Lighting Education & Inspiration


Dining Room Lighting

Trends in Dining Room Lighting

Once used only for daily dining, today's dining rooms have become multipurpose, to reflect ever-changing lifestyles. During the week, we use the dining room as a work zone, for homework, crafts, church work, organizational meetings. On the weekends and special occasions, it becomes a gathering place for parties and meals. The result? Dining rooms must boast multiple lighting options that can go from functional to fashionable in the flick of a switch.

According to the lighting designers at lucía lighting & design, the best way to achieve balance of illumination in the dining room is to opt for layers of light. Your dining room will not look well-lighted if the only light source is a single chandelier. A chandelier that is bright enough to illuminate the room will be too bright for comfort when dining. Likewise, if the chandelier's light is comfortable for dining, it won't be enough light for many other activities.

When choosing dining room lighting, start with a chandelier in the middle of the room, and then work out with accent lights. The chandelier will determine the room's feeling - traditional, formal, contemporary, fun. Use your imagination! In today's more eclectic decor, even casual homes can have elegant dining rooms, without feeling stuffy.

When selecting a chandelier, don't worry about the fixture's quality of light as much as its overall design and size. At lucía lighting & design, you can find a plethora of possibilities … casual wrought iron, brushed metal fixtures, crystal and brass, funky track with pendants, and much, much more. Your options are endless, from traditional multi-arm chandeliers with exposed candle "flames" or mini shades to large alabaster or Murano glass bowls. Trends range from simple Mission-inspired models with mica glass to ornate brass filigree with crystal pendants.

"Finish is the most important factor today and it should compliment surrounding furnishings and accessories; not match or contrast," says Rick Wiedemer, CLC, President of Hinkley Lighting, Inc., a manufacturer in Cleveland, OH. "The finish selected will then determine the material." Popular materials include brass, aluminum, wrought iron, other metal combinations, or composite materials.

Crystal chandeliers are one of the most traditional ways to compliment a dining room setting. "Crystal chandeliers work to create an ethereal, magical look - even if they are not turned on," says Eileen Schonbek Beers of Schonbek Worldwide Lighting. No matter what style chandelier you opt for, make sure you choose the right size chandelier for your environment. To find the right size chandelier, choose one with a diameter 12" less than width of your table (assuming your table is sized appropriately for the room). The bottom of chandelier should be 30" above table. For ceilings nine feet or higher, consider a two-tier style chandelier to fill the space from the fixture's top to the ceiling. "It is better to go bigger than to end up with a chandelier that is too small," says Beers. "If you are making the investment, you want to make a statement."

Accent lights, either recessed or track-mounted, on either side of the chandelier and between the ends of the table add a festive sparkle to china, crystal, and fruit arrangements. Space them so they are not over the head of diners, but not so close to the chandelier to create shadows. Angle them toward the chandelier to add sparkle to the chandelier and provide down lighting.

The final layer of light should fill in the shadows around the room's perimeter. Consider recessed lights located in the ceiling toward the corners of the room. Wall washers, recessed or mounted on tracts, can illuminate drapes or paintings. Torchieres and sconces point light toward the ceiling.

Don't forget to light furniture around the edge of the dining room. "Buffets, hutches or breakfronts can be illuminated internally with low voltage lights on the underside of shelves to light up collections and china," says Blitzer.

Portable lighting - table or floor lamps - also plays an important role in the dining room area. Accent lamps on breakfronts or etageres, or two great buffet lamps with unique shades, can help create just the right mood for that special meal or occasion when the dining room is being utilized. Other options include recessed or track lighting above buffets or breakfronts. Miniature low voltage pendants suspended three feet above the buffet offer a more contemporary look, while tall, thin candlestick lamps on either end are more traditional.

Top Tips for Lighting Dining Rooms

First Step: A chandelier in the middle of the room defines the space. Choose that fixture first, and then work out with accent lights.

Hanging Around: Choose a chandelier with a diameter 12" less than width of table. The bottom of chandelier should be 30" above table.

Tall Orders: For ceilings nine feet or higher, consider a two-tier style chandelier to fill the space from the fixture's top to the ceiling.

Dimmer Shimmer: Always use a dimmer on dining room lights. "Light becomes warmer as it is dimmed," says Dan Blitzer, American Lighting Association Continuing Educator.

Home Work: For those who use the dining room as a study area, consider bringing in a portable study lamp to brighten up the workspace. "Overhead lighting may work well for general studies, but in depth or close work demands more light," says Blitzer.

Get Smart: So-called "smart" dimmers, driven by microprocessors, offer convenience. When you have several layers of light, smart dimmers can be set to various ambiences. Press one button for dining, another for lighting up homework, another for party-time.

The Layered Look: Use multiple layers of light in the dining room. Chandeliers provide the central focus. Accent lights on either side of the chandelier and at the room's perimeter brighten things up. Accessory lights on and/or over other furniture pieces fill in the background.

Table This: Table lamps add a soft, humanizing touch to a dining room. Display them on a buffet or breakfront.


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