Today's dining rooms reflect consumer's changing lifestyles. Once used solely for
daily dining, this room has become more multipurpose.
"During the week, we use the dining room as a work zone, for homework, crafts, church
work, organizational meetings," says Dan Blitzer, continuing educator for the
American Lighting Association. "On the weekends and
special occasions, it becomes a gathering place for parties and meals."
The result? Dining rooms must boast multiple lighting options that can go from functional
to fashionable in the flick of a switch.
To get the best balance of illumination in the dining room, opt for layers of light.
"The most important thing a homeowner should recognize is that a dining room does
not look well-lighted if the only light source is a chandelier," says Blitzer. "A
chandelier that is bright enough to illuminate a room will be too bright for comfort
when dining. Likewise, if the chandelier's light is comfortable on the eyes, it
will be too dim and look flat."
When choosing dining room lighting, start with a chandelier in the middle of the
room, then work out with accent lights. The chandelier will determine the room's
feeling. Use your imagination. In today's more eclectic decor, evencasual homes
can have elegant dining rooms.
"You might find casual wrought iron or brushed steel metal fixtures in the home's
adjacent "great room" and wrought iron with crystal drops or pendants in the dining
room, creating a more romantic, softer setting," Greg Vandia, Vice President Sales
and Marketing for New York manufacturer
Murray Feiss. " That's
When selecting a chandelier, don't worry about the fixture's quality of light as
much as its beauty and scale. Chandelier choices include everything from those with
exposed bulbs to those with large alabaster diffusing bowls. Trends range from simple
Mission-inspired models with mica glass to ornatebrass filigree with crystal pendants.
"Finish is the most important factor today and it should compliment surrounding
furnishings and accessories; not match or contrast," says Rick Wiedemer, CLC, President
Hinkley Lighting, Inc., a manufacturer in Cleveland, OH.
"The finish selected will then determine the material."
Popular materials include brass, aluminum, wrought iron, other metal combinations,
or composite materials.
Crystal chandeliers are one of the most traditional way to compliment a dining room
setting. "Crystal chandeliers work to create an ethereal, magical look -- even if
they are not turned on," says Eileen Schonbek Beers of Schonbek Worldwide Lighting,
one of the country's top chandelier manufacturers.
According to Beers, candlepower chandeliers -- those without electricity -- rate
as one of the latest trends in dining room decor. "We have been selling a lot of
chandeliers to be used simply as decorative accessories," says Beers, who saw the
trend begin in 2000. "It's a phenomena driven by people who want recessed lighting
or candles on their table as their light source. Antique chandeliers were not wired
for electricity originally, but were used for the way other light played off the
Whether you opt to illuminate your chandelier or not, make sure you choose the right
size chandelier for your environment. To find the right size chandelier, choose
one with a diameter 12" less than width of table, suggests Wiedemer. This assumes
the table is sized appropriate for room. The bottom of chandelier should be 30"
above table. For ceilings nine feet or higher, consider a two-tier style chandelier
to fill the space from the fixture's top to the ceiling.
"It is better to go bigger than to end up with a chandelier that is too small,"
says Beers. "If you are making the investment, you want to make a statement."
Accent lights, either recessed or tract-mounted, on either side of the chandelier
and between the end of the table add a festive sparkle to china, crystal, fruit
arrangements. Space them so they are not over the head of diners, but not so close
to the chandelier to create shadows. Angle them toward the chandelier to add sparkle
to the chandelier and provide down lighting.
The final layer of light should fill in the shadows around the room's perimeter.
Consider recessed lights located in the ceiling toward the corners of the room.
Wall washers, recessed or mounted on tracts, can illuminate drapes or paintings.
Torchieres and sconces point light toward the ceiling.
Don't forget to light furniture around the edge of the dining room. "Buffets, hutches
or breakfronts can be illuminated internally with low voltage lights on the underside
of shelves to light up collections and china," says Blitzer.
Portable lighting, or table lamps, also plays an important role in the dining room
area. "Accent lamps on breakfronts or etageres or two great buffet lamps with unique
shades can help create just the right mood for that special meal or occasion when
the dining room is being utilized," says Vandia.
Other options include recessed or tract lighting above buffets or
breakfronts. Miniature low voltage pendants suspended three feet above the buffet
offer a more contemporary look, while tall, thin candlestick lamps on either end
are more traditional.