6 Essential Tips For Selecting the Perfect Dining Room Lighting

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By Kate Reggev / Published by Dwell
Adding a light fixture (or two) to your dining room is like putting the icing on a cake: it’s that final, special touch that can imbue style, atmosphere, and just the right amount of illumination—but finding the ideal setup is not always easy.

In the dining room, a light fixture is a particularly significant design element because it not only provides adequate light while you eat, but it can also have a powerful impact on the mood or vibe of the space—thus playing a vital role in its overall aesthetics. Continue reading to learn some helpful tips on the right height, type, and size of fixture you should be looking for. Once you have a good idea of what you need, take a look at our lighting selection for some great modern options. 

1) Make an investment

First of all, it’s critical to find a fixture you like and can see yourself liking for several years. Although it may be tempting to move in the direction of something that's "in" right now, this can prove to not be the wisest decision in the long run, because installing (and removing) complex and heavy fixtures can often require an electrician and contractor, making what might sound like a simple fixture swap a more complicated and expensive endeavor.

6 Essential Tips For Selecting the Perfect Dining Room Lighting - Photo 1 of 7 - The geometric motifs of these three pendant fixtures are eye-catching and unique, but their neutral colors and simple materials make them timeless.

The geometric motifs of these three pendant fixtures are eye-catching and unique, but their neutral colors and simple materials make them timeless.

Therefore, it’s best to invest in an item that you really love and won't get sick of. This might mean a classic, simple light fixture, or it might mean a bigger statement piece. Either way, make sure you choose wisely! 

6 Essential Tips For Selecting the Perfect Dining Room Lighting - Photo 2 of 7 - A statement pendant from Petite Friture was carefully selected to complement the weaving and patterns of the dining chairs by Patricia Urquiola for Moroso.

A statement pendant from Petite Friture was carefully selected to complement the weaving and patterns of the dining chairs by Patricia Urquiola for Moroso.


2) Pick a table-centered location

Secondly, choose the location of the fixture carefully. A chandelier or low-hanging fixture should be centered over the dining table, not placed in the middle of the room. If you have other furniture in the room, your table probably isn’t exactly in the center of the space—and that’s okay. You want the lights to create focal points centered on specific pieces of furniture, so make sure you have your table in place before installing the lighting. 

6 Essential Tips For Selecting the Perfect Dining Room Lighting - Photo 3 of 7 - This bright red vintage pendant is perfectly centered over the dining room table, rather than to the center of the room.

This bright red vintage pendant is perfectly centered over the dining room table, rather than to the center of the room.


3) Consider proportions

You’ll also want to pay attention to the length and size of the fixture. In general, experts recommend that the dimensions of the fixture should be approximately one-third of the width of the dining table. For example, a five-foot round dining table (60 inches) should have a diameter of about 20 inches; a rectangular or oval-shaped table could have a wider or elongated chandelier. Having a row of three or more smaller pendant fixtures is also an option. 

6 Essential Tips For Selecting the Perfect Dining Room Lighting - Photo 4 of 7 - An irregularly shaped pendant requires particular attention to the size of the fixture to ensure that it appears balanced in the space.

An irregularly shaped pendant requires particular attention to the size of the fixture to ensure that it appears balanced in the space.


4) Hit the right length

In terms of the length of the cord of a pendant or chandelier, you should play around a bit and see what feels right. You don’t want the chandelier to be so low that it’s blocking your view of people across the table or hitting a centerpiece or flowers, but you also don’t want it to be so high that it doesn’t shine light on the table. See if you can turn the fixture on while it’s being hung to see where you like it best—usually, this is about 30 to 36 inches above the top of the dining table. 

6 Essential Tips For Selecting the Perfect Dining Room Lighting - Photo 5 of 7 - Lamps should be hung so that they hit the sweet spot in-between, providing adequate lighting on your plate without obscuring your view across the table.

Lamps should be hung so that they hit the sweet spot in-between, providing adequate lighting on your plate without obscuring your view across the table.


5) Not too bright, not too dark

When considering the brightness of a fixture, remember that lighting plays a key role in setting the ambiance of a space, so you don’t want it to be too bright—but you also need to be able to see what you’re eating! The total wattage of all the bulbs in a fixture (a single fixture often requires multiple bulbs) should be between 200 and 400 watts. Putting the light fixture on a dimmer switch and purchasing dimmable bulbs is a great way to accommodate different levels of lighting throughout the day in your space. 

6 Essential Tips For Selecting the Perfect Dining Room Lighting - Photo 6 of 7 - Multiple windows in a space may mean that plenty of daylight enters a room, but at night, it's still important to have lights that provide enough illumination. Adding a dimmer is a great solution to this type of space.

Multiple windows in a space may mean that plenty of daylight enters a room, but at night, it's still important to have lights that provide enough illumination. Adding a dimmer is a great solution to this type of space.


6) Consider additional lighting

Finally, don’t forget that a central fixture over the table might not be the only light you need. Recessed lights can add extra brightness, especially in dark corners. Consider purchasing some wall sconces to light up artwork or a beautiful credenza.

6 Essential Tips For Selecting the Perfect Dining Room Lighting - Photo 7 of 7 - Glass-covered wall sconces illuminate either side of an art piece and act as a visual connector to the glass dining table and textured glass pendant over the table.

Glass-covered wall sconces illuminate either side of an art piece and act as a visual connector to the glass dining table and textured glass pendant over the table.

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