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.
While the standard ceiling height is eight feet, in the last two decades, nine-foot ceilings have definitely vied for the top spot. But, regardless of your ceiling height, I’ve got some great tips below to help you hang your light right.
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 ceilings: 32 – 36 inches between the top of your table and the bottom of your fixture
- 9-foot ceilings: 36 – 40 inches between the top of your table and the bottom of your fixture
- 10-foot ceilings: 40 – 44 inches between the top of your table and the bottom of your fixture
To sum 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. six feet from the ceiling (meaning six feet of airspace, but again, this can depend on the HEIGHT of the fixture.
How Big Should a Dining Room Light Fixture be?
OVER A CIRCULAR OR OVAL DINING TABLE
Ideally, your light fixture should be 1/2 to 3/4 the width of your table. This works whether you’re table is a circle or an oval.
- 42-inch wide table: your light would be approx. 21-31 inches wide
- 48-inch wide table: your light would be approx. 24-36 inches wide
- 60-inch wide table: your light would be approx. 30-45 inches wide
OVER A 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’s approx. 1/2 the width of the table and approx. 1/2 to 2/3 as long.
- 42-inch square table: your light would be approx. 20 inches
- 42 x 78 inches: your light would be approx. 21 inches wide x 54 inches long
The right height to hang wall sconces
The standard height to hang a wall sconce 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 a mirror, you’ll want them to be eye level, approx. 60 – 70 inches from the floor.
The Right Height to Hang Pendant Lights Over an Island or Peninsula
If you are hanging pendants over an island or peninsula, 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 three 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-story entryway, you don’t want the light hanging below the second story (so that it’s in the first story’s airspace).
On the other hand, if you have a window on your two-story wall, you might consider hanging the light so that it’s centered on the window.
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.
I hope you found this post en-light-ening (mwah-ha-ha).
Originally written in 2016, awesomely updated in 2019