Lighting: How High, How Long and How Big?
(sounds a bit like my love life – wink wink)
When it comes to hanging light fixtures it’s not just about popping in a bulb and calling it a day – there are numbers you need to know.
The standard ceiling height (particularly in homes built in the ’40s to the ’90s) is 8 feet high. The second most popular ceiling height is 9 feet and from there – the sky is the limit (literally…) so here are some numbers to help you figure out the right height for your light.
AND PLEASE REMEMBER, there are ALWAYS exceptions depending on the style of the room, the light fixture and the surface it’s hanging above!
The right height to hang a dining room fixture or chandelier
- 8-foot ceiling: 32 – 36 inches between the top of your table and the bottom of your fixture
- 9-foot ceiling: 36 – 40 inches between the top of your table and the bottom of your fixture
- 10-foot ceiling: 40 – 44 inches between the top of your table and the bottom of your fixture
To sum all of that up the general guideline is as follows…
‘Your light fixture should hang 30 – 36 inches from the top of your table if you have an 8-foot ceiling. For every foot of ceiling height beyond 8 feet, add 3-6 inches to the length of your chain/wire’.
Ceilings higher than that…well, you do the math. However, if your ceiling is extraordinarily high (like an 18 footer) then the light should hang approx. 6 feet from the ceiling (meaning 6 feet of airspace, but again, can depend on the HEIGHT of the fixture.
How big should a dining room light fixture be?
CIRCULAR OR OVAL DINING TABLE
Ideally, you would have it approx one foot less than the width of the table (the widest part). This works whether it’s a circle or oval.
- 42 inches wide: Your light would be approx. 18 – 20 inches
- 48 inches wide: Your light would be approx. 24 inches
Another way to think of it is to choose a light that is approx. 1/2 to 2/3 as wide as the widest part of the table. In the end, both measures will be similar.
SQUARE OR RECTANGLE TABLE
If your table is a square or rectangle and you want to choose a rectangular fixture, I would lean on the ‘smaller’ end of the scale and choose a fixture that was approx. 1/2 the width of the table and approx. 1/2-2/3 as long.
42-inch square table: Your light would be approx. 20 inches
42 x 78 inches: Your light would be approx. 20 inches wide x 54 inches long
(and please don’t double-check my math, I’m a creative soul – not a genius – wink wink)
The right height to hang wall sconces
The standard is 66 – 72 inches from the floor. In a hallway, I lean towards the higher end, whereas in a bedroom (like above bedside tables) I lean to the lower end.
You have a lot of flexibility with wall sconces and there is not a set guideline. However, here’s some food for thought…
- If you want to make a statement, look for a light fixture that has a glass shade mounted on a larger piece of metal
- If you have a tall wall, consider an overly long wall sconce
- Don’t just pay attention to the height of a fixture, also note the depth as some sconces stick out quite far which can look awkward down a hallway
How high should bathroom light fixtures hang?
Lighting above the mirror should be approx 75 – 80 inches from the floor. With 8-foot ceilings, I might do 75 inches with 9-foot ceilings I would go to 80 inches.
If you are hanging sconces on either side of the mirror, you’ll want them to be approx eye level – so 60 – 70 inches from the floor.
The right height to hang pendant lights over an island/peninsula
If you are hanging pendants over an island/peninsula then you should have approx 30-36 inches of airspace between the bottom of your fixture and the top of your counter surface.
How wide/big should a pendant light be over an island or peninsula?
There’s a LOT of room to move with this one and usually bigger is better (another epic love-life reference). Here are some basic guidelines to get you started…
- The pendant light should sit at least 10-12 inches in from the widest part of your countertop. So, if your island is 3 feet wide you’ll want the pendant to be no bigger than 12 inches.
- Don’t cram too many pendants in, while it’s all relative to the size of the pendant there should be ‘approx’ 30 inches in between bulbs. If your pendants are extraordinarily large, consider 24 – 30 inches between bulbs.
Hanging a light fixture in an entryway or foyer
You should have 7 feet of clearance (minimum) from your floor to the bottom of your light if you have a one-level entryway.
If you have a two-storey entryway, you don’t want the light hanging below the second storey (so that it’s in the first storey’s airspace)
How big should it be?
An easy way to come up with a number is to take the width of your room and add it to the depth of the room. Of course, there is something to be said for an over-sized statement light, so don’t let any numbers dissuade you!
So if you have a room that is 10 feet wide and 12 feet long you’ll do 10+12=22 inches– SHAZAAM! There’s your light size, approx. 22 inches.
Well, I hope you found this post en-light-ening (mwah-ha-ha).
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