How To's

How to Light a Dining Room

They say the kitchen is the heart of the modern home, but for those who love lingering over meals with friends and family, the dining room shares that billing—especially during the holiday season.

But unlike a kitchen, which should be bright and airy, a dining room can be moodier and your choice in lighting will set that tone. More often than not, a dining room is a smaller space with less going on so a light fixture can be a central feature. Your table has to be durable, the chairs have to be comfortable, but a light fixture can be more adventurous because no one’s touching it, no one’s spilling food on it. It’s the perfect opportunity to have a sculptural element that creates a mood. Then you’ve got the option of wall sconces, table lighting and even candles. Read on to see our guide.

Start With Your Centerpiece: the Chandelier

A multi-light chandelier creates even light distribution over a dining room table, connects the people sitting below it, and eliminates unappealing dark spots. Multiple glass globes dimmed low create a great ambiance. Candelabra bulbs within a metal framework—like the Agnes Chandelier, from Roll and Hill—create a clean, simple design that floats above the table.

Sara Story

"The shape of your chandelier depends on the architecture and design of the space. I like linear fixtures for rectangular tables, and I usually try to find something that's about a third the length of the table. If you've got a small round table, a globe or round chandelier is a no-brainer, since it echoes the table shape." -- Designer Sara Story

Layer Your Lighting

To get the best light quality on the table, a light should be installed 36 inches from the bottom of the fixture to the top of the table. That’s the standard. In a double-height room, or in cases where you’re in a larger architectural space, you can up it to 40 inches.

Don’t Forget the Dimmers

All lighting is better on a dimmer. But it’s particularly crucial to have your dining room lighting on dimmers. There will be times when you need more light–for carving that Thanksgiving turkey–and times when you want to keep the lights low and moody. It also allows you to control how you layer your light, from ceiling to wall to accent. Today’s options range from your classic dimmer switch to the high-design smart-home-compatible switches from the likes of Adorne by Legrand.

It Can Be As Simple As One Pendant

Replacing an outdated or just plain ugly light fixture is an inexpensive and simple way to improve décor in your dining room. Take for instance, the timeless Nelson Bubble Lamp. They create a diffused, even glow in the room, which allows other important elements, like your on-point serving ware, flowers, and food, to shine. A more recent favorite is the Delta V Pendant Light from Rich Brilliant Willing. It has a little more detail, but it’s still flexible enough to work with many décor styles.

Add Accent Lighting With Table Lamps and Wall Sconces

Accent lighting creates a glow and nicely lights the edges of the room, which creates a cozy feel. It leaves people feeling like they’re in the comfort of your living room, not sitting at a formal table for dinner.

Sara Story

"Wall sconces are, hands down, my favorite kind of lighting. They are great to look at and can frame beautiful art and add detail to a room discreetly. I like to use them adjacent to a dining table to add a soft, dimmable light." -- Designer Caitlin Jones Ghajar of Caitlin Jones Design

Layer Your Lighting

Often dining rooms have space for a great console or buffet. These pieces don’t need to just be decorative, but allow space to set up a drink or dessert bar as well as accent lighting in the form of table lamps.

When In Doubt: Candles

OK—but say that your party is tonight, you can’t replace a light, you have no locations for sconces or lamps, and you’re desperate. One word for you: candles. They’re a great way to immediately add a soft glow and intimate feel to a room. You can use a series or just a few. Tom Dixon’s Earth Scented Candle provides light and smells fantastic. You can set it on the table in a grouping with some smaller votives, or purchase two and set them on either side of a great flower arrangement. If you need more inspiration for your dining room, don’t forget to check out our Dining Room Lighting Ideas.


For more dining room lighting ideas, follow our favorites on Pinterest:

Laura Edwards

Laura Edwards

Laura is a Texan who has called California her home the last ten years. As an experienced Interior Designer she has advanced knowledge of modern and classic lighting, furniture and bath products. She loves the design industry and is always attending trade shows and exhibits around the world. She swam competitively for FSU where she met her husband Peyton. They reside in Los Angeles with their dog Renegade.

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