Aesthetic Lighting Help

Chandeliers and Dining Rooms

Today, you see chandeliers everywhere from Powder Rooms to Laundry Rooms to Bedrooms. Despite that breadth, most people associate a chandelier with the Dining Room. Let’s look at getting that centerpiece right.

Chandelier History

Chandeliers were created in the medieval period. A single unit that allowed for the mounting of multiple candles dramatically increased the amount of light in a space. The addition of glass and crystal further multiplied the luminance. The “gasolier” and later the “electolier” insured that still greater and greater amounts of light were delivered. With our understanding of light layering and the use of multiple sources of illuminance, many of the new chandeliers are now more decorative, with less concern toward light levels. The chandelier has indeed traveled quite a journey.

Chandeliers in the Dining Room

Regardless of history where chandeliers illuminated halls, parlors and ballrooms, we now most commonly use a chandelier in a dining room. Because of their lineage, they add elegance and stature to the spot we entertain our most important guests. Their prominent position in the center of the room increases its importance. By nature of that location, it demands attention and improperly positioned units will be very apparent.

Chandelier Size

There is an old “rule” that still works today. Add the length and width of the room and this will provide you with an excellent starting point for size. For example, if the room is 12’-0” x 16’-0”, then 12+16=28. The minimum diameter for a chandelier should be 28”.

I have a tendency to prefer a chandelier a bit larger. Some experts suggest equaling the width of the dining table. Use the 28”as a starting point and experiment from there.

The ceiling height should also be considered. If you have 8’-0” ceiling heights, a shorter chandelier center height will be fine. Most new construction incorporates a minimum of 9’-0” ceiling height and often rises to 12’-0”. For those taller rooms, taller chandelier heights must be used, otherwise they will look dwarfed or ill fitting. Height can be ignored if an abstract or nonconventional style is under consideration.


The bottom of the chandelier should be 30” from the top of the dining room table. Lower should not be considered, but if a larger diameter is selected, it could be raised a few inches. Unless an unconventional shape is being considered, the chandelier should never be higher than 36” off the top of the table.

Lumen Quantity

There are two quick ways to estimate the amount of light needed in a room. The first is based on an old incandescent calculation. By multiplying the room dimensions and applying a factor, a good starting point can be determined. As an example, our room is 12’-0” x 16’-0”. To arrive at a quick lumen level, multiply the area by 22.5. 12 x 16=192, 192 x 22.5=4320. Lighting that delivers 4320 lumens should be your starting point.

As you might expect, you’ll need more light in the kitchen or sewing room than the dining room. A more detailed methodology will provide more exacting numbers for each functional space. This calculation is also based on square footage. The desired illuminance for a dining room is said to be between 10 and 20 footcandles of light, so 10 or 20 replaces the 22.5 used earlier.

12 x 16 =192, 192 x 10 =1920, the minimum lumen to consider. 192 x 20 = 3840 for the higher estimate. That means, the dining room will function best if a chandelier is selected that delivers between 1920 and 3840 lumens.

Remember, lighting is cumulative! If the dining room contains sconces, a tray ceiling and a floor lamp, all of them can add to a total of 3840 lumens. Also keep in mind that color impacts reflectance, so a dark room will reflect less light than a light room. Choose the higher factor for a room employing dark colors. Chandeliers are highly visible elements of dining room design. Employing them well adds to the aesthetic of the room. Haphazard positioning and poorly conceived installations are immediately noticed and difficult to ignore. A perfectly selected and placed chandelier is easy if you follow these simple rules.

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