Making the Most of a High Ceiling

by WOHe

All, Inc., a St. Paul/Minneapolis-based “whotailer” selling
cabinetry, plumbing, appliances and home decorating materials,
recently embarked on creating two new showrooms.

Fortunately, the company’s search for the ideal spot in St. Paul
produced an existing building.

The structure, formerly a finished goods warehouse, presented
numerous opportunities. After some consideration, it was determined
that gutting and creating an entirely new space was the best

“Starting with a blank slate is good, but it can also present
some unusual challenges,” explains Paul Zugschwert, sales manager
of the showroom.

Zugschwert, who began his career with All, Inc. as a product
representative, served as a team member on the showroom project,
pulling together the planning details. He had his work cut out for
him when designing the showroom.

“When we started, the space was nothing more than an open floor
plan,” he says. “Imagine a 2’x4′ truss ceiling with cool panel
fluorescent lighting. Everything was dingy and produced a cold
feeling. We knew we had to make a lot of changes, and we had to get
it right the first time.”

To create a master plan on paper, Zugschwert worked with a
simple CAD program on his laptop. “I worked on one part of the
showroom and then another, until we had a workable design for all
areas of the showroom,” he says. “Once that was approved, we moved
to solving problems and filling in the details.”

One of the more tricky problems to solve was the extra-high,
14-foot ceiling. The design team felt that the ceiling was so
bright and “hot” that it actually took attention away from the
product. In addition, the light produced by the bulbs made it very
difficult for consumers and designers to distinguish between
product features for example, white, almond and bisque appliance
colors. As Zugschwert put it: “The consumer will not pay more for a
color when he or she cannot even tell what color it is.”

One consideration lowering the ceiling would have been costly
and could have made the space feel smaller. The designers also
liked the tall ceiling. Because of this, they opted for another

Originally, the space had open fluorescent fixtures, all with cold
white bulbs. While others might have kept this common, general
lighting to save money, All, Inc. favored a more comprehensive

To make the high ceiling work, the designers chose to upgrade
the lighting fixtures, using simple parabolic louvers.

Then, while most of the staff was out during the lunch hour, all
the bulbs were changed to warm white fluorescents. This upgrade
took the focus off the ceiling and put the emphasis back where it
was most desired: on the products on display.

With lighting in place to set the stage, it was time to pull
together the decorating materials. Owner Mark Rutzick had the
perfect suggestion. Upgrading the lighting still left an unusually
high ceiling, exposing about four to five feet of wall above
eight-to-10-foot-high displays. Rutzick contacted a friend in the
sign business and asked him to join the team to facilitate his
idea. Together, the team came up with a cost-effective solution
that added impact, advertising value and aesthetic appeal.

For the overall wall treatment, the team selected a
lighter-colored commercial grade vinyl wallcovering to keep the
showroom bright and clean. Next, they applied the same quality
wallcovering in the mid-value, gray tone. The three-foot-wide paper
was applied horizontally, around the entire room, starting just
below the ceiling line.

The group then decided they needed more color strong blue, to be
exact. So, to add a bit of accent, they applied two-to-six-inch
wide stripes to the top and bottom of the border in the same
quality vinyl wall covering. This combination created a custom
border paper in the size they needed to fit the room’s

With the wall background in place, the sign specialist obtained
manufacturers’ logo artwork and made color vinyl transfers that
were applied, leaving three to four feet between each logo.
Wherever possible, designers placed the logos closest to each
brand’s display.
“This is a solution that’s easy to install and update as needed,”
Rutzick observes. “This design gave us a polished and professional
look, without much cost.”

Zugschwert estimates the cost of the graphics, wallpaper, other
materials and labor at $5,550, or about $17 per foot pretty
affordable for a solution that serves so many purposes.

“As consumers enter, they can see all the brands we carry, even
if they’re not easily recognized by product display alone,” he
notes. “Its message is bold and clear.”

Once the graphics were in place, attention returned to lighting.
It was decided that the border needed better lighting to make the
logos “pop off the wall.” Since this type of illumination could not
be achieved with the overhead showroom lights, the designers added
track lighting with pendant lights. To provide “jewelry store
quality and clarity,” they chose easy-to-find, economical, improved
low-voltage halogen bulbs.

This concept has been so successful and simple to achieve that
All, Inc. is planning to add the same effect to a separate bath and
carpet showroom. One of its greatest benefits, Zugschwert says, is
that consumers ask more questions sooner.

“They look up and see all those brands and want to know more
specifics right away,” he reports.

If you want to try this technique, consider the following tips:

  • Place a quality vinyl wallpaper perpendicular or horizontal to
    the top of the ceiling wall.
  • Make sure your ceiling is high enough to allow for one to four
    feet between the product and the graphic accent stripe, to allow
    for focus and air space from the product itself.
  • When you’re out of logos and have more room to fill, repeat
  • Try to place the logo above, or close to, the brand display
  • Consider working your company colors into the scheme. However,
    before you begin, make sure your company logo colors are up to
    date. Updates should occur every two to six years.
  • Make sure the color of each logo coordinate. They can be
    different in color just as long as the pattern does not become too
    bold in one part and too light in another part.

    In addition, working with a sign professional will help you ensure
    that the coloration of each logo will harmonize with other logos
    and the entire room.
  • Offer vendors a chance to participate. They’ll love seeing
    their names “in lights.”
  • Correct lighting is essential. Consult a lighting professional
    for advice on fixtures and bulbs.
  • Be sure to select quality vinyl paper so it will lay well and
    hold its color over time. Select a paper that will tolerate the
    removal of logos. However, keep in mind that wallpaper color will
    fade over time, so the removal of logos may be noticeable.

Sarah Reep, CKD, ASID, CMG, is the newly named director of
design for the Middlefield, OH-based KraftMaid Cabinetry. An
award-winning designer and nationally recognized leader in the
kitchen and bath industry, Reep is a renowned speaker and educator
who has taught courses for the NKBA, Southern Illinois University
and Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia.

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