Dining room lights

Dining room lights – Four-step guide to dining room lighting

Before you go and buy a simple ceiling light for your living room, read this article. After reading it, you will know what the difference is between good and perfect dining room lighting. You will also understand why it’s important to take some extra time if you want an up-to-date look for your dining room.

Because selecting the perfect dining room lights can be a challenging task, I have prepared a step-by-step guide that should help you take on the challenge. Before you start thinking about a dining room lighting plan, you must be aware of one thing – dining rooms in the past were often used only during mealtimes (breakfast, lunch, dinner), but they are now being transformed into multiuse spaces, which is definitely something to consider when choosing proper lighting.

Step one: Dining table lighting

A few decades ago, people considered one chandelier above the dining table to be complete dining room lighting. Nowadays, we know that lighting in every room optimally comes in four forms – we need task, decorative, accent, and ambient lighting.

The dining table is usually lighted from above (from the ceiling). Because large dining tables aren’t used as often now as they were in the past, many people buy much smaller tables and even those who still have larger tables want to move them into the corner every once in a while. Now, you are probably wondering what this has to do with lighting. When you plan your dining room lighting, you need to foresee these potential variations and make sure that a ceiling light will look good even when the dining table isn’t underneath. There are two ways to do that. First, you can mount the ceiling light as near the ceiling as possible. That way the light won’t stand out when the dining table isn’t underneath. Your second option is to buy a pendant light on a pulley system. When you remove the dining table, you are able to simply raise the light, and lower it again when the table is back in place.


Picture 1: Recessed lights on the ceiling look good even when the table isn’t underneath them

Your next important job is to select the size of your table light, especially if you decide to go with a chandelier. The main rule of thumb here is that the size of the light depends on the size of table – generally, chandeliers should be at least 12 inches narrower than the table they are above and should be installed about 30 inches above the top of the table. If you decide to install recessed lights over the table (which people do in more modern-style homes), you should install more of them (preferably three). The middle one can be pointed straight down, but I don’t recommend this for the other two; the angle should be less than 40 degrees in order to avoid glaring in people’s eyes. If you take a closer look at picture 1, you will see that there are only two recessed lights (each one is pointed in a different direction), which is okay if you will add portable task light when you read or work at the table.

Step two: Ambient lighting

If you would like your dining room to look really good, you shouldn’t stop at decorative table lighting. For ambient lighting, you have three basic options – wall sconces, torcheres, and cove lights. It’s hard to say which is the best for your dining room, but it is extremely important that ambient lights aren’t too strong. Remember, all you want from them is to set a mood, not to actually illuminate anything. For my dining room, I would definitely consider cove lights (especially smaller ones), along with wall sconces.

Before I move to accent lighting, I would like to give you some ideas for ambient lighting. Everything in your dining room can be the source of ambient lighting. You can install lights in the corners of the ceiling; you can have some low-voltage recessed lights installed in the cabinets (if the cabinet doors and shelves are made of glass) or in any other place. Feel free to use your imagination.

Step three: Accent lighting

The purpose of accent lighting is to draw attention to pieces of art or any other object in your dining room. Do yourself a favor and illuminate only pieces that you believe are important – this way you will prevent the ”inflation of light” (excessive lighting). Pieces of art can be downlighted (lighted from above) or uplighted (lighted from below). You can also use both uplighting and downlighting. Plants and similar objects can be backlighted as well (just a quick tip: plant lighting isn’t simple at all, because every plant is unique).

Step four: Task lighting

The idea that people don’t need task lighting in their dining rooms simply isn’t true anymore, since we often use the dining table for playing games or doing work in the evening. You can use portable lights (especially if you don’t need them very often) or light dimmers, which will help adjust the brightness of the lights.


You now know some of your dining room lighting options and you are aware of the importance of appropriate light layering. You also know some typical mistakes people make when they are selecting a lighting design for their dining rooms. I hope you’ve also found some ideas for designing your own dining room.

Common Design Schemes for Dining Room Lighting

Not sure how to attack your lighting needs in the dining room? Relax. Designers have come

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