Old bungalows, ancestral homes, heritage buildings and cathedrals envelop inside them a feeling of warmth, while the interiors poetically echo stories of the past. Nostalgia and a sense of inner peace usually take over as one walks through such properties. Have you ever noticed that you tend to notice more details when you walk inside one such property, with your eyes travelling the entire length and breadth of the space? That's because buildings with high ceilings tend to have more spatial depth and expansiveness, allowing more light to fill in, thus opening up our minds to be more explorative, curious and ready for fresh perspectives.
Other than that, in a tropical country like India, vertically-gifted homes and buildings were simply the most practical solutions to combat the climate. Shares Meetu Akali, founder, Studio Momo, “In the olden times, to beat the summer heat, houses would be built with higher ceilings so that the hot air could rise towards the ceiling, letting cooler air move down to the bottom. In some cases, the difference in the temperature at the floor level and ceiling level could be as much as 4 °C.”
Putting high ceilings to the test
Of course, high ceilings open up visuals and double up as decorative elements (think coffered ceilings, mouldings etc) but studies suggest there's more to them. A few years ago, a famous experiment by researchers Joan Meyers-Levy and Rui Zhu shed light on the psychological impact of high ceilings on a person. They invited a bunch of participants for the experiment. A few were inside a room that was 10-feet high, and the others in an 8-feet high room. They hung Chinese lanterns so that the dwellers could get a sense of the height of the room.
The experiment eventually concluded, and the results thus showed that high ceilings encouraged the participants to think more creatively and positively as opposed to the others. They were also able to solve puzzles quicker and had a happier disposition. They concluded this outcome was due to the psychological freedom that taller ceilings evoke and a mindset that also enhances creative thinking. Says Sanchit Arora, principal architect, Renesa Architecture, “The bigger the height, more volume, the larger impact of the variable scales on a human mind as fundamentally a human always compares his/her own anthropometry to the objects near to him/her.”
Let’s not forget that in cramped cities where space is at a premium, a high ceiling adds to the illusion of more square footage. High ceilings can make an ordinary space seem larger. “Apart from the comfort of temperature, high ceilings also make for a visually stunning volume which usually is associated with luxury and opulence,” adds Prashant Chauhan, Creative Director, ZERO9.
For those who suffer from claustrophobia, high ceilings can actually be an investment for mental health. Tall ceilings can also help ventilate busy spaces; they allow for more natural light as well. This is why high ceilings are typical in factories, warehouses and workshops. Perhaps this is why constructions today are going back to building the old way, and high ceilings have now made a comeback. “People love changing their surroundings and so the norm of high ceilings is back in fashion as people love the change in the volumetric representation of their own space and experience. The vertical dimensions allow the mood to be airier, well-lit, and intimate. Architecturally, it’s a simple low additional construction cost, but it can change the mood and the experience of the space for a dweller,” says Arora.