#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.
I am shocked to learn that this monstrosity has Ralph Lauren’s name on it and even more shocked to learn that it sells for $10,500! This is definitely cheap Asian crap!
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″.
Plus, it went in a dining room with a super high ceiling when William McLure did it for the Southern Style Now Showhouse. As you can see, the size is perfect.
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 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.
The Visual Comfort Gramercy Medium and Gramercy Large Chandeliers. In the photo, the medium seems rather petite and the one on the right fairly normal. Normal being between 27″-31″ in diameter.
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.
In this dining area, designer Summer Thornton got it right with the medium Gramercy Chandelier.
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
In this chic Brooklyn Home featured in Lonny – Designers, David Nastasi and Kate Vail created a breathtakingly beautiful dining room with the large Gramercy chandelier.
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.
Visual Comfort Mykonos Lantern
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.
Another Summer Thornton beauty. I didn’t realize this was her room, until I just went to fetch it from this post about how to avoid getting baby blue walls.
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.
The Morris pendant also by Visual Comfort and designed by Suzanne Kasler has been getting a lot of press recently. I think it’s because it’s both classic and somewhat modern at the same time.
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.
this post may contain affiliate links
That’s one great, great round up, Laurel. Really amazing, taking everything into account.
What I had to figure out myself bit by bit as we had to fit all the new place with lighting by final inspection…it’s covered here.
Truly impressive. Slightly envious of myself when I get to read your posts. Lol.
I do have one light that’s clearly too small (not the dining though,the guest room). Looks a bit funny. But I can’t bring myself to switch it for something else(even though I have something else.) It’s rose glass. Rose! On a dimmer. In the evening looks like a sunset. I just can’t. I’d rather guests feel beautiful..:) I’ll handle the rest.
Thanks so much!
I always say better too small than too big. Too big just shouts out LOOK AT ME!!!
“You got crystals on my antlers!”
“You got antlers on my crystals!!”
OK, cheesy TV commercial reference. But seriously?? That was indeed a scary fixture!
I did the Visual Comfort Branch Chandelier (the tall, rather than wide, one) recently for a client. She spied it on the Circa website, and wanted it because she’d never seen it used. Had to have it.
Welllll…it kinda looks like big ol’ gilded iron antlers. I love a good Arte de Mexico antler piece as much as the next girl, used effectively. But one day just after all the lightning went into her guest house, a friend walked in and said, “OH–Antlers, I love it!” Sigh….
Thanks for another great post, although I think you may have sent some readers running to call a designer (Good!)…Lighting size and placement are, IMO, part rule, part “I just know”, part frickin’ alchemy, and I’d be embarrassed to admit how many times I have eyeballed it and/or just been lucky.
Eye-balling it works! Because you’re going… okay, it’s 36″… and because of experience, you know what that’s going to look like give an inch or two.
It’s the folks who look at a photo and go, that looks nice…without actually looking at the size and then order it and when it arrives realize that it’s twice the size they thought it was!
Laurel I appreciate this blog but I have a question? I have an Osborne and Little paper on my DR walls. It is from the Pardiso collection, the pattern is CONVIVIO NO. NCW4034-04. It is a pale blue background with a taupy damask on it. I am wracking my brains trying to decide what color for the trim? I also have a chair rail below with trim. Right now it is Danville tan from BM but looks to goldy nasty mustardy. I have tried everything to fix it and it is like an itch that i cannot scratch.They cannot match the taupy color because it is not always solid for the computer to pick up. I am looking at the Brooklyn DR and love the colors but is the trim white or blue etc.? I am soooo frustrated.
I so wish I could answer your questions, but it’s impossible. Thank you for your understanding.
Who knew that chandeliers could be so dangerous?! Haha
I’ve been searching to no avail to find the perfect fixture to hang over the table in our eat in kitchen….with low ceilings. We’ve installed chrome with white glass fixtures in the rest of the kitchen. My husband is installing the final fixture in a hallway now as I type (I told him to yell if he needs my assistance. He did remember to turn off the circuit breaker).
The existing brassy “boob light” fixture over the kitchen table is starting to look out of place!
Good luck with that and glad that your husband turned off the juice!
Laurel, You’re just awesome! I have a beautiful old house and it has all brown wood trim. What wall colors look good with brown trim? You show houses that have mostly white trim but I’d love to see some examples of paint colors that go with brown trim. THANK YOU!
You’re in luck. I’ve already written a post about this subject because it’s a common one that a lot of people share.
That last photo of yours is perfection! Love the wide trim, and those sconces are always some of my favourites:)
The “wedding cake” is a great find too! And the ceiling colour…
Okay I’ll stop. But absolutely wonderful post, as always!
Thanks for the kind words Shelby! Greatly appreciated!
Hi Laurel, I was happy to read you will be posting about choosing lighting for an open floor plan. I am in the process of choosing kitchen island, eating area, butler’s pantry and dining room. I thought I had found something I liked by Hudson Valley but it looked cheap (though at $1000, not cheap!) and was made in China. When I looked at Circa Lighting I read it was made in the Philippines. True? Is that where VC is also made? I’m thinking about Urban Electric because it’s made in US. Maybe you could include a list of your favorite US manufactured lighting in your post? Thanks! Love your Blog!
Thanks so much!
I don’t know where VC is made. Most home furnishings are not made in the US. Some yes, but most no.
Great post Laurel.
I pretty much always go with 30″36″ above a table. I like to see the chandy and the table as one scene, rather than have it so high it’s like a ceiling light.
Obviously, a wider table or larger round one, can take a larger scaled chandy. And in double – height foyers, I like to see dramatic lights that will show through the window.
Love the Mykonos Lanterns! I can also see why the Morris pendant is getting noticed. I like it without glass.
I think that all of the Morris Pendants have glass, but it’s so clear it looks like there isn’t anything there! Or, they photoshopped the reflections out. lol
You’re hilarious Laurel! Love your blog!
I was so happy to see this post as I am on the hunt for THE perfect fixture for my small dark foyer but one of the factors tripping me up is sizing. The others being light direction and wattage. I’m a mess! Lol Although, there are some very lovely flush mount fixtures, I would prefer a semi flush. So, this brings up a question I have about measuring for a lighting fixture. Would I measure the ceiling or the floor to get the length and width to plug into the formula? Part of the ceiling extends about 27″ over my stairs (3 steps). In other words the floor measures 5.91′ X 10′ and the ceiling measures 5.91 X 12.2′ with 8′ ceilings. One of the pendants I had my eye on is the Visual Comfort Soleil. Both the small and med versions use one 60W bulb. Thanks and stay warm Laurel!
The formula is primarily for dining rooms. It depends on if your entry is one story or two stories. Sounds like one-story. I also prefer semi-flushmounts. I did a post a long time ago about it.
One option I recommend is to discuss your situation with the place you’re purchasing it from. I do that frequently and find a lot of great help that way.
Yes, it’s a one story entry. I had read that funny and informative flush mount post a couple of months ago. Thank you! I have also spoken to the lighting store people about my situation but have not yet decided on a fixture. I gave specifics about my entry but my question, I think, was more general regarding floor measurement vs. ceiling measurement in a space that is not really a room per se.
Great and very helpful post! Always funny too! Was reading through the comments and love Louann’s plan to hang 3 41″ orbs in her 20′ ceilinged kitchen and you guessed correctly that she was going to use the ones from RH that you linked. I am surprised that you did not offer an alternative in light of your linked post regarding RH’s incredible markup of Chinese imports. Any advice on finding reputable “knock-offs” of RH products at a more affordable/fair price? Or is that where using a decorator comes in? (womp womp) Also, do you think the orb thing is just a trend or will it have any life? Thanks for sharing your knowledge and your fine taste.
Well, I don’t think that there’s anyone making an orb that size. I do not know off-hand of any alternatives and wouldn’t make that in any case because I can’t give specific advice in the comments.
Actually, it’s the other way around. RH knocks off other companies. In fact they were knocking off Visual Comfort that I frequently feature here because I love the line. But then what happened is that VC worked out a deal with RH and if you go on RH or VC (look at Circa Lighting) you will see some of the same fixtures.
Don’t get me started…
Great article Laurel! I love your blog! Now we need an article on choosing lighting for over an island and how to coordinate dining lighting with island lighting for an open floor plan! I can’t wait to read that one as my daughter is building a new town home with an open floor plan and she is now choosing lighting! Thanks for all of your blog posts, I look forward to them ! Michelle
Hang on because that is next! And over the years have had to deal with that one numerous times. It is very common in these parts to have a kitchen, eating area family room as one room and then sometimes the dining room in clear vision. And sometimes the front entry.
It’s a challenge for sure. I’ll address all of this in Sunday’s post.
Yay! Just in time! Can’t wait to read your thoughts on open plan lighting!
I’ve spent the past week making my way through your blog archives and I’ve learned so much! And laughed a lot, too. This post is especially timely, since I’m looking at replacing the gross builder grade light fixtures in my new house with prettier things.
Thanks for sharing so much professional advice with us. A designer just isn’t a realistic option for my current budget, alas, but if I have to decorate my own house I at least want to be as informed an amateur as I can be! 🙂
Thanks for the kind words. Much appreciated and good luck with your decorating!
Great post, but where oh where are the books! The shortcut takes me to your disclosure page and when I look at the books page from your menu I see subject headings but no books!!!
I’m so sorry I don’t know what happened. I had tested the links at the bottom, but they are fixed now. The menu bar at the top works fine for me. I am on a laptop. I have not added it to mobile. I forgot that it’s a separate thing. I’ll do that later on. But the link in the post is good now. Thanks for letting me know.
Thanks Laurel, the link takes me (on a laptop) to the books page, but the subject heading links are not operable. More tweaking???
Not sure what you mean. There’s a sentence in front of a series of eight books which I did to break them up and also put more or less similar books together. Those aren’t links, if that’s what you’re referring to as subject headings.
All is working fine on my end. You should see the books under the headings. It might take a couple of seconds for them to pop up.
Well, I tinkered a bit and although Firefox does not let me see the books (even waiting a while) but Googgle Chrome does. Hoorah! Many thanks for looking into this and for all you do. I enjoy your site immensely!!!
That is bizarre because I only use firefox on my laptop, so if I works for me. arrrggghhh… computers! But great thinking to check on a different browser. Maybe there’s a firewall on your firefox as it takes you to Amazon? But not important. Glad you got it to work and sorry for the difficulty.
Thanks, Laurel! You’re the best!
Now you have me wondering if the large Vendome chandelier I ordered for my dining room is the wrong choice.
The room is 17 x 17 but the ceiling height is only 8′. I don’t think I have enough height.
What would be a good choice for this room? The house is contemporary but I prefer more traditional light fixtures. The room does not have a lot of natural light. I love the graceful lines of the Gramercy chandelier but again too large and maybe too traditional for this home. Another great informative post…Thanks Laurel!!
Yes, you need a minimum of 104″ with the Vendome. You could get away with 102″ but your ceiling is 98″ and it’s going to look too big all the way around. I went through the same thing with that fixture several years ago. It’s lovely, I just wish it were about 10% smaller.
I’m sorry but I can’t advise you on what would be good because I’m not there to see what else is going on.
Laurel, you are a marvel. The NYTimes should hire you to write headlines to gin up business. Having hosted a party once where am ambulance had to be called (This guest had been drinking straight bourbon for 4 days of partying, and, alas, The Chatham Artillery Punch on our breakfast room table laid her low), naturally I had to read the post, even at this late hour. And then, there were all those proportions! Were my dining and breakfast rooms out of kilter, I wondered. I really hate math, Laurel, but I did all the measurements and whoopee, for once, I’m correct. I did not have a designer when my house was built, but I had a terrific architect who, I guess, saw to this as to so many other things. I love formulas like that! So that’s what you learn in design school!
Actually, no. I learned NONE of this in design school. Three years as a full-time student. 72 interior design credits. What were we learning instead? Drafting and all of the technical aspects associated with it, perspective drawing, color, historical styles, space planning, detailed drafting, rendering, materials and methods I – an arts and crafts course and II a teach- more technical. Model making.
But nothing about scale and proportion in design.
And I didn’t learn it with my first job which lasted nearly 4 years either. I learned these things by reading and examining what worked and didn’t work as well.
Fantastic wall colour in your Apartment Kitchen, Laurel.
And the art is Cezanne, not Matisse 🙂
Oops! you are so right. What’s funny, is that I have art in my kitchen that my son did in elementary school in the manner of Matisse. So, that’s probably what was on my mind. But golly gee… It’s been up there wrong for nearly 2.5 years!
Laurel, You crack me up! I love your blog!
This came at a perfect time since I am searching for the perfect chandelier for our living room (one that we actually live in.) I wasn’t sure how to figure out what size to replace the ever popular ceiling fan that was here when we bought the house. Thanks for the great tips!
Glad the post is helpful for you!
These are all too grand for my eat in kitchen dining area. I don’t have a dining room in my current home. I am having a hard time figuring out what I need to do there…would it ever be OK to use a flush or semi flush fixture over the table in an 8 foot high room?
Ahh… yes.. these are all for a more formal dining room. (except for the one that is in a kitchen) I need to break this up because each area has its own issues and I didn’t even cover all of the dining room because I always think that there needs to be other lighting than besides a chandelier.
Kitchens with a separate eating area can be challenging because of the other lighting. So without knowing what that is… can’t say for sure, but I’ve never done a flush or semi-flush over a table.
I have a 20′ kitchen ceiling in an 18 x 19 kitchen and everyone’s first question is how are you going to light that?!
My plan is hanging 3 orb chandeliers at 41″ diameter each.
Then wall sconces over the counters. I have no upper cabinets. Can’t wait to see how it turns out!
I would have to stand in the space. Those are some big orbs, but they are mostly air and you do have an insanely high ceiling. Sounds cool!
Yes that’s them! And we have a balcony on the second floor looking over the kitchen. The island is not centered in the space, so I figured easier to split the room in 3’s for the lighting.
Sounds very dramatic!
You are talking about light fixtures. Doesn’t the actual light that is generated have anything to do with this?
No, it doesn’t. This post is purely about proportion and scale. Like I said, it’s a large topic. I have discussed light generated on other posts and may again in regards to dining rooms.
Funny premise. Love ALL the guidance and tips. Really appreciate the measurement suggestions. The chandeliers you highlighted are stunning.
Thanks so much Libby! I’ve clunked myself in the head on a few of them, but usually it’s when there’s no table underneath!