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The Best WALL Paint Colors for Rooms With High Ceilings (LRV & More)

Posted on July 4, 2023 by KylieMawdsley
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LARGE ROOMS, TALL WALLS, & HIGH CEILINGS: CHOOSING A PAINT COLOR

When it comes to home design, high ceilings are a great idea if you love expansive, large spaces. However, for those who like things more intimate, two-story walls and their accompanying high ceilings can be challenging to live in and decorate with.

That’s why today, we’re focusing on one MAGICAL paint tip that will save you a lot of messing around when picking a paint colour for your two-story space. And what IS this game-changing tip?

how-to-pick-the-best-paint-colour-for-2-storey-tall-wall-vaulted-ceilings-kylie-m-interiors-decorating-and-design-e-decor

 

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE LRV 

LRV is ‘light reflectance value’ or how much light a paint color reflects into the room (based on the amount of light that hits it).

LRV is measured on a scale of 0 (black) – 100 (white). This means a paint color’s LRV number lets you know how light or dark it is. Paint colors with higher LRVs reflect more light than colors with lower LRVs.

If this all seems complicated, don’t worry; keep reading.

Take a look at this kitchen and dining room below…

how-to-choose-the-best-paint-colour-for-a-2-storey-room-or-tall-wall-with-vaulted-ceilings-sherwin-williams-dovetail-and-repose-gray-white-kitchen-by-kylie-m-interiors

  • The white paint colour on the cabinets reflects the most light as it has a high LRV. This color is Sherwin Williams High Reflective White (LRV 93).
  • The lighter gray paint colour on the kitchen walls reflects SOME light as it has a more moderate LRV. This color is Sherwin Williams Dorian Gray (LRV 39).
  • Lastly, the darker paint colour (in the dining room on the left) reflects the least, as it has the LOWEST LRV. This is Sherwin Williams Dovetail (LRV 26).

If you want to learn the meat n’ potatoes of LRV before continuing – READ THIS. If you feel well-informed, keep on truckin’.

Now, we’re going to step away from LRV (for a moment) to hit a few topics that DIRECTLY RELATE to the above info, and then we’ll pull it all together with paint color ideas and LRV combined!

 

TWO MAIN CONSIDERATIONS

LRV alone doesn’t make or break a color. Aside from choosing the right color and undertones, you must consider the size of your room/walls and the quality of light they get.

1. SIZE MATTERS (wink wink)

The smaller a wall or room is, the less opportunity it has to reflect light into the room. The larger a wall or room is, the more chance it has to reflect light, making a paint colour look lighter and brighter (assuming it’s given enough light). This is one reason why those wee little paper paint chips can be misleading when you want to know how light/bright/dark a color will look on a larger scale.

The above also comes into play because there’s less wall-trim contrast on a large wall, simply because the wall spaces are SO BIG. These large wall expanses love trim, as contrasting trim (particularly white) shows us the DEPTH of the wall color.

Ensuite bathroom, beige, blue white hexagon tile, navy blue vanity, white quartz countertop, Sherwin Williams Egret White paint color on walls. polished nickel. Kylie M Interiors Edesign (2)

The white door trim helps us SEE the wall color better.

Without nearby trim to contrast with, a light paint color on a large wall can look washed out. This same paint color in a small room, with more trim nearby, can look a bit more itself as it has white trim to contrast with (unless you have wood trim).

 

2. THE AMOUNT OF LIGHT (INTERIOR OR EXTERIOR)

The more light available to your paint color, the more it can reflect. Combine this with the right LRV, and you’ll start to pull things together (which we’ll do shortly). If there isn’t much light available, there won’t be as much light to reflect, and a paint colour won’t show up to the party as well as it could

Paint colors need LIGHT to come to LIFE! 

While this next photo doesn’t show a two-story room, it’s a GREAT example of how light affects a paint colour on a single wall space…

how-lrv-changes-a-paint-colour-how-to-choose-the-best-paint-colour-for-a-large-wall-or-room-kylie-m-interiors-e-decor

I’m exhausted – where’s my wine? Wait, it’s only 11:00 am; one more hour to go.

So, atrociously long story short, if you have large, two-story walls that are reasonably well-lit, you can expect them to bounce the light they’re given back into the room, which will TOTALLY affect the look of the paint color you choose.

 

E-design, virtual online colour consulting expert. Kylie M Interiors. Paint ideas. Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams (2)

And HERE is where it all comes together…

 

When a room has a high ceiling, colors often look washed out. Whereas smaller rooms with moderate light can hold their color well, a large room with adequate (or more) light can look washed out if the color’s LRV is too high.

Now, A LOT of your choices will come down to personal tastes and the needs of your room, for example…

  • You might have a dark room with a high ceiling and want your room to look as airy and fresh as possible.
  • Your room might be large and dark; you want to capitalize on that with a moody, brooding shade.
  • Your high-ceilinged, tall-walled room with my BRIGHT, and you worry about colors looking washed out and non-committal.
  • Or, you’re okay with your paint color looking passive and washed out at certain times of the day as long as you like the color itself.

No matter WHAT you love, I’ve got the tips for you to get started on your painting project…

 

LARGE, DARK OR LOW LIGHT ROOMS WITH HIGH CEILINGS

If you want a bright, fresh, airy look for your dark or low light room, check out colors with LRVs that are 70+. Because there’s less light for the paint colors LRV to reflect, colors tend to hold themselves better and not wash out as much.

This next living room is dark and doesn’t have white trim for the walls to contrast with…

iving room with brown brick fireplace, dark wood trim, sloped ceiling, beige or tan carpet and brown furniture. Paint colour on walls is Benjamin Moore BAllet White, Kylie M Interiors Edesign

Benjamin Moore Ballet White (LRV 72) is gorgeous, given the room’s palette. Because the room has low light and high ceilings, Ballet White is a soft, simple backdrop and makes the room look brighter without looking bland. Ballet White would be lost if these walls received a ton of natural light.

Sherwin Williams Aesthetic White (LRV 73) works well in this foyer (below) because there’s little natural light. So, while Aesthetic White has a higher reflectance value, there’s not a ton of light for it to reflect, so it shows up nicely and doesn’t wash out as much…

Sherwin Williams Aesthetic White in open layout entryway, living room, beige floor tile, vaulted ceiling. Kylie M INteriors

While this next room doesn’t have a super high ceiling, it has a ton of natural light. Notice how Aesthetic White washes out…

Bathroom wood vanity painted Sherwin Williams Grizzle Gray, wall paint colour Aesthetic White. Bathroom update ideas

This doesn’t mean the above bathroom isn’t PRETTY; it’s gorgeous! However, if you want a color that shows up to the party, Aesthetic White in a bright room might not do the trick. That said, if the above room had crown molding (which it wouldn’t suit), Aesthetic White would have something nearby to contrast, and you’d see its depth much better.

Schlong story short, if your large room and its high ceiling are DARK, paint colors with LRVs of 65+ can help with the illusion of light and brightness. Even though the LRVs are higher, there’s less light for these colors to reflect, meaning you’ll get less washout.

The more light a color reflects (the higher the LRV), and the more light you give it, the more it will wash out.

 Remember, NO colour will come to life without LIGHT, so don’t expect any paint color to work miracles.

 

LARGE, BRIGHT ROOMS WITH HIGH CEILINGS/TALL WALLS

If you want a color that shows up without weighing down your room too much, the best LRV range is between 55-60. While there are always exceptions based on the room’s exact size, ceiling height, quality of light, etc., this is a great place to start. From there, you can adjust (if needed) for your room’s particular needs.

  • If you want to ground a super bright room but worry about it looking too dark in the evening, an LRV of approx. 55-60 offers a nice balance.
  • An LRV range of approx. 55-60 can help a big room feel cozier without adding too much visual weight.

Here’s what an LRV of 57 looks like…

Stone fireplace, two-storey tall with Benjamin Moore London Fog, greige or taupe. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online paint color consulting

Benjamin Moore London Fog (above) and its slightly lower LRV holds up reasonably well to the natural light reflected by the windows and the large expanses of wall space.

In this next living room, with its vaulted ceiling and ample natural light, Sherwin Williams Agreeable Gray (LRV 60) holds up quite nicely…

Ocean or lake home, Sherwin Williams Agreeable Gray, vaulted ceiling in living room with neutrals. Kylie M.

Paint Color Review of Sherwin Williams Agreeable Gray

On the highest wall space, notice how washed out Agreeable Gray looks – this wall gets a direct hit of natural light. Notice how much darker it looks on the window wall.

Benjamin Moore Stonington Gray (LRV 59) looks as it should on most of the walls shown below…

Open layout living room, kitchen and dining room, vaulted ceiling with beam and chandelier. Stonington Gray paint colour. Gray sectional, Kylie M Interiors Edesign online paint color consulting

But notice how it looks on the high, far right. Where it gets hit with natural light, even this slightly lower LRV washes out – it’s the nature of the beast!

 

A FEW FUN FACTS & ONE HOT TIP

1. Whereas smaller rooms/walls often have more trim in the vicinity to contrast with, large rooms have GREAT BIG expanses of wall space with nothing for the wall color to play with. It’s via contrast that colors come to life.

2. The higher the LRV, the more light it reflects. Give a high LRV color a lot of light, and it will look CONSIDERABLY lighter than expected.

One way to combat this is with simple white trim so that where trim and wall meet, the contrast is as clean and crisp as possible.

Sherwin Williams Agreeable Gray, transitional style living room, two storey, white trim, modern farmhouse style. Kylie M Interiors. Client before photo

Sherwin Williams Agreeable Gray (above) has an LRV of 60. Notice how light and soft it looks on the lower-level walls, whereas it looks a bit more shaded in the upper hallway, where the walls are shorter, and there’s less natural light.

 

WANT TO GO LIGHTER & BRIGHTER?

If you love a light, airy, large room and don’t care if your paint color washes out, dive into the shallow end of the pool – I DARE YOU!

Starting with the 61-70 range, these colors still hold up well to natural light, depending on how much hits the walls. This next living space is painted Benjamin Moore Edgecomb Gray (LRV 63)…

Living room vaulted tall stone fireplace, neutral greige taupe walls, Edgecomb. tobacco cognac leather sofa. Client photo, Kylie M Interiors Edesign

The above living room gets moderate but not overwhelming natural light, making Edgecomb Gray a wicked, well-balanced choice.

Want to go even lighter?

Remember, there’s no wrong way to do it – it’s just about understanding what the different LRVs will DO in a room with high ceilings and varying degrees of natural light. If you WANT your color to look washed out and noncommittal (more of a soft, bright backdrop), there’s nothing wrong with that! If you want your walls to have a bit more noticeable depth and color – that’s cool beans, too!

This next kitchen and dining room sport Benjamin Moore Classic Gray (LRV 74) on their walls. Notice how much lighter the dining area looks, as the LRV of Classic Gray is put to WORK with a ton of light to reflect and a higher ceiling to boot…

Open layout living and dining, painted wood cabinets, greige or grey. Benjamin Moore Classic Gray, Sherwin Agreeable Gray. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online consulting

On the other hand, with its more muted natural light, the kitchen looks calmer and softer, as Classic Gray isn’t given as much light to reflect.

Consider the energy level between the above two spaces and which one you like the most. 

Why?

Because a bright room with bright walls (in particular, direct southern sunshine) has a HIGHER ENERGY, you’ll want to decorate accordingly to add some balance.

However, if your high ceilings and tall walls are accompanied by a softer, more muted natural light, a light and bright paint color with a high LRV can be the perfect choice…

Living room, vaulted ceiling, fireplace, neutral transitional style home decor and furniture. Sherwin Williams Alabaster warm white, Kylie M Interiors, Jenna Christian

FULL Paint Color Review of Sherwin Williams Alabaster

Sherwin Williams Alabaster is a soft, creamy white with an LRV of 82. While this could be GLOWING on walls that get direct hits of sunshine, it’s perfect for spaces with a more subdued light.

 

HOW TO MAKE A ROOM WITH HIGH CEILINGS FEEL COZY

It’s not always light and bright in the world of paint colors. If your tall walls and high ceilings lack intimacy, colors with lower LRVs can bring the energy level down while jacking up the cozy factor.

In this next living room, while the main walls have a high LRV (approx 74), the fireplace feature wall has an LRV of 13, lowering the energy of the space and adding ambiance and balance…

Review of Sherwin Williams Roycroft Pewter, dark gray paint colour. Fireplace with shiplap stone, round chandelier in living room. Kylie M Interiors Edesign

  • If you want a cozier, intimate look, look for paint colors with an LRV below 40. The darker you go (lower the number), the more dramatic the effect can be. Colors with lower LRVs also won’t wash out as much as colors with higher LRVs.
  • A bright, well-lit space can easily handle a low LRV (if that’s your taste). Just remember, natural light will lighten the look of ANY colour – even a super dark one!
  • A dark room with a high ceiling can look striking in a dark colour with an LRV of 20 or even lower. However, if you prefer to be on the safe side, you may want to focus on the 25-40 range.
  • Consider adding tongue and groove wood to your ceiling, beams, or a beautiful chandelier – these also help make a large room feel more cozy.

Kitchen wood cabinets, Sherwin Williams White Duck, wood beams, feature similiar to Mindful Gray. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, diy blogger

 The Best Paint Color Range for The Average Room 

I’d love to show you more photos of dark paint colors in rooms with high ceilings and big wall spaces, but it’s not a popular choice with my Online Paint Color clients. However, this doesn’t mean it won’t work for you and your room!

 

WHEN YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO, PICK 62

When you don’t know what color to paint your high-ceiling rooms, and if those tall walls seem overwhelming, narrow your focus. There’s a lot to consider between colors, undertones, and LRV – never mind room size, natural light, and exposure! Star with colors with an LRV of approximately 62 (give or take), which I call my MAGICAL LRV NUMBER.

Benjamin Moore Collingwood (below) has an LRV of 62. You can then adjust higher or lower based on the needs of your room and personal preferences.

Split-level home, beige taupe carpet, Benjamin Moore Collingwood walls, white trim, livingroom and staircase. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, home update ideas and diy decorating blogger (3)

Sherwin Williams Agreeable Gray (also shown earlier) and its LRV of 60 is another great shade to start with. If it’s too dark for your tastes, bump up that LRV! If it washes out too much on your bright walls, dive a little deeper…

Living room, tall windows and ceilings, Sherwin Williams Agreeable Gray, best greige paint colour on walls, oak floor, taupe neutral sofa. Kylie M.

 

A FEW FINAL THOUGHTS…

  • Any colour will revert to its normal state in the evening; choose a color you love in the day and night!
  • Please pay attention to the KELVINS of your bulbs, as they’ll greatly affect how your color looks.
  • Consider the sheen of your paint as well. The more gloss your paint has, the more it will reflect light; keeping in mind, glossy walls aren’t super desirable, so choose moderately!
  • Don’t forget about your ceiling! There are MANY ways to treat a high ceiling to add personality to your room – it’s not ALL about the walls!

READ MORE

The 12 Best Whole Home Paint Colours

The Best Paint Colors for Ceilings: White, Medium, & Dark

LRV, Paint Colours, and YOU: The ULTIMATE GUIDE TO LRV

LET ME CHOOSE YOUR COLORS FOR YOU! 

Check out my E-design and Online Colour Consulting packages! 

-design and online paint colour consulting using Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams paint colors. Kylie M Interiors. DIY and affordable decorating advice blogger. Market

Chat soon,

Kylie M Interiors Edecor and Edesign

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN IN 2017, UPDATED IN 2023



Comments

  1. This is a great post and very helpful! Your house is beautiful and I see that the balance of dark and light is very interesting if done right. That would be where we need you! Thanks

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