Dining Rooms That Work – Lighting


Wine Cellar, Interior Design by Alexander Interiors LLC


The correct lighting has an immediate impact on how comfortable people feel in a space.  There are certain sections within some restaurants where I will not sit because of the awful glare from the lighting.  I do not want to feel like I am being interrogated; blinded by bright lights. Further, harsh downward lighting casts very unflattering shadows on a person’s face. Perhaps that would work on Halloween, but not on any other day of the year, and certainly not on Thanksgiving or other special holidays. Conversely, you do want to be able to see what you are eating. Take the time to find the right intensity and color of light (pink is a lot better than harsh white) that both flatters and assists. 

It’s very common for me to recommend that the chandelier over any dining table be moved to the center of the table. This may sound like Design 101, but, electricians like to find the center of the dining room and install the electric box for the chandelier in that position.  This rarely works. Any furniture against the wall will push the center of the dining table off from the center of the room.  When determining the center of the dining table and thus the placement of the chandelier, any furniture that you add to the room must be taken into account. This is another example of the never-ending benefits of proper planning. 

The bottom of the chandelier should be approximately 30 inches from the table top.  Also, the style of the chandelier should enhance your furniture.  I’ve seen more mistakes having to do with the selection of the dining room chandelier than any other light fixture in the home.  When making your selection of light fixtures, keep in mind the style of your room and furnishings. The fixture should support and compliment your furniture style.  I frequently see modern chandeliers hanging over traditional tables, and traditional chandeliers hanging over modern tables. That doesn’t work unless you are going for an eclectic look. Please note: eclectic does not mean haphazard or unplanned. It isn’t the panacea for poor design choices. Unless you have that special eye for such things, the eclectic look should be left to the professionals.

If you have a very long dining table, you may need additional lighting beyond the chandelier.  Adding pin lights on both sides of the chandelier helps to illuminate the table at the long ends.  Be sure to use dimmers on the chandelier and the pin lights and have the pin lights on a separate switch so they can be used only as needed.

Cove lighting is a nice addition to the dining room and also wall sconces add a special touch.  Also, if your walls are a dark color, you will need to compensate with additional lighting to help balance the lighting.  Don’t forget candles on the dining table for mood lighting.  They are very flattering to your guests, to your family, and, yes, to you, too. – Alexander Interiors, McLean, VA

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