20 May 2007, Comments Off on Ceilings, whoa, whoa, whoa, ceilings

Ceilings, whoa, whoa, whoa, ceilings

Author: Helen

I don’t quite know where I stand on the matter of the relationship between architecture and moral development. I do recognise a few basic principles; Moulding concrete blocks with graffiti on every floor, urine, a lift that doesn’t work and a compulsive alcoholic howling next door = bad, Como House = good (if you could afford the help). In general, I like old houses because of the goodness of the materials – proper brick walls, for instance, which make the attached rows of cottages in Melbourne livable, the sheltering verandahs, and the high ceilings in the old Victorians which lent a certain airy elegance to life even when the inhabitants were more Young Ones than young aspirationals. And I have always felt for any young’un leaving home who has never scored a room in a shared Victorian, but has only known low ceilings and fibreboard walls.

Now Boynton has uncovered a survey which says “ceiling height can affect how a person thinks, feels and acts”. Well, it is true that this study was done by an “assistant professor of marketing”, an appellation I respect about as much as some people respect French postmodernists. Still and all, it does seem intuitive to me that a high ceiling is freer, airier, and just nicer.

Of course, if you’re at work, the ceilings which are made out of glass or marble might be more of a problem.

Boynton, who always finds the pic juste, has used the this famous bit of claustrophobia to illustrate the idea. This one is pretty good too, but I think its owners are a bit precious about copyright.

Comments (0)

  • Jody says:

    When we went shopping a few years ago, we could feel the difference between the 1980s houses (standard ceiling height on the first floor), the early 1990s houses (9-ft ceilings on the first floor), and the early 2000s houses (10-ft ceilings on first floor, 8-9ft ceilings even on second floor). The latter houses felt airy, light, crisp, clean — a whole host of pleasant adjectives.

    Of course, the tall-ceiling houses are harder to heat by far, and when the houses aren’t built with good natural ventilation and wide porches for the hot Southern summers, the high ceilings tend to work against the air conditioning systems, as well. I do think we’re going to rue all the tall-ceilinged construction in the States someday soon, because it wasn’t paired with good natural ventilations and is going to be obviously wildly energy-inefficient.

    I bet many many dollars that this study was funded by a combination of realtors and large home construction firms, or their lobbying groups, btw.

  • Helen says:

    I bet many many dollars that this study was funded by a combination of realtors and large home construction firms, or their lobbying groups, btw.


    The Victorians / Edwardians in Australia are often made of solid brick with eaves and shady verandahs. The cheaper ones are made of weatherboard (“clapboard” to you) but are still protected from the weather. Many Edwardians have a corridor running straight from the front door to the back, so you can see right through – bad fengshi, I was told once, but I think it facilitates cooling. You have to remember to “shut the @#$! door!” in winter.

  • Low ceilings are depressing. Can’t live in them.

    And I once believed in Feng Shui (sp?) but have lived in so many unfeng ways that have proved prosperous and excellent:

    * Not supposed to sleep in a room with mirrors. My beautiful old wardrobe has mirrors, and a dresser opposite has mirrors, and I’ve always had a peaceful sleep in this room.

    * Not supposed to be a clearway from front to back, as you mention. In Brisbane it’s the only way to get a breeze. In my current Victorian (both era and location), as soon as you open the front door, you can see straight out through to the glass back doors onto greenery. It gives me no end of joy to see my green sanctuary. Wrong, feng.

    * and so on.

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