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How to Choose a Modern Chandelier

This guide will begin with some basic information on chandeliers and the different types, shapes, f…
Sky Bang LED Chandelier above a large dining table.
Sky Bang LED Chandelier by Stickbulb

When it comes to light fixtures, nothing creates a statement like a chandelier. It sets the tone of the room and can be a conversation piece among guests. But first, you’ll need to educate yourself about the different chandelier designs, styles and types, so that you know all the possibilities for adding a chandelier to your home.   

This guide will begin with some basic information on chandeliers and the different types, shapes, finishes and functions. Then it will go over three things to consider when putting a chandelier in your home: position, installation height and brightness level.  

What is a Chandelier? 

At its essence, a chandelier is a light fixture that hangs from the ceiling. While most commonly used in the dining room, chandeliers can be used to create a statement in any room such as the living room, bedroom and patio. Chandeliers feature multiple lamps, often in multiple tiers, and are used for ambient lighting.   

A similar style of light, the pendant light, may be confused with a chandelier. A pendant light generally includes just one shade or light source hanging from a single wire or suspension system, while a chandelier has multiple shades/light sources, often connected by a branched frame.  However, even with this distinction, the difference between pendant lights and chandeliers seems to blur when comparing larger-sized pendants. For most, a larger hanging light fixture is more broadly understood as a chandelier even if it technically might be a pendant light. 

Although the image of a traditional chandelier is often quite specific—a suspended light fixture with multiple arms and candelabras with beads and crystals hanging beneath—modern and contemporary chandelier design rethinks the traditional concept of chandeliers in new and innovative ways.  

Chandelier Design and Style 

One of the most exciting aspects of being in the market for a chandelier is the discovery of a style that you adore for your home. To match your home’s design, consider the following types of chandelier design and which one might fit your home the best. 

Modern Chandelier Design 

Modern and mid-century modern chandeliers are distinctive for both the era their style originates from and their focus on creating furniture that was both aesthetically pleasing and functional. 

Contemporary Chandelier Design 

Are innovative design and minimalism key themes of your home? Contemporary design breaks away from other styles to produce cutting-edge chandeliers that show how chandelier design can be reimagined for everyday use. 

Zettel'z 5 Chandelier by Ingo Maurer.
Zettel’z 5 Chandelier by Ingo Maurer

Rustic Chandelier Design 

Characterized by an emphasis on simplicity and naturalism and a nod to the American West, the use of wood, wrought iron and Edison-style bulbs are common for rustic chandeliers. 

Sawyer Outdoor Chandelier in a patio.
Sawyer Outdoor Chandelier by Hinkley

Farmhouse / Craftsman Chandelier Design 

In the same vein of rustic, farmhouse chandeliers offer a pinch of nostalgia. These chandeliers often use clear glass or no glass to show off bare Edison-style bulbs, aged looking wood and metal accents. 

Coastal Living Cachet Chandelier in a farmhouse kitchen.
Coastal Living Cachet Chandelier by Regina Andrew 

Industrial Chandelier Design 

Industrial design employs the use of exposed wood and metal to stir up the image of lighting that may have been used in a factory or industrial setting. 

Towner Chandelier above an industrial table.
Towner Chandelier by Generation Lighting 

Chandelier Shapes 

Once you have an idea of the type of style you’d like, then you can consider the type of shape your chandelier can take. There’s a lot more to a chandelier than just the number of arms it has. Take a look at some of the different forms that chandeliers can be found in. 

Rectangular Chandeliers 

Prometheus LED Rectangular Pendant in a large living room.
Exclusive Prometheus LED Rectangular Pendant by PageOne Lighting

Round Chandeliers 

Novel LED Chandelier above a round dining room table.
Novel LED Chandelier by Kuzco Lighting 

Cluster Chandeliers 

Fulton Chandelier by Hinkley.
Fulton Chandelier by Hinkley

Sputnik Chandeliers 

Sputnik Chandelier by Robert Abbey.
Sputnik Chandelier by Robert Abbey

Caged Chandeliers 

Glendale Chandelier by Hudson Valley Lighting.
Glendale Chandelier by Hudson Valley Lighting

Globe Chandeliers 

Viaggio Chandelier over a dining table.
Viaggio Chandelier by Sean Lavin for Visual Comfort Modern 

Chandeliers by Finish 

As with style, you should determine whether you want your chandelier’s color or finish to coordinate or contrast with the surrounding furnishings and any other light fixtures. For example, a chrome chandelier can work well with wall sconces in bronze, as long as they have similar design styles. 

Bronze Chandeliers 

Cirque Chandelier by Hubbardton Forge.
Cirque Chandelier by Hubbardton Forge

Gold Chandeliers 

Gold Crown Major Suspension in a modern living room.
Crown Major Suspension by Jehs + Laub for Nemo 

Silver Chandeliers 

Constellation Aquila Minor Chandelier.
Constellation Aquila Minor Chandelier by SONNEMAN Lighting 

Chandeliers by Lighting Function 

After determining a chandelier’s design statement in a room, it’s best to consider how its lighting will function within your home.  

  1. Uplight Chandeliers: Uplight chandeliers focus light upwards, providing reflected ambiance around a space, rather than direct downlighting. 
  1. Downlight Chandeliers: Akin to the traditional style of chandeliers, downlight chandeliers provide unobstructed light below. Ideal when your room needs lots of direct, focused light as well as ambient light. 
  1. Ambient Lighting: With the exception of downlight chandeliers, most chandeliers aren’t ideal for providing task lighting—most work much better to create ambient lighting due to their emphasis on diffused, non-direct light. 

While the easiest option is to go with the style that matches your home, another option is to find a chandelier that contrasts with its surroundings. You may find that a classic crystal chandelier is more dazzling in a modern space than a simple large bell shade. 

With whatever type of chandelier you choose, the key is selecting a style that will enhance the surrounding space and not take away from the theme of the room. 

3 Things to Consider When Choosing the Perfect Chandelier 

Suspenders 24-Inch LED Single Ring Chandelier in a vaulted ceiling living room.
Suspenders 24-Inch LED Single Ring Chandelier by Robert Sonneman for SONNEMAN Lighting 

1. Positioning a Chandelier 

In an interior space, the position of the chandelier should be as centered as possible. Here are three reasons why: 

  • Aesthetic: A well-designed chandelier is admirable from all angles. Placing the chandelier in a central position gives you a 360-degree view to admire all the beautiful elements. 
  • General Light: Artificial ambient light is more evenly distributed from a centered position. 
  • Symmetry: As most likely the only suspended object, a chandelier is best put in a central location for visual balance. 

2. Installation Height 

In a dining room, a chandelier should hang approximately 30 inches above a dining table surface so people seated around it can see each other and won’t get glare in their eyes. If you have a high ceiling (9 feet or higher), add about 3 inches for each additional foot of ceiling height. 

Additionally, the chandelier should be 1/2 to 2/3 the width of the table. 

In other rooms, you should always consider such line of sight and safe clearance when installing a chandelier. After all, a light fixture is much less appealing if it blocks your view or if you keep hitting your head on it. 

3. Chandelier Brightness 

The ideal lumen count for ambient lighting in a dining room—or any room—is determined by the space’s square footage. Per 100 square feet, a dining room needs about 300-400 total lumens. So you would be smart to consider the lumen output of a chandelier as part of your selection process. In the interest of proper light layering, a chandelier may not be the sole source of ambient lighting in a space, but it will likely be the primary one. 

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