#Embarrassing. It was a dinner party and sure, Ted had a little too much too drink, but the dining room lighting– actually a chandelier, in this case was far too big for the size of the table and the room. Ted lost his balance and oops…
But it shouldn’t.
Today we are going to discuss what went wrong, how that might have happened. Not Ted’s run-in with a way scary looking horns draped with crystal weirdness.
But how to ensure that our dining room lighting is the right size!
Here are the things to consider when selecting dining room lighting
- What style is your home? Is it traditional, contemporary, open plan?
- What style are your furnishings?
- What size is the room?
- How high is the ceiling?
- What size is the table?
I realize that it’s a lot which is why people hire decorators. :]
Well, we might as well jump in here with pitfall number one.
The online catalogs or even printed catalogs.
To put it simply, they frequently lie. (or at least mislead)
This is the Paris Flea Market Chandelier by Visual Comfort and sold at many sources.
From the images they look like big, medium and smaller, right?
Well, no… Not right.
The diameter of the one on the left is – 39.5″, center – 16.25″ and right – 24″
This happens ALL the time and many consumers don’t pay close enough attention, nor do they understand how to figure out what size to get.
And the guides on the internet are also misleading.
A common formula for figuring out a dining room chandelier
is to add up the width and length of the room and convert to inches for the diameter. So, a room that’s 12 feet x 16 feet would yield a 28″ diameter chandelier.
And that might be a fine size for the room, but then there’s the table to consider. My rule is that the chandelier should in most cases be smaller than the table by about a foot. So a 42″ table = no larger than a 30″ chandelier.
But then, there’s scale
How heavy visually is the chandelier and what part is sticking out to create that diameter?
For instance, one of my favorite chandeliers designed by John Rosselli for Visual Comfort has a diameter of 35″, but the only part sticking out are the candle holders, so the actual diameter of the ring is about 30″.
This is an incredibly charming dining room by Kim Bachman who is a dress designer, not interior designer. I adore this room, but technically, the chandelier is a little small and a little too high, too.
How high should a chandelier be from the table?
Usually, about 30″ above the table, but if there’s a piece that’s hanging way low like in this dining room (painted Farrow and Ball Chappell Green) below like in the pretty dining room above, it can be a little less than 30″.
We must also consider the ceiling height and height of the fixture.
The height of the fixture is always measured to the top of the part right before the chain begins. Usually, I think that there should be a minimum of one foot of chain. So, if there isn’t enough room for that, I would look for a shorter fixture.
If the ceiling is higher than 8 feet, then it’s okay to add about three or four inches of height up from the table for every foot of height. So, if you have a ten foot ceiling, the chandelier might look best at about 36-38″ above the table.
I always eyeball it with the electrician.
But getting back to correct size for a dining room chandelier
I feel that it’s better to ere on the side of smaller rather than larger. However, some situations are safe to go larger and that is always going to be in a larger than normal dining room, say, 16′ x 24′ and/or a medium sized dining room with at least a ten foot ceiling.
Well, wrong again. The one on the left is actually 32.5″ in diameter which is already pushing normal in my book. And the one on the right is 41.5″ which is not large, it’s GARGANTUAN for most dining rooms! That’s the chandelier that put the dude in the hospital!
This piece is visually light, so that means that it’s okay to extend out a little as long as the ceiling height can support that size.
A couple of years ago, I had a long-distance consultation client who did this piece in a small dining area, but it is an old row home and the ceiling quite high and she was very happy with how it turned out.
Photo – Genevieve Garruppo
I reckon that this room is at least eleven feet tall and that allows the chandelier to hang some 48″ above the table if my estimate is correct. And that means that it’s about 78″ off the floor which is well out of reach of most folks who are not in the NBA. But those dudes are used to ducking. ;]
The table looks to be nearly as wide as the chandelier, but all is good because of the great ceiling height.
So, what’s the rule?
There are no rules. haha.
But for most dining rooms with an 8 or 9 foot ceiling, a chandelier with a diameter from 24″ to 29″ is pretty safe.
A few years ago, we did the Paris Flea Market Chandelier, the medium one which is 24″ in this dining room in Larchmont which measures 14′ x 20′– a good-sized room, but the ceiling is only eight feet. This fixture while having a lot of crystal, does have a fair amount of visual weight and the 24″ size was perfect.
Sometimes, all that’s needed is a very small fixture. Another John Rosselli piece, this sweet pendant looks fabulous in this apartment kitchen we furnished.
If one is doing a rectangular table in a dining room, then sometimes it’s wonderful to do either two lanterns or two bell jars. I love the Mykonos lantern. It is pretty large, however.
These lanterns are about 17″ in diameter, so they would need at least a nine foot ceiling if going over a dining table. How do I know that? Experience, I guess.
Above is the small version which for most rooms I recommend.
Here, I’ll show you.
Robert Passal did this wonderful design. (BTW, I’ve met him and he’s super nice too!) with the Visual Comfort Morris lantern in the small-size and opaque glass. This is about a ten foot ceiling. So, if doing two, I think that it would be fine to do this size. Sometimes I’ve seen the larger ones and they look a little like a big medicine ball hanging from the ceiling.
The scale thing isn’t easy, but sometimes if you do a google search for a fixture that you’re considering, you’ll find some images where it’s been done. Oh, and Circa Lighting finally has started a blog and has a lot of the images there as well.
Geeezzz, even with this one room, I didn’t get to many of the things I wanted to, like other fixtures and other lighting, but this is already pretty long.
Oh wait. I did want to add one more thing.
Not the clearest shot, but my client in Bronxville, if you remember this mood board from a while back found this amazing Belle Époque Upside-down Wedding Cake chandelier. From this angle it looks a little imposing, but in the room, not at all.
PS: Did you guys notice that I put up a new page with some of my favorite decorating and design books? It’s in the menu bar, but here’s a shortcut.