Proper Lighting Tips
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, even casual 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 perfectly acceptable."
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 ornate brass filigree with crystal pendants.
Crystal chandeliers are one of the most traditional way to compliment a dining room setting.
"Finish is the most important factor today and it should compliment surrounding furnishings and accessories; not match or contrast," says Rick Wiedemer, CLC, President of 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.
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.
Additional Lighting Tips for Dining Rooms
FIRST STEP: A chandelier in the middle of the room defines the space. Choose that fixture first, then work out with accent lights.
HANGING AROUND: Choose a chandelier with a diameter 12" less than width of table. The bottom of chandelier should be 30" above table.
TALL ORDERS: For ceilings nine feet or higher, consider a two-tier style chandelier to fill the space from the fixture's top to the ceiling.
DIMMER SHIMMER: Always use a dimmer on dining room lights. "Light becomes warmer as it is dimmed," says Dan Blitzer, American Lighting Association Continuing Educator.
HOME WORK: For those who use the dining room as a study area, consider bringing in a portable study lamp to brighten up the workspace. "Overhead lighting may work well for general studies, but in depth or close work demands more light," says Blitzer.
GET SMART: So-called "smart" dimmers, driven by microprocessors offer convenience. "When you have several layers of light, smart dimmers can be set to various ambiences. Press one button for dining, another for lighting up homework, another for party-time.
THE LAYERED LOOK: Use multiple layers of light in the dining room. Chandeliers provide the central focus. Accent lights on either side of the chandelier and at the room's perimeter brighten things up. Accessory lights on and/or over other furniture pieces fill in the background.
TABLE THIS: Table lamps add a soft, humanizing touch to a dining room. Display them on a buffet or breakfront.