Dining Room Lighting: Ideas to Brighten Up Your Family Dinner


The dining room is an important gathering place for a household. People may go to sleep, wake up, and relax at different times, but dinner is the same time for everyone. For busy families, dinner is the only real opportunity everyone has to catch up and spend time together during the week. The perfect dining room will act as a stage for cherished memories. 

Dining room lighting is even more important from a purely pragmatic standpoint. Have you ever tried to eat a bowl of soup in the dark? You're practically begging to ruin your favorite pants. It's a little hard to serve food in a poorly lit room. 

Whether your home is a sanctuary for your family, the bachelor pad where you relax, the place where you close yourself away from the world with a good book, or your friends' preferred entertainment venue, your dining room lighting will help to set the tone for every meal.

Always Use Dimmer Switches

Controlling the amount of light is just as important as controlling the light source. You may want brighter light to help everyone get seated, situated, and served. When it comes time to eat, you might want the light to be a little softer to create a relaxed ambiance. Rather than turning off one light source and switching to another, simply install a dimmer. All you need to do is turn it down a few notches to change the environment. 

It's important to note that there is a significant difference between wiring a lighting fixture to a dimmer and using a dimmable lighting fixture. Dimmers will work for just about every light, but they may not work as intended on a fixture that wasn't meant to be dimmed. Before you buy a chandelier or a series of pendant lights, check the box. If the fixture is designed to perform with a dimmer, the capability will be listed in the specifications. 

The Right Bulb Makes All the Difference

Bulbs will ultimately determine how much light fills a room, as well as the tone of that light. Make sure you've calculated the proper wattage before you purchase light bulbs. This requires a little bit of math to dial in correctly. First, multiply the length of the room by the width of the room in feet. This will give you the square footage of your dining area. Then, multiply that number by 40. The resulting number is how many lumens it will take to fully illuminate that room.

A 60 watt incandescent light bulb will provide about 800 lumens of light. More efficient bulbs, like CFL bulbs, will generate 800 lumens at as little as 15 watts. Every bulb will be different, so be sure to read the packaging. Once you've purchased all the bulbs for your lighting fixtures, make sure they add up to something close to the number of lumens required for your dining room. 

Aside from lumens, you'll need to consider the color of your bulbs. White bulbs are bright and clean, but they can also feel sterile. They lend a very modern and sometimes futuristic touch to a space. Yellow lights are warmer and feel more like home. 

If your bulbs are going to be exposed, you'll want to consider the way they're going to look. They come in all different shapes, sizes, and finishes. Decorative bulbs add to the ambiance of a room. If you want your bulbs to play a role in your decor, consider how they'll look with your furniture and wall art.

Build Around Your Dining Table

The main feature of your dining room is obviously your dining room table--that's where all the magic happens. You serve the food and drinks there. You host your conversations there. Perhaps, after everyone's finished eating, you'll even play a game of cards there. Your main source of lighting and most elaborate lighting fixture should hang above the table. Start by selecting that lighting first, and build everything else around it.

As a rule, lighting fixtures that hang above dining tables should be approximately 36 inches above the surface. Too high, and they'll neither be effective at illuminating nor decorating the space. If you have multiple fixtures you'd like to place above the table, like a series of pendant lights, you'll want them to be evenly spaced and hung at the same height. 

Chandeliers Versus Pendant Lights

Chandeliers are the tried and true standard for dining table lighting. Most home design magazines and websites will feature photos of dining room tables beneath gorgeous and hefty chandeliers. You don't necessarily need to go the same route. 

Conventional chandeliers work well for conventional formal dining rooms. If you've put a special twist on your dining area, you're also free to put a special twist on your chandelier. Asymmetrical designs, sculptural pieces, and arrangements of bulbs hanging from a wrought iron hoop serve the same purpose in design. They're focal point pieces that illuminate the room. 

Don't be afraid to choose something creative or unusual if it matches your aesthetic. Just keep in mind that a chandelier is very big and very noticeable. You might want to tone down your other decor to keep your dining room from looking overwhelmed. 

Pendant lights serve as a minimalist and traditional lighting solution. They're far from boring, but they're typically not as ornate as a chandelier. If you'd like to keep things simple, opt for one large or several smaller pendant lights to hang above your dining room table. They're classic, elegant, simple, and tasteful. They're also a great solution if you have a lot of other decor you'd like to place in your dining room because they aren't as conspicuous as chandeliers.

The Size of Your Light Matters

Most interior decorators will tell you that the lighting fixture above your table should be proportional in size. This is good advice. A chandelier that's too small will look silly above a huge table in the same way that an oversized chandelier will look comical in proportion to a smaller table. The experts say that your chandelier diameter should be about one-third of your table's diameter. 

If you're working with a rectangular table, diameter won't come into play. So what do you do then? Just divide your table into thirds in your mind. See three squares, and try to match the size of your lighting fixture to the size of that center square. If you don't feel like you can rely on your mind's eye, just measure the table from end to end and divide that number by three. When selecting a lighting fixture, measure the chandelier from one side to the other side at its widest point. If the measurements closely match the measurement of your table, the size is probably right. 

Place Some Accent Lights

You'll likely need more than just a fixture above your table to illuminate your entire dining room. Accent lighting can help to set the mood of the room, and it will also keep people from tripping over chairs or rugs when they excuse themselves from the table. The chandelier light will bounce off the table and directly back up, creating a large shadow on the floor around and under the table. Accent lighting from different directions will help to fill in those gaps. 

Dining rooms don't typically have much space for lamps. There's no room on the main surface, the dining table, to place something with an electrical cord. That's why installing lighting on the walls is your best bet. Well placed wall sconces will illuminate the room to eliminate shadowy areas without occupying the surfaces you need to eat and serve food. They also illuminate wall decor, drawing attention to art you're presenting as a conversation piece.

There’s Always Candles

Candles are a quintessential part of a romantic dinner. They're always illuminating the center of a table where two lovers share close conversation over their entrees. You don't have to pay a month's rent for that kind of mood - just serve up something special and set the tone at home. 

Candle holders are beautiful decorative accents that serve as the perfect way to illuminate an intimate setting. Try using candles as centerpieces on your dining room table. Turn down the dimmer on your main lighting fixture just enough that the candles will make up the difference. You'll still be able to see what you're eating (and make eye contact with your sweetheart) while enjoying the intimate aura of candlelight. 


Lighting makes a space. It sets the tone for everything we do. A perfectly lit dining room is the ideal stage for an engaging dinner party, a philosophical conversation over a pot of coffee, or a stay at home date. Whom has plenty of dining room tables and decorative accents that you can use to create the perfect dining space. 





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