I have a thing for chandeliers. Doesn’t everybody? When I travel I am always on the lookout for chandeliers which may suit my clients. Why are they so hard to select? I am asked many times for guidance to the following questions.
- How high should I hang my chandelier?
The ideal position is lower than you think. Since most people are thinking that a chandelier is hung over a dining room table, I’ll answer this one first. Position the widest part of chandelier about 30-34″ above the center of the table. If your ceiling is higher than eight feet, a good rule of thumb is to raise the chandelier 3″ for each additional foot of ceiling height. As you might know, I always say rules are made to be broken, but these guidelines usually work very well. So please note, this is not to the bottom of the chandelier. Usually the bottom of the chandelier hits at 24″-30″ above the table. It is important for maximum impact to hang the chandelier in the right spot at the right height.
- How large should my chandelier be?
A chandelier that is 12 inches narrower than the table will prevent guests from bumping their heads. A handy equation is to add the room’s length + width in feet, then use that number, in inches, as a guide for the chandelier’s diameter. So a chandelier that is 24″ in diameter will look great in a 24 square foot room.
- How high should I hang a chandelier in an entry way?
The bottom of the chandelier should hit seven feet above the floor–unless you’re a family of basketball players, in which case by all means go higher. In other areas, the bottom of a hanging pendant can be aligned with the bottom of the doorway trim.
- What about other lighting?
You must layer your lighting. Even for an intimate holiday dinner, dimming the chandelier ( a must) may leave guests wondering what they are eating. Add candles to the table. I especially like to use lots and lots of votives as I don’t worry about dripping wax or that the tapers burn to a point where I can’t see the person at the other side of the table through the flame. ( You know you’ve experienced this!) Votives are not only fuss free but add that glow to your guests’ complexion that Barbara Walters knows all too well. This is called up lighting in its simplest form and is very flattering.
If you have recessed lights, use spotlight bulbs as this will make your crystal and sterling sparkle. However it is imperative to use other forms of lighting such as wall sconces and again, candlelight provides that all important ambiance.
If you have a side table or buffet, this is a great opportunity to place a pair of accent lamps.
- How do I choose a lampshade?
I am appalled at how many retail stores have lovely lamp bases paired with the wrong shade. Remember: 60% lamp, 40% lampshade. Match classic shades with classic lamps and save drum shades for modern pieces. If you need more light in a room, be sure to select a fabric shade. A metal shade directs and focuses the light and may be a good choice for reading ( such as an apothecary lamp) but does not to light up the entire room.
Incidentally this lamp is available at Restoration Hardware but I had to shop for a lampshade that had better proportions than the ones that were offered.
- What about bathroom lighting?
Unfortunately, many light fixtures are hung on top of the mirror. Or worse yet recessed cans are placed over the counter so you are in your own shadow. Both solutions are poor ideas to light up one’s face which is usually what one is attending to in a bathroom mirror.
The ideal solution is to place wall sconces at face level directly on the mirror. If you tell your electrician to do this, it has been my experience that they are always about a foot too high which defeats this solution. Tell the installer you want the bulbs placed 65″ above the floor and no higher. Trust me this works.
Should your mirror be more decorative then hang the sconces on the sides of the mirror.
And if you already have a fixture on top of the mirror, add the wall sconces if you can. Think Hollywood dressing room lighting as the bulbs surrounded the mirror on 3 sides. This is no longer a popular solution as those bulbs use so much electricity; but one’s face looks terrific.
- Speaking of bulbs, what kind should I use?
Well, this could get lengthy. First, never use a “daylight” bulb in your home. These may have commercial usage, but look terrible inside a house. Fluorescent lighting comes in a warm white version which is a good idea for saving electricity.
However, the LED industry has been improving. Just don’t purchase these bulbs at a big box store. ( you know they kind of look blue). Your lighting specialist will have a selection from which you can choose a color temperature that will be flattering to your decor. The lower the Kelvin temperature the more yellow or warm the light. About 2700-2900 degrees is great for a traditional home. In a contemporary home, up to 3200 degrees can lend a crisp and cool ambience which has desirable modern effect without being chilling.
LEDs are much more expensive but will last 20+ years.
If you are building new or remodeling, low voltage lighting is another option especially popular in kitchens where the transformers can be hidden. I’ll write about that soon.
In the meantime, the pictures I’ve shared are of my own collection of chandeliers accumulated over the years. Some sentimental, some just for fun to which I’ve added baubles and trinkets. Feel free to share photos of your favorites.