By Ekaterina KohlwesMindful Design Consulting.

We can’t deny that scale plays a big role as an influential element in a building design.  Finding yourself inside of enormous Notre-Dame cathedral makes you feel very small and unimportant. Grandiose buildings have an ability to shock us by their scale and to make us feel miniature.  In combination with darkness, it was one of the techniques used in church designs throughout ages to evoke awe and obedience, creating spaces of mystery.

High Ceiling Space

Walt Disney Concert Hall Interior, CA

In her article “Things Looking Up” (the last issue of Psychology Today Magazine) Lauren Friedman notes that “the height of a ceiling can affect  the way we think, feel and interact with those around us.” A study was done by the University of Minnesota which came to a conclusion that people in 8-foot- high ceiling room feel more confined in opposed to being in a 10-foot-high ceiling room.  “Even though you’re not using the vertical height, it activates a sense of freedom,” says study by author Joan Meyers-Levy.

The Journal of Psychology also points out that “the lower the ceiling height of a ceiling, the more personal space we need from others.”

But lower ceiling is not necessarily a bad thing to have.  F.L.Wright skillfully used a technique of making everything low scale giving people a cozy feeling inside of his buildings. His students’ drafting studio at Taliesin West, Arizona filled with diffused natural light coming through canvas panels, long before the Kalwall* system was invented.  The space invites you to sit down and start working on your project without any distraction from the outside.  The room is also enhanced by the elegant repetition of architectural elements.  Repetitive elements, as was proven, give a feeling of organization and order, which helps mentally organize us for difficult tasks.

Low Ceiling Space

Taliesin West drafting studio interior, AZ

The ideal height for a space depends to the tasks you are planning to perform or the feelings you are trying to achieve. “Ceiling height affects more than feelings – it can shift our thought processes as well, Meyers-Levy found.  Subjects in lower rooms tended towards more detail-oriented processing: They noticed a table’s rough-hewn underside, for example, even though the tops surface was smooth and polished. Their counterparts in the room with 10-foot ceiling more frequently overlooked such details.” Lauren Friedman

Surgery Room

It is a good idea in designing a Surgery Room to lower a ceiling height.

To conclude, if you are looking for an inspiring creative space, try to heighten your ceiling, if you are designing a space where mental tasks, such as surgeries or programming will be preformed, lower the ceiling. Also, variation of different spaces in a business is a must.  A continuous ceiling throughout a large building makes us feel uncomfortable. Try creating places for breaks, conversations or even meditation if possible.

Another suggestion is before knocking out your ceiling, use light colors to create a perception of a height.  Studies have shown this to be an effective trick.

Ceiling Height

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1 reply
  1. Mario Suarez
    Mario Suarez says:

    Looking for more articles on ceiling heights for retail stores. This is for real development code proposing a minimum 15 foot ceiling height for the first floor retail area.

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