barrel-vaulted ceiling. The structural beam supports may be visible or hidden. 

Depending on where the arched vault ceiling is located, you can use any of the above-mentioned light fixtures to illuminate and accentuate the space. 

Barrel Vaults

Ceilings with barrel vaults have a bare curving slope from wall to wall, like one-half of a round barrel. This barrel-vaulted ceiling, also known as a tunnel vault, cradle vault, or wagon vault, gives your area a tunnel-like vibe. There are usually no structural beams to accentuate since the curvature of the barrel supports itself.  

Recessed lighting will be difficult to install because of the rigidity of the vaulted barrel ceiling’s material. Therefore it is best to use light fixtures hanging from the top or add a strip LED along the borders.

Cathedral

The straight sides of a cathedral ceiling slope upward to fit the contour of a roof’s pitch. Unlike a vaulted ceiling, which does not follow the shape of the top, both sloping sides are symmetrical and parallel to the roof’s slope. As a result, the structural beam supports may be visible or hidden. 

Cathedral ceilings provide a dramatic element to any environment. Lighting a cathedral ceiling, on the other hand, can be difficult. Inadequate lighting may transform your lovely vaulted ceiling into a gloomy, depressing void above you, making the room feel chilly and uninviting. However, you can create a warm and pleasant area with a beautiful architectural aspect and proper lighting, like a chandelier or pendant light.

Domed Vaults

A type of arched ceiling that thins as it approaches the central point at the top, generating a slanted dome shape, are known as domed vaulted ceilings. The dome ceiling is not a typical house dome vaulted ceiling, but it adds a dramatic effect to the style of a room when a crown is recessed into a flat ceiling top to give a more dramatic impact. 

Adding strip LED lights to the bottom of the dome is an excellent way to create ambient light, and hanging a chandelier down the center will be perfect. 

Groin Vaults

Groin vaults are vaulted roofs consisting of two barrel vaults intersecting to produce an elaborate, curving x-shape. Groin vaults, also known as cross vaults, are made up of two barrel vaults crossed at 90 degrees to make a 90-degree angle. They lead the eye upwards to observe the sophisticated and gorgeous ceiling design. This beautiful geometrical appearance adds drama and eloquence to any environment. 

Use focused spotlights or rail lights to accentuate decorative x-shape intersections, and add a chandelier hanging in the middle of the room for ambient light.

Rib Vaults

Rib vaulted ceilings have a series of exposed beam arches placed at various heights and angles to create critical focal points and lend a distinctive structural character to the ceilings. On the other hand, Rib vaults are more robust than other ceilings because their solid construction allows for the addition of taller and thinner walls and materials.

Adding light fixtures that detract from the architectural marvel of this vaulted ceiling style is a blunder. Instead, use wall-mounted fixtures and rail lighting to illuminate the roof and room. 

How Light Affects The Atmosphere In A Room

Colors, textures, and geometry all play a role in perceiving a room. Using the correct light temperature will create the atmosphere you want in your room. You will need to consider the room type and match it with the color temperature it requires. For example, the color temperature of a light bulb describes the look (brightness and atmosphere) of the light produced by the bulb. 

Color Temperature is communicated in degrees Kelvin (K) on a scale ranging from 1,000 to 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Below are the three most popular color temperatures used.

Warm WhiteNatural WhiteCool White
3000k4000k6000k
Creates a cozy, calm, inviting, and intimate atmosphereCreates a friendly, bright, and vibrant atmosphereIt creates a clean, refreshing brightness, making you feel alert
Use in the dining room, living room, and bedrooms Use this light in the kitchen, entryway, foyers, and neutral spaces in the homeBathrooms, kitchens, dressing room, and other workspaces

Choose The Correct Light Fixture And Bulb For The Room Type 

Each area in your home should have many lighting levels to complement the interior design aspects you choose. Since you get vaulted ceilings in any room type, we will look at the different fixtures in these rooms and deliver you a few tips on how to incorporate them.

First, you can accentuate the support beams by lighting them with strip lights or spotlights if the support beams are visible. In addition, you can use recessed lights, can lights, downlights, and LED panels if the support beams are hidden behind ceiling material. It is also good to have a chandelier or a few pendants lights hanging from the roof. 

To create ambient lighting for general illumination, consider employing table, wall, and standing floor lights. For tasks like reading, use a table or floor lamp with direct illumination, under cabinet lighting for the countertop, and a hanging lamp to light the dining table, among other things. 

All three sources will be included in an intelligent lighting scheme, spread out in different intensity levels and layers.

Choose lighting accordingly after determining how the room will be used and what activities will be carried out. For example, you’ll want a lamp that shines straight on the work surface for reading or studying.

The third tip is to have a clear idea of how the furniture will be organized in the space so that the various lights may be strategically positioned. For instance, if your dining room or living room has a focal point wall, you should consider utilizing spotlights or track lighting to brighten and accentuate that area.

A fourth suggestion is to Ensure that pendant lights do not hinder the view or interfere with the flow of activities when placing them. Choose a different light fixture or move it to a higher position if the lamp you’re considering doesn’t enable the area to perform adequately.

Tip number five: Determine how much light your bulb emits before purchasing them. If you’re buying a large number, say for a chandelier, buying one or two of these bulbs is highly advisable to test how the illumination interacts with the environment, especially at night, before investing more in them.

A final tip, you should bring cohesion to your light fixtures in a room; for example, use lights made from the same material and color. Choose scone lights, chandeliers, pendant lights, and wall lights, all chrome or black metal. The other way to bind every fixture together is to use different types of material like wood, metal, or cloth, but use the same shapes like flowers or circles.

Conclusion

Regardless of the style of the vaulted ceiling, you have in your house; you should now be able to light it properly. Creating the ideal ambiance with the proper color temperature and combining it into the three layers of lighting intensity is the key to effective lighting. We also advise adding a skylight to the vaulted ceiling to bring natural sunlight into your home during the daytime.

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Barry Gray

Hi, I’m Barry. I’ve loved woodworking and bringing things back to life for more years than I care to remember. I hope my passion for tools comes across loud and clear in everything you read here on The Tool Square.