How to Choose a Spectacular Chandelier That Won’t Be Sticky

For some people – like my wife, who has a fantasy at heart – a chandelier is the pinnacle of elegance. When we moved into our current home, she started a scorched earth campaign to install a chandelier somewhere , despite the fact that there are exactly zero places for her in this fancy house. I once joked that the only place we could put a chandelier would be in the bathroom, and there was a thoughtful expression on her face that immediately shut me up.

The chandelier got that reputation for glamour, like most things: in the olden days, the only people who could afford all the candles needed for a chandelier (and thus could effectively light their homes at night) were wealthy, and here we are centuries later trying repeat the look and the status it implies . Plus, chandeliers are amazing home decor items – they add a visual impact to any room (even the bathroom, I guess).

But choosing a chandelier is harder than you think. In fact, if your home has a chandelier, it’s likely that it’s the wrong size, in the wrong place, or just plain ugly. Here’s why and how to fix it.

Chandeliers must make themselves known, but do it well

The main problem with choosing a chandelier is its primary function, which is not really lighting up the room. Chandeliers should be eye-catching eye-catchers that make rooms seem majestic, unify the design and make your guests exclaim in admiration. This encourages a certain amount of recklessness because some chandeliers will elicit the reaction you’re looking for: people will say, “Oh my god!” when they enter a room, even if they mean exactly the opposite of what you were hoping for.

Choosing the wrong chandelier usually comes down to isolated purchases. A light fixture that looks great in a catalogue, on a computer screen, or in a showroom can be a beautiful design element on its own, but turn into a monster of gaudiness or the wrong proportions when you install it in your home. When choosing a chandelier, there are several main aspects to consider, and each of them must be correlated with the space that the chandelier will actually occupy.

Consider the overall style

First of all, the chandelier is part of your overall decorating style – it should go with every other aspect of the room’s design. If you’re buying a chandelier because it looks cool in some other context, chances are it will complement your foyer, dining room, or other space. Of course, sometimes a contrast element can really pull together, so it doesn’t mean you have to match your room’s design exactly, but you do need to think about how it will fit together.

This means choosing additional materials (such as metals that go with other equipment in the room), but it also means taking into account the “occupancy” of the room. If you’ve done it with swirling wallpaper patterns and other detailed design elements, you’ll want to bring that into an intricate chandelier. If the room is fairly neutral and clean, a simpler chandelier would probably be a better choice.

The final aspect to consider is the visual “weight” of your chandelier. A chandelier made up of thin, wiry stems will look light and airy compared to a chandelier that is more cylindrical or bulky. Choosing a visual weight that contrasts with the furniture and other elements in the room is a good idea.

Consider the size and height of the chandelier.

It is difficult to choose a chandelier, because it should be an accent and the center of attention. It encourages people to go big or go home, resulting in oversized fixtures that dominate, conquer and outshine the room. There are a few rules of thumb to help you make sure your chandelier isn’t too big (or too small):

  • In dining rooms where the chandelier will be hung above the table, the diameter of the chandelier should be approximately one-third the size of the table.
  • For other rooms, add the length and width of the room and use that number in inches to determine the size of the chandelier. For example, if your foyer measures 10 feet by 12 feet, you’ll want a chandelier that’s about 22 inches in diameter.
  • The height of the chandelier itself depends on the height of the ceiling in the room. The rule of thumb here is approximately 2.5 inches of chandelier for every foot of ceiling height. If you have 10 foot ceilings you will need a chandelier about 25 inches high.

Please note that these are approximate guidelines. Once you have a rough shape for your chandelier, take a look at the space visually. Since the whole point is to make a statement, a little more is usually perfectly fine as long as you have a rational starting point. And if the chandelier you choose is thin, it might be a good idea to make it a little taller than the guides suggest.

Chandelier placement height is a classic way to screw it up. If you’ve ever sat at a dining table that required you to peek over a chandelier too low to see the people across from you, you’ve experienced poor chandelier height first hand. Here’s how to avoid it:

  • When placed above a table, the bottom of the chandelier should be at least 30 inches from the table top, but usually no more than 34 inches, otherwise it will appear to be in a different time zone.
  • When you’re in a room without a table, this is a pretty practical consideration: you want people to see the chandelier, but not bang their heads against it as they walk through the room. This means that there should be 7 to 8 feet between the bottom of the chandelier and the floor.

Consider chandelier placement

This is one of the easiest solutions when it comes to chandeliers. In a room where it will hang over a table, place it in the center of the table, even if it’s not in the center of the room. Otherwise, hang it where you want to draw attention. It doesn’t have to be the center of the room – it could be a reading nook or seating area, the end of your bed, a toilet (just kidding!), or just a place that needs some visual balance. If you don’t know where to place it, the center of the ceiling will almost always do.

And finally, consider its function

Finally, make sure your chandelier has a dimmer feature. Lighting should be a dynamic tool – a chandelier as bright as the sun during an intimate party will kill the mood, but sometimes you really need a well-lit space. The ability to adjust the intensity of your chandelier will be the final touch that will make your choice of chandelier the right one.


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