Make it work: How to soften and divide a large, open living room with high ceilings

Jill Embry’s living room has large windows and high ceilings. It is the center of a home with clean, modern lines — which serve to distract as little as possible from her view of the great outdoors.

“If I could have lived in a glass house, I would have,” Embry says.

The living room designed by architect Bruce Wendlandt of Wendlandt & Stallbaumer Architecture includes soaring ceilings, large windows and a see-through fireplace. Trapp and Company’s Daniel Houk contributed interior touches to soften the space and create a comfortable environment. Embry put together the finishing décor herself.

One challenge of having a large, open space in a home is defining the living areas. The solution was a dual-tone floor, which creates a dark and light pattern that gives visual lines to the room without rugs.

“It helps define certain spaces a little bit without walls,” Embry says. “It breaks up the floor.”

Floating ceilings and wide baseboards create an inverted edge to the room. They add dimension and eliminate the need for extra trim. The same kind of floating and inverted technique is used on some of the walls and windows.

Since the see-through fireplace creates two sitting areas, Embry found couches similar to ones she already owned to expand available seating. A repurposed glass art display cube makes a nearly invisible side table. The artwork over the fireplace is accented by a bright blue rug.

Embry realizes some people might not find her home warm because of its wide open layout and white color scheme. But for her, the neutral tone creates a space that’s simple, comfortable — and all about the views.

Why it works

1. Mirrors: Mirrors expand and reflect the many pieces of art Embry has in the home. Mirrors can duplicate points of interest in your room. The three hung over a long side table match two others in the dining room and break up a large wall space. 

2. Brightly colored carpet: The brightly colored blue carpet complements the indigo tones in the artwork above one side of the see-through fireplace.

3. Tall plants: Embry wanted to blur the outdoors and indoors. A ficus tree that she’s had for many years tames the soaring ceilings and makes the space more comfortable.

4. Table Lamps: Six lamps in the room provide the soft lighting that Embry enjoys on most evenings. There are overhead lights for parties, but the lamps give the living room a comfortable level of light for everyday use.