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How to Choose a Chandelier in the Proper Size

How to Choose a Chandelier in the Proper Size

Selecting a chandelier in the proper size for your dining room can be a challenge. Light fixtures can create a statement like no other in a space, but a light fixture that is too large or too small for a space creates the wrong kind of statement. Following a few simple steps will ensure your next chandelier will be just right in your room.

First, measure your room. In a dining room, the most important measurement in terms of lighting is the ceiling height. The diameter of your fixture will be determined in the next step. Once you have your ceiling height, in inches, follow this formula to determine the maximum height of your fixture and chain or rod.

Ceiling height (in inches) – height of dining table (30″ usually) – 30-36″ (best spacing from bottom of chandelier to top of table) = height of fixture and chain.

So, for a 9′ ceiling (108″), the formula would look like this: 108″ – 30″ – 30″ = 48″ Maximum fixture height.

Dining Room Light Fixture

This chandelier is "light" in visual weight, and fits the proportions of the room.

Now that we know the height of the fixture, we need to figure the best diameter for the chandelier. This step requires that you have your dining table in place, or at least have a table selected. Measure the table’s narrowest dimension. Your light fixture’s diameter needs to be (at most) 12″ smaller than your table’s smallest dimension. So, the formula looks like this: for a 44″ table width, the light fixture should be no more than 32″ in diameter (44″ – 12″ = 32″). Now, this is a maximum dimension; your chandelier could certainly be smaller than this size and still look proportionate to the room and table.

Now that you have the chandelier’s maximum sizes in mind (in our example, 48″ high x 32″ diameter) it is time to consider the type of fixture you will be shopping for. The visual “weight” of the fixture has a bearing on the size you ultimately select. For example, a heavy, traditional fixture like the one in the photo above takes up a lot of visual space in your room. If you want this type of fixture, you may wish to scale down the size slightly so it doesn’t overtake the room. On the other hand, if the fixture style you prefer is closer to the fixture shown here, which is much more delicate in scale, you may wish to bump up the size slightly to make it feel more prominent in your dining space.

This visually "heavy" dining room fixture balances the heavy table and Victorian style of the space.

The last item to decide on is the placement of your fixture. Many builders simply place the dining chandelier in the middle of the room. This may work for you, but it won’t always be the best choice. If you plan to have a large buffet on one end of the room, for example, you may need to move your chandelier farther into the room so it will be centered over your table. Take the location into consideration when you make your final chandelier selection, as it may affect the size you choose.


Tips for Success:
  • Design “rules” are made to be broken. Take many measurements in your space, look at the fixture style you prefer, and make a judgment. These “rules” are not hard and fast, and selecting a chandelier size is certainly not a science; but, these guidelines will give you a place to start.
  • Remember that a chandelier must have a chain or rod to hang it from the ceiling. Make sure your fixture’s chain or rod size is compatible with your height requirements, and order extra pieces if necessary.
  • Keep the bottom of the chandelier off the top of the dining table at least 30″. If you plan to have a large centerpiece on your table regularly, you may wish to install the chandelier a little higher to accommodate that.
  • In a dining room, consider the light source when selecting your fixture. A chandelier with shades that direct the light down onto the table will give you a harsher, brighter light. A chandelier with indirect, upward-facing glass or shades will offer a softer dining light.
  • The most important thing is to select fixture with a diameter and distance from the top of the table which will ensure your dinner guests won’t hit their heads on it when getting settled around the table!
  • Make sure you mount the chandelier correctly. A heavy fixture needs to be hung from ceiling joists or heavy bracing to ensure it won’t fall!
  • Turn off all electricity to the space before working with any electrical wiring or installing your fixture.
  • If you plan to install a chandelier over a bathtub or other water source, be sure to consult your local building codes to find out what the safety requirements are in your area.
  • When choosing a chandelier for a room other than a dining room, the size requirements may vary.  Be sure to avoid placing a chandelier where it may be hit by a door, or where someone may hit their head on it when walking through the space.  Consider the size of the room, the scale of any furniture beneath the fixture, the ceiling height and how much light you need in your space before making a final choice.
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One Response to How to Choose a Chandelier in the Proper Size

  1. […] exposed and directly in your eyes when you look upward toward the fixture.  Pendant lights and chandeliers that direct light directly onto the surface of a table or countertop are great examples of direct […]

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