Dining Area via Skona Hem

I love to cook, eat, and especially share a meal with friends and family.

Sitting down at a dining table after a long day (working or playing) is just such a pleasure.

Today I sat down and wanted to write about all the practical aspects of dining room lighting. Measurements and numbers etc. All good stuff. But when I went to look for photos I REALLY got sidetracked.
After hours of pouring over wonderful images of various dining areas I realized that there were SO many places I would feel at home and would really enjoy lingering.

A mix of Warehouse Shade Pendants in a cozy Kitchen

I personally lean towards  contemporary design, but enjoy all kinds of spaces.
A traditional dining room with perfect place settings can be such a treat – with the right company and good food!
And that’s just it!  It’s all about personal style, expressing ourselves and embracing different styles when we come across them. Good food, friends and good company.

I’ll therefore share a bunch of fabulous photos of dining areas in between all the dry facts.

Dining room with Ingo Maurer Zettel'z Pendants

In our showroom we so often get  questions like how large a chandelier to choose for the dining area or how high to hang it over the table. (Answers: Diameter 12″ less than the width of table.  The bottom of chandelier should be 30″ above table.)

In most cases the chandelier is hung way too high, probably with the thought in mind that it could then help illuminate the entire room. Wrong!

Beautiful sunny dining room via CGS Design Build

The bottom of chandelier should be approximately 30″ above the table.

With a chandelier hung too high  and no additional lighting the overall ambiance of the dining room  is more of a diner or fast food restaurant, less conducive to lingering.

Do keep in mind that all these rules of thumb I am presenting are really just that –  ”Rules of Thumb”.  They are not set in stone. There are quite a few factors that determine the right fixture size and hanging height, like the space, the size of the table, the diameter and height of the fixture, as well as the height of the ceiling.

This said -

A dining room chandelier generally should measure 6 -12″ less in diameter than the width of table.
Makes sense: You don’t want to hit your head on it or feel crowded.

The diameter of the chandelier in inches should at least equal the room diameter in feet.
(Well, just thought you’d like to know…. )

For ceilings nine feet or higher consider a multi-tier style chandelier  to fill the space .


Flos Mod30 Chandelier, striking and elegant

Thinking back to meals I have thoroughly enjoyed over the last months, there were cozy gatherings at friends’, a few nice restaurants , several business lunches and dinners. I ALWAYS look at lighting, when I am in a room (No, It’s not a crick in my neck!)  because it amazes me, how lighting affects the mood and general well-being. Without an exception, the places with the best lighting had the best food!


Unique Dining Room Lighting

I don’t think that you necessarily have to have a chandelier over your dining table. I personally don’t, as a matter of fact. Colorful pendants, multi-light pendants or flickering candles are just a few examples of how you can add sparkle and intimacy to your dining table.

The main thing is to make the dining table itself  get it’s own “pool of light”, so it becomes a focal point, the stage for a great meal where everyone wants to hang out for a long time.

Dimmers are almost a must in your dining room! You need different levels of light for a romantic dinner than for clean-up or homework at the dining table.


Dining Area with Tiffany Style Shade via Heather Weiss

Good Company, Good Food – and Good Lighting: Create a dining area that fits your lifestyle

The dining room of today is rarely used just for entertaining and formal dining.
Most often the dining table doubles as a work zone for homework or projects, meetings and crafts, and last, but not least as a gathering place for family and friends.
It is a place where everyone can unwind over a good meal and enjoy each other’s company.
Instead of trying to illuminate an entire dining room with a single light source, like a chandelier or a pendant light, the best balance of illumination is achieved by using a variety of light sources.

Scandinavian Kitchen via Boligmagasinet

A single chandelier that is capable of illuminating an entire room will most likely be too bright for comfort.
Layers of light will create the ideal illumination that is pleasing without creating glare.

I see so many rooms where a single fixture is asked to do it all, and most frequently it is the dining room .
A single large chandelier with hundreds of watt and no light surrounding it creates a single harsh pool of light with sharp contrasts between the dark and light areas.
It’s such an easy fix: Just add a few buffet lamps, a lighted china cabinet, a few illuminated pictures on the wall – voila!

Kitchen for entertaining via css architecture

Halogen and LED light sources are ideal for highlighting crystal, since they really bring out the sparkle. Add a few of them inside the cabinet with your treasured pieces and see the difference!
Look for the color temperature of the bulbs you use for your display. In order to get a warm effect  you need to look for bulbs (lamps) close to 3000K (Kelvin.)
Most quality halogen and fluorescent lamps give you the color temperature as well as the  CRI (Color Rendering Index.) If there is a choice, look for a CRI as close to 100 as you can get.

Surprising size, unusual material - a great pendant light

Organic Branch Chandelier via Apartmenttherapy

With open floor plans many formal dining rooms have been replaced by dining areas that are the central hub of the home, close to the kitchen and other living areas.
The right lighting will set the perfect mood for your dining experience and also provide ample task lighting.
There are, as you see,  a few simple tricks that can make a huge difference for the lighting in your dining area:

1. hanging the chandelier or pendant light at the correct height over the table
2. Using a dimmer.
3. Using several light sources to light the room.

monorail lighting offers flexibility for your lighting plan

Have you ever noticed, how good restaurants slowly lower the light level over a certain timeframe during the evening from the brighter light used for early diners, who are on their way to a movie,  to the more lingering, un-hurried crowd later at night ? That is no coincidence, but clearly reflects how people behave at different light levels.

Using dimmers allow you to use the bright task level light you need for setting the table or for clean-up, while creating atmosphere by bringing the light level down when your guests arrive.

For the right romantic mood blend candlelight with a variety of electric light sources throughout the room.
Dim each group of fixtures separately to create a variety of moods for your dining room.

A lantern used as a light for a rustic dining table

One trick that works wonders is, as I mentioned above, adding light to the room by illuminating interesting focal points, like a china cabinet.

Crystal chandeliers were once considered formal and reserved for traditional dining rooms. Warehouse shades were used in factories.

As you see from this collection of photos of  dining areas, things have changed dramatically. Everything goes!
Take a look at the exuberant pieces by Michael McHale, a wonderful mix of industrial plumbing pipe and crystals!

Decorating and lighting your home is all about what YOU like, expressing your own personal taste. These days it is all about creative imagination, contrasts and combination that surprise and add life and vibrance.

Pair a crystal chandelier with a contemporary table, a rustic farmhouse table with a sleek chrome pendant – and somehow it just works!

fabric pendants make a graceful display over this table

Michael McHale Small Crystal Chandelier

I often see track lighting with spots used as the only illumination for a dining table when I am visiting clients to find out what is wrong about their lighting. No matter how they aim the light, someone in evidently gets blinded.
Track lighting offers a wonderfully flexible  way of illuminating artwork, a bookcase, something. Just not so pleasant if you are put in the spotlight while having dinner!

Track spots or recessed lights do have one great use above a dining table: Try angling a few halogen or LED spots toward a crystal or glass chandelier to add sparkle.

Charming Dining Table with Glam Ceiling Light


The American Lighting Association offers the following tips for lighting a delightful dining room.

Top Tips for Lighting Dining Rooms

FIRST STEP: A chandelier in the middle of the room defines the space. Choose that fixture first, then work out with accent lights.

HANGING AROUND: Choose a chandelier with a diameter 12″ less than width of table. The bottom of chandelier should be 30″ above table.

TALL ORDERS: For ceilings nine feet or higher, consider a two-tier style chandelier to fill the space from the fixture’s top to the ceiling.

Dinining Room via Skona Hem

Dinining Room via Skona Hem

DIMMER SHIMMER: Always use a dimmer on dining room lights. “Light becomes warmer as it is dimmed,” says Dan Blitzer, American Lighting Association Continuing Educator.

HOME WORK: For those who use the dining room as a study area, consider bringing in a portable study lamp to brighten up the workspace. “Overhead lighting may work well for general studies, but in depth or close work demands more light,” says Blitzer.

Traditional Country Dining Area via Skona Hem

GET SMART: So-called “smart” dimmers, driven by microprocessors offer convenience. “When you have several layers of light, smart dimmers can be set to various ambiences. Press one button for dining, another for lighting up homework, another for party-time.

THE LAYERED LOOK: Use multiple layers of light in the dining room. Chandeliers provide the central focus. Accent lights on either side of the chandelier and at the room’s perimeter brighten things up. Accessory lights on and/or over other furniture pieces fill in the background.

TABLE THIS: Table lamps add a soft, humanizing touch to a dining room. Display them on a buffet.

Dining Area with Fleamarket Finds

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One Response to “Lighting Your Dining Area”

  • Marija Drevensek

    Thank you for such an informative article. I’ve learned a lot about lighting my diningroom and want to thank you for the clear and practicle information written here. Thanks