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Undaunted by Vaulted Ceilings

A Dark Kitchen Sees the Light
Designing Dilemmas March 2006

Undaunted by Vaulted Ceilings

Dear Debbie: My master bedroom is rectangular with a vaulted ceiling, about 18 feet high on the high end. A door opens up to the master bathroom and another door to a walk-in closet on the high wall. A six foot wide window is on the opposite low wall. I have a four poster cherry Shaker bed and matching furniture. The room's architecture is contemporary. I would like color in the room, but don't know how to paint it without feeling like I'm in a dark cave, especially at the end of the room with the high wall. Judi

Dear Judi: You need a two-part fix to solve your room's two-part problem of light and height. Here goes: First, add the lighting needed to keep the room's perimeter and furnished areas brightly lit. You can use a combination of recessed or track lighting, wall sconces and well-sized table lamps to fill your room with bright, warm and functional lighting. When it comes to lighting, adding more is better than adding less, so don't skimp on purchasing a well-balanced combination of fixtures.

Next, have crown molding installed around the entire room starting at the lowest point where the wall meets the ceiling and staying at that height, even on the tall walls. Now, pick out three paint colors for your bedroom and choose one of those colors in a medium to dark intensity. Finally, paint the walls below the crown molding in your favorite of the three colors. Paint the crown molding to match all the other door and window trim in the room. Use the darkest color above the crown molding. This will help bring your ceiling "down" to size, leaving a much less cavernous feeling in your bedroom. The crown molding will add a more traditional architectural feature to your contemporary room and the wall color you love most will be at eye level, for you to enjoy every day. You can also check out the flash photos on our home page- they include a photograph from one of our projects where the client's bedroom had the same architectural problem. We used gold walls, pumpkin molding and chocolate brown on the ceiling to make our client's bedroom more intimate and warm.

A Dark Kitchen Sees the Light

Dear Debbie: I have dark kitchen cabinets and I like dark wood for the floors. Is this too much for a kitchen/ family room? The granite would be dark too. The wood I like for the kitchen floor is about the same tone as the cabinets. Jodi

Dear Jodi: Your kitchen sounds rich and elegant. I find darker finishes give a more formal look, whether the style is contemporary or traditional. Dark colors look more sophisticated- I guess that's why New Yorkers prefer to wear basic black over any other clothing color!

How do you make this darker, sophisticated color scheme work in a kitchen and family room? First, make sure you have the lighting to support the darker space you envision. In your kitchen, you'll need a variety of lighting to help each area stand-out and to keep it bright enough for tasks over the sink, at the stove top or on a counter top. Start with overhead ambient lighting- like recessed lighting- and boost the light output by choosing reflective trim interiors and halogen flood lights. Next, plan to install under-cabinet lighting around the kitchen perimeter for ample task illumination. My favorite is the long-lasting Xenon under-cabinet lights. In addition to their hard-wearing bulbs, they give off a bright, white light equal to a halogen under-cabinet fixture, but with less heat. To showcase your dark hardwood floors, why not add cove lighting at the base of your bottom cabinets? These little lights are discreet enough to be camouflaged under the base cabinets, but really light up the floor area. They also double as safety lights at night, subtly brightening up the floor area in case someone comes into the kitchen for a middle-of-the-night snack or drink. You can do similar cove lighting on top of the kitchen cabinets, if there's space, to provide gentle up-lighting wherever you have cabinetry. In your family room, do add table and floor lamps in addition to overhead lighting. This will give you the light you'll need for reading or working while seated. So, go for the dark rich look but keep the space from feeling dark and dreary with a combination of bright ambient and task lighting.

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