How to Choose Dining Room Lighting - Pier 1

How to Choose Dining Room Lighting

Looking for the perfect lighting for your dining room? We’ll share some of our very favorite dining room lighting ideas to help you figure out how to choose show-stopping lighting that illuminates your signature dishes and flatters your guests. 

Layer Your Lighting Types

To create a beautifully lit dining room, think in layers. There are three types of lighting to consider, and you want to include at least two in your dining room. Why? Because to have lighting for your dining room that is both soft and bright, beautiful yet utilitarian, and has a warm glow, you need variety between these three types of lighting:  

Ambient lighting. This is the most general type of lighting that usually comes from an overhead light fixture, whether it’s a flush-mount or chandelier. It provides a soft, warm glow to your room but is really just the first layer of lighting. Ambient lighting needs to be boosted with at least one other type of lighting. 

Task lighting. This is just what it sounds like. Think of the kind of directional lighting you need for reading or cooking. If your dining room table is where homework and family game night happens, you’ll want to incorporate task lighting with pendants or even a large arc lamp. 

Accent lighting. When you want to draw attention to the interesting architectural details of your home or your fab collection of art, accent lighting is how you can achieve that. Wall sconces or table lamps flanking your buffet or a dimmed chandelier are examples of accent lighting for your dining room. 

Choose Your Lighting Locations

The first step in choosing dining room lighting is deciding how much lighting you need and where to place it. Typically, the focal points in a dining room are your table, walls, artwork, and a sideboard or buffet. These are the areas to think about lighting -- and each one will have its own specific lighting needs. When you’re strategizing your dining room lighting plan, a good guideline is to shoot for about 200-400 watts in all. 

Over Your Table

When you’re eyeing up your lighting options over your table, there are many great dining room lighting ideas to choose from. 

Chandeliers. You can make a bold statement with one oversized chandelier or two smaller chandeliers over your table. We recommend using a dimmer switch so you can control the level of lighting so it’s bright on game night and low on date night. 

Pendants. One pendant over a small dining table may be all you need. For a larger table, a row of three chandeliers creates an airer look than one large chandelier and provides three separate light sources over your table. 

Flush mounts. Perfect for casual dining or an eat-in kitchen, flush mounts can make rooms with low ceilings feel more spacious. 

Recessed. You also have the option of enhancing your lighting in your dining room with recessed lighting to fill in any gaps that your fixtures may not cover. 

Flanking Your Buffet 

Designing your buffet or sideboard with lighting on either end provides the one-two punch of artistic style and utilitarian function.

Buffet lamps. Beautiful buffet lamps offer both fashion and flexibility since you can move them around. They are typically tall and slim and provide lovely downlight onto your buffet.

Sconces. You can illuminate your buffet spread without taking up valuable tabletop space with a pair of wall sconces. They also provide a soft glow and accentuate your artwork. 

Size It Up

Getting the right dining room lighting measurements down will help you create a look that’s balanced and offers just the right amount of illumination. 

Center point. It may feel tempting to hang your light in the center of your room, but unless your dining room table is also centered, it’s going to look off-balance. When you center your light over the table, it will look just right, even if it’s off-center in the room. 

Width. What is the right size chandelier for your dining room? A good rule of thumb is that your dining room light fixture should be about ⅓ the width of your table. But like all rules, this one is meant to be broken. Feel free to go larger than that, just be sure to allow for at least 12 inches of headspace from the edge of the table. 

Height. Your chandelier should hang about 30-36 inches over your table if you have an 8-foot ceiling. For every additional foot of ceiling height, raise your fixture 3 inches. 

Hang wall sconces at eye level, or around 60 inches, to avoid glare. 

For buffet lamps, the bottom of the shade should be placed at eye height when seated so the lamps don’t shine into anyone’s eyes. 

Choose Your Lighting Style

When it comes to selecting the style of lighting, look around your dining room for the clues that will lead you to the perfect lighting for your dining room. 

View. If you have sweeping views from your dining room and large windows, find a minimal fixture that lets the natural beauty shine. Something with clear glass or a cage-style literally lets you see right through it and takes up very little visual space.

Scale. A large dining room with high ceilings allows you to make a big, bold statement with big, bold lighting. You can still go high-impact in a small space, just scale the size down. 

Shape of your table. Your overall look will be more cohesive when you mirror the shape of your light fixture to your table. But don’t think you’re limited to round with round, rectangle with rectangle. Two round chandeliers over a rectangular table will create an elongated line and provide enough lighting for everyone at the table. A cluster pendant over a round table is also a fun option that will look amazing. 

Your design style. Consider the materials of your dining room table and other decor in the surrounding areas to give cues. If your style is minimal and clean, a mid-century pendant will create a look that’s cohesive with your style. But don’t be afraid to mix and match styles -- even those on total opposite ends of the spectrum. An opulent crystal chandelier in a very rustic dining room would make a stunning juxtaposition. Like Converse with a ballgown.

Other light fixtures. Take a look at your other fixtures to get dining room lighting ideas. If you have statement pendant lights over your kitchen island, perhaps your lighting for your dining room is a bit more subdued. Don’t think you need to coordinate materials among all your lighting options. Mixing your metals can create an interesting look that’s all your own.

Should dining room lighting point up or down? 

Whether uplights or downlights are the best fit for your dining room will depend on how you will use the space. 

  • A chandelier over your dining room table that points up will provide softer lighting and less chance of harsh light into your eye. 
  • Pendants often provide downlighting, which can provide task lighting for reading at the breakfast bar or playing cards at the table. Be mindful of choosing a shade that will provide enough diffusion so you’re not looking right at the bulb. 
  • For the best of both worlds, look for a chandelier with uplights and a central downlight. Or augment your chandelier with recessed lighting. 

What color lighting is best in the dining room?  

Low, warm light will provide atmosphere and mood lighting for evening entertaining. But we realize your dining room is where homework gets done, too. If your dining room is truly multi-functional, opt for soft, neutral white lighting, then install a dimmer switch so you can control the brightness. 

Light Up Your Dining Room Look

When you’re ready to shed new light on your dining room and your beautiful guests, look no further than Pier 1 for everything you need. You can find eye-popping chandeliers, pendants, buffet lamps, and sconces that will warm up your dining room and make everyone in it look amazing. Start shopping for new dining room lighting ideas today!