In design, there are times it’s “acceptable” to break the rules, and other times when following them is not only beneficial, but necessary. There are a few guidelines to consider when adding lighting in dining spaces because it affects both function and ambience. The proper size, style, and type of lighting is key. Lighting has the power to make a small area appear larger and more grand, or it can dwarf a large room and make it appear scant or insignificant. One of my biggest design pet peeves is seeing an area that could have a lot of drama, intimacy, beautiful detail, and presence with the correct choice in chandeliers, but is either lost in a space because of the insignificant or overpowering use of one that’s not right for the space. Another common mistake that is made many times by electricians and builders is not centering a chandelier over the table that will be used in that space, and hanging one either too high or too low over the table. ( I swore in my next house no lighting will go up until all factors are considered! It’s a very easy thing to request while a house is being built, but can be costly changing it later.)
We recently added some new chandeliers to our kitchen, family room, and dining room. You may have read about and seen those in a previous post I wrote about adding faux beams in our home here. After we finished installing the beams, I went to a lighting sale and scored 2 large chandeliers, 2 outdoor lights for a friend, and a new sconce for the Urbane Bronze Powder Room. Today, I’m sharing a few tips for adding new lighting to dining areas, as well as what to look for at good lighting sales!
3 key things to keep in mind when choosing new lighting:
1. Size & Scale- An easy rule of thumb for figuring the size ( diameter ) of a new chandelier is to add the length and width of a room together. If there’s already a table that you love and plan on using in that space, figure one- half to three-fourths the width of the table. Also, the bottom of the chandelier should be about 30-32″ above the table. For example, our dining room is about 12 x 12, and the table width is around 44″, so a 22-26″ chandelier would be the right size for that space. I don’t have a problem with lighting that’s a little larger, but definitely nothing smaller unless you plan on hanging double pendants or chandeliers that fit the scale of the space.
Here’s our old chandelier that we’ve had for the past 13 years. It had been a copper color originally, and I painted it gold with Rub ‘n Buff a few years ago and added burlap shades and magnetic crystal drops to the lights for a different look.
It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t the best for the space. The size, scale, and style worked just fine, but I was on the lookout for something new and better at whatever point I found one! Adding the shades and a dimmer gave the space a more intimate feel and focused the light down on the table more than without them. It’s not everything, but it’s something to keep in mind when changing your lighting- how the light will be diffused, directed, or illuminated in a space can change the way you feel about the room and its function and ambience.
2. Style- The style of the chandelier or other lighting should compliment, blend, and be consistent with the rest of your room decor and surroundings. True, there are ways of mixing modern with traditional, but it needs to be intentional and well thought out. If your style is eclectic, and the rest of your home is reflective of that style, you can definitely pull off a less conventional style of lighting than in a true traditional or period home. Modern homes or condos look best with classic/contemporary sleek and ultramodern/ streamlined lighting, while farmhouse, cottage, and French Country styles can look great with a mix of some modern, industrial and traditional European styles of chandeliers and pendants. Let the style of your home and decor guide you as to what style of lighting you will use, but be consistent throughout to define spaces well. Lighting is something that needs to be selected with plenty of time and thought involved. Hiring a professional Interior Decorator or Designer can save you time and money!
3. Types of Lighting- All kitchens and dining areas need and can benefit from 3 types of lighting: direct/task, general/ambient, and accent lighting. Direct, focused lights are for tasks such as reading, eating, and working, but all spaces need good ambient lighting. Ambient lighting sets the tone for a space. It provides an overall comfortable feeling in a room without harsh glares or overly bright lights. Dimmers provide beautiful ambient lighting and make a space feel intimate and warm. I love setting all the chandeliers on dimmers in the evening for a pretty glow from the street into our home. Guests will feel want to linger in spaces that promote good conversation where they feel comfortable and the food looks appetizing! Finally, accent lighting focuses light on a subject such as a bookcase, painting, or sculpture in a room, and adds visual interest. While it’s not as necessary as task and ambient, it’s still a beautiful option to consider.
I have a friend that has a beautiful dining room, but she and her husband never use it for company because she only has one large drum shade chandelier over her dining table and feels that the rest of the room is too dark. We’re discussing adding sconces or buffet lamps to either side of the buffet in the room for more overall ambient lighting.
My husband cannot stand bright lighting at eye level. While everyone is different in height, that’s an important consideration because that affects how he feels in a space. Here again, I always add dimmers to all overhead lighting so that there are options to the level of light for the time of day or event.
Shopping Tips at Lighting Stores/Sales Events
- Take a tape measure and have your room dimensions and table size ( l x w ) information with you.
- Know what type of lighting you’re looking to buy: Task, Ambient, or Accent.( Read more about each one here. )
- If you go to a large lighting sale, inspect the lighting carefully. While they usually are wired well and that’s not an issue, there may be more cosmetic issues that need repair such as small broken pieces, mismatched or dated socket covers, finishes, etc. Ask yourself if you’re willing and able to repair the item easily and inexpensively for it to be worth it. ( Many times the sales are to move older items out to make room for newer brands and products )
- Keep in mind the existing light socket and the new chandelier should be similar in size to the previous one, unless you want to hire an electrician to rewire and re-cut a new hole for another light socket. I suggest measuring the old light and pulling it back to see the socket before buying a new light, and even taking a picture to keep with your other lighting information. ( This is especially true of wall sconces. Chandeliers that have sockets that are well centered aren’t as much of an issue. ) Also, note the direction that light is cast in a space. If you are accustomed to downward, more focused light and you fall in love with a chandelier or sconce that casts light upward, it will definitely change the way a space feels, as well as how you are used to it functioning.
I was able to find some really great chandeliers at very good prices, although I did have to repair a few minor things.
For the dining room chandelier I bought, the socket covers were dated and not my style at ALL! But luckily, because I am “The Painted Chandelier” after all ( ), I removed the old ones and painted some other plastic socket covers with gold spray paint. Easy fix and they look like they were part of the original chandelier design! ( Promise me if you have dated, drippy candle socket covers that you’ll replace? That lighting ship has sailed! )
Here are a few more pictures of the new Empire Style chandelier Mark installed in the Dining Room for me:
On a side note, I shared this peony trick with my Instagram friends~ I add real peony leaves after my peonies bloom to faux peony stems. The ones I have are the perfect color for my brown and coral living and dining room, and when put in water, the leaves stay green for a few weeks! 🙂
The new chandelier is 25″ W x 28″ H, and works perfectly with our 12 x 12 Dining Room and 42″ wide dining table. I’m happy I finally found a chandelier I love in this space, and glad I waited for just the right one.
Remember the new chandelier we added over the kitchen table, here? The same thing happened with one of the socket covers on that chandelier, as well. When I brought it home, one of the covers was black while the rest were the same finish as the chandelier. Another simple fix~ I just painted the socket cover with a sample of a chocolate brown paint I had.
If you’d like to pin this blogpost to one of your Pinterest boards, you will have an easy reference while shopping for lighting! I hope you enjoyed this post and it cleared up some of the confusion of things to consider when shopping for the perfect lights for dining areas. One thing is for sure~ Nothing changes the look, feel, and mood of a space as much as lighting can. The correct lighting in a room can enhance, update, and define.
Have a great weekend!