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Condo Style: Decorating a Loft with High Ceilings

By Michelle Hopkins May 4, 2016

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What is it about loft-style living that is appealing to so many of us? There are too many fabulous features and reasons to name just a few. For most of us, it's the high ceilings, the open concepts, and the brick features that draw us to them.

However, it's those same qualities that can also create some challenges. West Coast Condominium spoke to ZWADA Home Interiors & Design principal and interior designer, Don Zwarych, for advice on some of the most common decorating issues that loft dwellers face. He had lots of tips on how to address these.

"Every designer will have a different take when decorating any interior with high ceilings, but it's not that much different than other spaces, it just requires a little more creativity," says Zwarych. "When we design lofts, we divide the room into three levels, first, the upper level (the high ceilings), then the middle (walls) and lastly the lower (living space)."

From there, you have to factor in your design style: contemporary; or more traditional/ transitional.  

"If your home decor is modern, leave the upper level as is, minimalist," adds Zwarych. "If you are more traditional, create interest with panelling or by using layers."

Zwarych loves cladding walls with brick, natural stone and wallpapers with depth and lots of texture, and also notes that grass cloth is making huge comeback.

The mid-level is perfect for artwork and paintings, while the lower is for your furnishings.

"In lofts, opt for more than one focal point and create separation and definition within the space," he advises.


As in any residence, the size of your furnishings needs to match the volume of the space.

Impressive soaring ceilings in a loft with too much furniture will give the impression of a dollhouse – definitely not the desired intention. High-ceiling lofts lend themselves beautifully to large-scale furniture or artwork. Zwarych tells his clients to embrace the height.


Unlike a traditional home with doors separating rooms, lofts don’t have divided spaces other than the bathroom.

“When you’re living in a loft, you have to create barriers for some degree of privacy,” Zwarych says. A great way to devise private spaces in a loft, he adds, is to establish the effect of alcoves, “So people can be both together in the same space and yet have their own individual space."

Divide the loft into sections and distribute furniture to create little intimate spaces anchored by carpets, a chair, an open bookcase, bi-fold doors, Japanese shōjidoors or with the use of folding screens or floor-to-ceiling draperies in bold or sheer fabrics.

The range of options for materials and styles is one of the great things about loft living. You can opt for clear glass or opaque bi-fold doors that allow for lots of natural light to flood in, yet still offer you that privacy you need.

Lighting and colour

Lighting is crucial in any home in order to achieve ambience, atmosphere and mood.

However, in a loft space, for maximum effect choose lighting at different heights. Pendant lights hung lower work well where you want to create a more intimate feel, such as over the dining table or a sitting area. Hang lights higher in spaces like the entry hall and kitchen work zones.

Zwarych also recommends bold, dramatic lighting – think large chandeliers – and a variety of mounted and floor lighting options.

As far as your colour scheme is concerned, it is best to stick to a simple, neutral earth-tone colour palette.

"Here on the west coast, soft greys and various shades of white work wonderfully in lofts," says the seasoned designer, adding also to think of the size of the room and the scale of the slanted ceilings before choosing your hues.

Having said that, Zwarych adds using different shades and tones of darker colours with a painted ceiling can also look great. "It becomes a way to personalize your space and showcase that wow factor," he recommends.

Decorating dos and don'ts

"Do not clutter a loft and don't push everything against the wall," he cautions. "In addition, create natural pathways so there is good traffic flow."

Meanwhile, avoid using too many small pieces of furniture. Instead, go for large-scale pieces of furniture, artwork, sculptures or murals for dramatic impact.


Storage can be the bane of a loft owner’s existence – there is never enough. It all comes down to purchasing multi-functional furnishings, such as Murphy beds, coffee tables that convert into work stations, and ottomans.

"Ottomans are triple threats, transitioning from seating to table to foot rest," says Zwarych, adding Vancouver is home to some innovative multi-functional furniture designers. "The foundation of practical solutions for lack of storage space comes down to double-duty design."

Michelle Hopkins
Michelle Hopkins is a Vancouver-based freelance writer with extensive magazine, newspaper and online writing experience in home décor, new home developments, culinary adventures, wine, travel and more. Michelle writes for many notable publications including Real Estate Weekly and other Glacier Media Group publications, Western Living Magazine, Vancouver Magazine, Home Décor & Renovations, to name just a few. Michelle is passionate about anything to do with real estate.
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