If you’re sick of the typical dining room look . . .Consider Less Traditional FixturesFrom paper lanterns to pendant lights, the options certainly don’t stop at chandeliers. Groves suggests creating a constellation effect by hanging a group of lights, or by placing a floor lamp placed beside the table rather than mounting a fixture at all. Maybe you’re devoted to crystal (understandable, Groves says, as “it’s been around for hundreds of years for good reason”), in which case consider a more modern shape fashioned from the traditional material.
Unless you like eating in the dark, you need a light in your dining room—but the kind of fixture is not always an obvious choice. The best dining room lighting ideas are thoughtfully planned out; they take your actual eating habits, furniture proportions, and budget into consideration (e.g., if your “dining room” is a card table smushed up against the wall, you probably don’t want to invest in a massive, fancy chandelier). And though we wouldn’t blame you for screwing a lightbulb into a simple hardware store socket and calling it a day, there are also pendant lights and chandeliers and flushmounts and sconces to consider (not to mention some pretty amazing floor lamps you should probably know about). So we rounded up our best dining room lighting ideas from the AD and Clever archives—from strategies for light bulbs to shopping ideas and design advice—to help you find the perfect fit for your dining room . . . or breakfast nook, or coffee table that you secretly use as a TV tray.
To soften overly bright overheads . . .Add a DimmerDesigner Sam Allen feels strongly about the worth of a dimmer switch: “If your dining room chandelier is not hooked up to a dimmer, call an electrician right now. I mean it. Don’t even finish reading this—call your electrician first.” With the simple pressing of a lever or turning of a knob, dimmers allow you to control the brightness of the bulbs, which is particularly important if you’re dealing with often-harsh overhead lighting. “To me, chandeliers should mimic candlelight,” says Groves—and that warm, dim glow is possible if you just install dimmers. Plus, they’re available in both modern and traditional silhouettes that will add considerably more charm to the walls than those plastic switch plates you hate anyway.
If you have no interest in hard-wiring a thing . . .Get an Arc Floor LampYou can have proper overhead lighting for your dining area without hard-wiring a thing overhead. All you need is an arc floor lamp; they plug right into a wall outlet but stand tall, with a long, curved neck that will position the bulb and shade directly over your table (how’s that for simplified?). The Arco floor lamp by Flos is classic, but more budget-conscious shoppers can spring for similar styles from retailers like Wayfair (or even Amazon!).
Vary HeightsAs evidenced by a playful display in this NYC apartment, some pendant lamp pairs look best when they’re hung at different heights.
If you’re trying to decide between options . . .Take the Shape and Style of Your Table into ConsiderationThe overhead fixture you choose and the table itself “don’t have to [have] a direct geometrical correlation, but there should be some proportional consideration,” says designer Russell Groves. A long or unusually large chandelier would obviously overpower a short table, and vice versa a teeny-tiny bulb might look silly above a big table. Same goes for the look: A lovely old farmhouse table would do well with a lovely farmhouse fixture or something super-modern for contrast—but either way, they should be considered together.
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If you need a simple, super-inexpensive overhead . . .Get a Porcelain Bulb SocketSay you’ve just moved into a new place and need some overhead lights in the dining room ASAP—that hole in the ceiling where they used to have a pretty flushmount isn’t going to fill itself. Or maybe you’re ready to install overheads for the first time but can’t afford the chandelier of your dreams just yet. Enter these simple porcelain light sockets, which are a cinch to install and look surprisingly chic with a bulb plonked in. Best part? They’re about five dollars.
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To make the room multifunctional . . .Supplement the Lighting Solution You ChooseIf you end up with nice, warm candlelight over the table, you might need to add sconces or downlights to supplement the glow when the room is used for anything other than an intimate dinner. (Dining room tables are very good for DIY projects, we’d like to note).
See DoubleIf your table is super-long, consider getting two or more pendant lights to distribute the glow evenly (that way everyone will be able to see their dinner). We love this “duet” fixture by Swedish newcomer Hem.
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When hanging a pendant or a chandelier . . .Take Care to Hang It at the Correct HeightToo high and a pendant lamp might look stuck to the ceiling, constricted; too low and you won’t be able to see your guests around it. Somewhere in between is just right, so step back and consider it at various lengths before settling on one. “When you’re seated, you don’t want [the fixture] to be in your face—the same way everyone gets annoyed when flowers are in the way,” Groves says.
Forego It AltogetherSconces, floor lamps, even table lamps can do the job of overhead pendant and flushmount fixtures—so don’t force one if you’re not sure you like the look at all (proof, via Amelie Colombet’s apartment).
If you’re a fanatic about light quality . . .Be Selective with the Bulbs You UseWarm light, cool light, bright light—you can get exactly the brightness level you desire with the right bulb. For lots of ambiance, try vintage-inspired filament bulbs. If it’s more a particular shape and style you’re after for an exposed-bulb fixture, try decorative bulbs.
Consider Can LightingIn this stunner of an L.A. home by design collective the Archers, a Le Corbusier-inspired table is lit with simple can overhead lights (definitely on dimmers).
In fashion designer Marysia Reeves’s Venice Beach home, a breezy, lantern-like fixture hovers above the wood dining table.
If you’re into geometric lines . . .Get Creative with the CordWhen hanging a pendant lamp with a very simple silhouette, feel free to get creative with the cord: Zig-zag it from wall to wall around a corner, tack it in swags along the ceiling, or loop it over a hook on the wall.
If you’d like to jazz up a fixture you already own . . .Customize the LampshadeA reflective material inside the shade will help cast light back down toward the table, Groves points out, while perforated shades will turn any bulb into a twinkly light (if that’s your prerogative). “Textured fabrics like raw silk will add a beautiful warmth and shadow to a room,” he says, but should you require a more directional cast “an opaque shade wouldn’t give you a lot of glow in the room, but would put more on the table.” Just because a fixture has shades you’re not into doesn’t mean it’s the end of the line. Swap them out!
Fix Up an AntiqueIf you find an antique fixture you love—like this lantern-esque piece in the home of design duo Heiberg Cummings—just rewire them and they’ll be good as new. Source on sites like eBay, Etsy, and 1stdibs (or at your local thrift store!).
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