Dining Room Lighting Tips from The Decorologist

Making lighting decisions is a big deal, whether you’re building a new home or just redecorating. I get lots of questions about lighting, and today I’m going to share important dining room lighting tips with you. There are many things to consider – lighting size, shape, height above table, finish, and style.

dining room lighting tips the decorologist

Dining is an intimate activity when shared with others, wouldn’t you say? While it’s fine if your current dining room has recessed lighting, you may feel as though you are eating in an office or high school cafeteria when there is only recessed canned lighting.  And that’s not at all romantic, now is it?

Every dining room’s focal point is the dining table, and that focal point should be punctuated with a light fixture that hangs down significantly from the ceiling. No flush mounts or semi-flush mounts should apply for this job!  Adding sconces or at least a pair of lamps to a nearby sideboard or credenza adds warmth and ambiance to a dining room, as well. Always consider how much wattage you’d like to have since you are typically using this room in the evenings. I highly recommend installing a dimmer.

round shell chandelier coastal dining room lighting tipsSerena and Lily

Dining Room Lighting Tips – Size

Over the last few years, larger dining room light fixtures have been trending. Dining room fixtures in particular should make a significant visual impact. Many people have difficulty deciding just how big they should go, usually fearing they will choose too big.

oak-valley-dining-room- blue-kristie-barnettThe Decorologist

Here are two of the best dining room lighting tips for size of fixture:

1. Add width and length of room (in feet). This is the ideal width (in inches) of lighting.

2. Multiply ceiling height (in feet) by 3. This is ideal height (in inches) of lighting.

If your dining room is 12 feet by 12 feet, the ideal width of your lighting would be 24 inches wide. If your ceiling is 8 feet tall, the ideal height of that light fixture would be 24 inches tall. Naturally, the larger the room, the larger the light fixture should be. But in a dining room in the size described, you’d narrow your lighting search to fixtures that are roughly 24″ x 24″ in size.

3. Ideally, your chandelier should be at least 6 inches narrower than your dining table’s width or diameter.

Dining Room Lighting Tips – Shape

With a typical rectangular shaped dining table, you are open to any shape light fixture you choose. A large central fixture can be round, square, or rectangular, or you could choose a pair or grouping of pendants.

serenaandlily dining tableSerena and Lily

If you are considering hanging a long rectangular or multiple pendants, these two dining room lighting tips are important:

1. The table (and lighting fixture/fixtures) should be oriented so the long side is viewed from the room’s main entry.

2. Don’t choose these types of fixtures if there is even a chance that you may change the orientation of your rectangular dining table or change to a round dining table in the future.

If your table is round or square, round light fixtures will look perfect.  I especially like a large square lantern over a round table.  An orb fixture has bands that create interesting patterns on the ceiling and sometimes walls. See what it looks like turned on before purchasing, if possible.

Dining Room Lighting Tips: Height

blue-ceiling-dining-room-kristie-barnettThe Decorologist

When it comes to dining rooms, most are concerned that they may hang it too low, but I believe most actually make the mistake of hanging it too high! While hanging it too low can cause a functional problem like impeding sight lines, hanging it too high can create a sterile, less intimate feeling in the room.

Hang it about 30″ (+/- 2) from the tabletop in a typical 8 foot ceiling dining room. Add an inch or two for every extra foot of ceiling height.

If you have a dining room ceiling that is 9 feet or taller, consider using a two-tier chandelier and make the sure the base hangs about 30″-32″ above the table.


Dining Room Lighting Tips: Finish

housebeautifuldiningSuzanne Rheinstein via House Beautiful

When deciding on the finish of your dining room lighting, consider any rooms that are either open or adjacent to your dining room. If you have a sideboard, hutch, or other furniture in the space, take into account what hardware finishes are there. You don’t have to match – in fact, mixing metals is now completely mainsteam. Gold or iron are great trending choices. If you want to choose a silver finish, polished nickel would be appropriate for a dining room. But I would suggest avoiding brushed nickel or chrome, which will cheapen the room.

Dining Room Lighting Tips: Style

Lighting is the jewelry of the room and is really important to finish off any space. Think of it as the statement accessory for your outfit.

markham house beautiful dining roomMarkham Roberts in House Beautiful

Chandeliers are great for traditional and transitional dining rooms. They can be more or less formal, depending on the finish and what material they are made of.  Branch and linear fixtures work well in eclectic and modern spaces, while wood and iron fixtures are at home with more casual, industrial, and farmhouse style. Woven rattan fixtures are popular right now and can freshen up your room if you want more texture and warmth – but keep in mind that they typically have only one bulb vs. multiple ones.

I hope these dining room lighting tips have been helpful. Leave a comment below if you have any questions about dining room light fixtures!


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  1. Nancy

    So much useful and practical information here. Thank you, Kristie!

  2. Laura P.

    Hi Kristy, Every room is so beautiful and illustrates your advice so well! Your room and the ones that follow give us great examples of how to coordinate the light fixtures with the feel of the room. I’m saving this post! That makes me think of another lighting question. In a home without open concept, do you vary the shape of your fixtures in the hallways adjoining the living and dining rooms? Or should those semi-flush mounts be totally different in shape? I keep looking at orb lights but it just occurred to me that if I purchase them for the hallways I’ll have orbs in every main area! I don’t know if that would have registered if I didn’t think about my dining room chandelier (loosely sputnik orb globes) after reading your post!

    • Kristie Barnett

      Thank you so much, Laura. Good question about open concept and how to unite your lighting fixtures. I did a post a few years ago that addressed that very thing! I hope this link is helpful: https://thedecorologist.com/overhead-lighting/

      I appreciate your feedback and comments! xoxo

      • Laura P.

        Hi Kristie, Thanks so much for the link! I left a comment on that post so I won’t repeat it here except to say you illustrated the lighting dilemma perfectly! I am going to gather all my wish list photos in one spot today now that you have given me the confidence to shop. I learn something from every post you write!

        • Kristie Barnett

          I’m so glad it was helpful, Laura! Thanks for letting me know 🙂

  3. Robin Moyer

    Fantastic information as always 🙌🏻

  4. Barbara

    Hi Kristi, I have been reading your blog for years, you have great insight and are very knowledgeable! This article is perfect timing for me since I am building a house now. I enclosed a picture of the direction of the kitchen island, my 90 inch dining table will be the same direction as the island and the trey ceiling will be turned that way also. I was planning on a linear chandelier, but after reading your article I am having second thoughts since with the 2ft extension to make it longer it will be tucked away from the living room.
    What would you suggest? Thanks so much!

  5. lynnabrennan

    Hi Kristie,
    This info came at a perfect time as I’m starting to redecorate my dining room!
    I have a 90″ length rectangular table and would like to put 2 chandeliers over my table. Does that change the size of the chandeliers at all or do I follow the same dimensions as you have listed above? And are there certain rules to follow as to how far in from each end of the table that the lights should hang? My dining room is 15′ x 13′ overall with 8′ wall height. Thanks so much!

    Lynn Brennan

    • Kristie Barnett

      Hi Lynn!
      For a pair, you might want to drop the size back a hair – but not like small pendant lights. I think your room could handle two 22″-24″ fixtures. For rectangular tables or islands, I typically divide the length in thirds. So for a 90″ table, hang lights at roughly 30″ and 60″. You do need at least 6 inches from either end of the table before you hit the edge of a light fixture. I hope that helps – let us know how your new lighting turns out!

      • lynnabrennan

        Thanks so much Kristie! I definitely will. 🙂

  6. usvintagewood

    Absolutely! The right light fixture in your dining room can make all the difference.


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