Dining Room Lighting Ideas: Tips to Get it Right

Picking out the right dining room light doesn't have to be complicated, but you do have a lot of options when it comes to pendant lighting, linear suspensions and chandeliers. Here are a few of our top dining room lighting tips for choosing the right light for your space.

Shape Up

Pick a light fixture that relates to the dining room table, not the room itself—in terms of size, shape and style. Round fixtures like chandeliers are an easy win with round tables, whereas you can’t fail with a linear fixtures over a rectangular or extension table. A more flexible option is multiple pendants arranged to complement the shape of the table, either grouped together for circular tables or in a row for rectangular tables.

Do the Math

The dining room light should be at least 12 inches smaller than the table in all directions. So, for a 4-foot wide table, look for a light that's no more than 2 feet wide.

For proportion, linear suspension lights should be anywhere from 1/3 to 2/3 of the length of the table. Linear pendants and chandeliers are the ideal choice for long, rectangular dining tables or extension tables.

Get Hung Up

All dining lights should hang about 30 inches above the surface of the table (no need for face-to-light contact with a tall uncle). You'll want keep in mind suspension length when choosing a fixture.

Set the Mood

If you like it then you shoulda put a dimmer on it. Install a dimmer switch with a dining room chandelier, and make sure the fixture itself is dimmable (note: installing a dimmer and a light fixture that is dimmable are two different, but important, things).

Layer the Light

A decorative chandelier in the dining room generally offers a low level of light output—they're really about setting the mood and drawing your eye to the center of a room. For a more functional style of lighting, use layers of light with recessed lights, wall sconces, etc. And if you need a bright amount of light in the dining room, look to an LED chandelier.

When adding layers of light, think vertically—layers from the ceiling to floor—and horizontally—layers from one side of the room to the other. With the right combination of ceiling and wall lights, you'll create the perfect layered room.

Get the Brightness Just Right

Space Out

When using a series of pendants as your primary dining table lighting, keep in mind the length of the table itself when determining where to hang them. Ensure that the entire table gets a consistent amount of light by spacing the lamps according to how long the table is and how many people you expect to be seating.

Drop the Bar

Suspension bars are a great way to hang pendants without wiring each light directly from the ceiling. Adjustable length cords ensure that the height of the pendants are all correctly scaled for the table without requiring multiple lighting sockets.

Multiply the Focus

Add visual drama to your dining room with a series of pendant lamps in compatible styles. Choose pendants with similar color tones or shapes, then layer them in at different heights to create a striking centerpiece.

Artful Illumination

You can get tons visual impact in a small dining space by thinking of your chandelier as a piece of art. Look for striking fixtures with geometric or unusual shapes that draw the eye. Keep in mind the lumen-output level as well, though, and how much light your dining room needs. LED fixtures in particular can put out lots of light even with tiny components and slim silhouettes.

Create an Atmosphere

For a darker, moodier tone in your dining room lighting, consider a dual-function light fixture. Look for one that provides soft, diffuse ambient light with enough glow that the room is functionally lit, but also enough direct down light so that the table is illuminated for eating.

Keep it in the Family

In a small space, a tight grouping of pendants from the same design family, but in slightly different shapes, gives an appealing visual impact while not taking up a lot of room. By hanging them close together they appear as one fixture, rather than a series of varying ones. Look for metal tones or other features that complement your existing decor, but don't overwhelm it.

Simple and Stylish

Modern minimalistic dining rooms match up well with similarly streamlined lighting fixtures. A simple globe pendant lamp provides a wide swath of glowing light without adding extra detail and fuss. Complement that circular shape with a similarly and curved chairs.

Subtle Design, High Impact

Pendant lighting with deconstructed, architectural designs are a great way to add personality and character without being too flashy or over the top. Subtle cutouts or unusual woodwork provide detail and complexity while softly filtering the light.

Light the Candles

For a modern take on a candelabra, consider a structured, geometric shape with incandescent bulbs. The lower wattage gives off a sof glow resembling candlelight, while the modern filaments still provide plenty of light for eating.

Open the Barn Door

Lighting fixtures with nautical, barn-like or modern industrial design aesthetic are complementary to a LED chandelier. Choose lights with a rustic feeling that give a feeling of being repurposed, while maintaining the clean lines of a modern design.

Search for the Skinny

One thing to consider when selecting a suspension lamp is the type of cords they hang from. For an ultra modern fixture, look for ones with slender suspension cords. The slim size makes the cords seem to disappear, making the fixture appear to be floating in midair.

Bring the Nature In

Give a modern dining room a bit of softness and glam with a chandelier that plays with organic elements and elegance. In a room with strong, clean angles, a pendant lamp that pulls from natural elements like branches or flowers gives a stylistically contradictory, yet complementary impact to the design.

Mix and Match

Add visual interest by contrasting the shapes of the central light fixture against those of the room. A circular lamp with round shades is juxtaposed against more angular furniture. Keep similar tones in the materials to make it feel cohesive and curated.

Change in Place

To make sure your lighting fixture is at the correct height over the table, look for a linear suspension lamp, pendant or chandelier with field-adjustable cords and cables. This allows you to make modifications to the hanging height of the light at the time of installation, making sure you get the perfect fit.

Make it Massive

In a large room, look for a oversized statement chandelier to balance out the design. The greater size will not only draw the eye and make a great visual impact, but it can also tie the furniture and other components together and bring the room into scale.

Light the Walls

Not every dining room needs, or can even accomodate, overhead lighting. In that case, consider using wall sconces to provide ambient room light. LED lights in particular can provide a lot of illumination without a large footprint. Use multiple lights of the same style spaced around the room to keep the room bright and well lit.

The beauty of modern dining room lighting is how versatile it can be. From contemporary to farmhouse styles and LED linear suspension to glizty crystal chandeliers, the only real limit for a delicious dining room lighting scheme is your imagination.