Lighting Tips for the Every Day Home Owner



Volumes can be written (and have been written ) about lighting. The style/finish of fixtures, the type of bulb used, the lumens, the placement, etc. should all work together to give any particular house an appealing atmosphere. Some people consider interior lighting so important that they hire a lighting designer to get it right.  

One important point to remember:  Paint colour is totally dependant upon lighting…a colour on the wall can look completely different depending on the type of light (natural daylight, incandescent, halogen, etc).  Keep that in mind when you are picking new paint colours…always test it first under the lighting conditions that will be in that particular room.

In this article, I have tried to focus on some practical points for the everyday home owner with tips and suggestions for making lighting work in your home to its full potential.


Let’s start with the most asked question…what size should my chandelier be and how high should it be hung?

Well, it depends on where it is being hung, but here are some general rules.  In a dining room with 8′ ceilings, most experts say that a chandelier should be hung so that the bottom of it is about 30″ above the table.  For higher ceilings add 3″ to the height for every extra foot of ceiling height.  

In foyers, hang the chandelier so that the bottom is at least 7′ from the floor. If your ceiling is less than 7′, you do not have enough height to hang a chandelier in your foyer.  If it has a very high ceiling, choose a larger chandelier and hang it so that two-thirds of the height of the room is below the chandelier. 

Size (diameter) of the chandelier is just as important.  A couple of methods can be used to determine this in a dining room:  1.  Add the length and width of the room together…change the result you get to inches and that is the correct diameter of light to use in that room. Eg.  If your dining room is 12X14, the diameter should be 26 inches. (12 + 14 = 26). 2.  In a dining room, the diameter of the chandelier should be at least half the width of the dining table.  

For foyers and other rooms use method #1, but if the ceiling of your foyer is more than eighteen feet, make sure that the chandelier you are hanging is larger than 4 feet.  This will ensure that the chandelier is appropriately visible.

Table Lamps

Use smaller accent lamps on a small accent or side table and a larger lamp on larger table.  If the side table is placed next to a chair, sit on the chair and make sure that bottom of the shade doesn’t fall higher than eye level.

Bedside table lamps are usually best at a height of 29″  If a bedroom is very large and has large bedside tables, you can use a larger lamp, both in width and height.

Many table lamps made for desks are shorter and have a swing arm to help direct the light where needed. CNS Lighting recommends that a desk lamp be 16″ above the surface and 13″ from the front of the desk.

Buffet lamps are usually between 28 and 32 inches tall.  They are often displayed in pairs and are used in many places throughout the home such as on a buffet, sideboard or an entryway table.  Generally, these lamps have long narrow necks and small shades so that they do not take up too much room but provide low level lighting in small rooms or small areas that require a little more light.  They also make good bedside lamps for reading, etc.  Just make sure the size/height of the lamp is proportionate to the size of the table they are placed on.

Wall sconces

Wall sconces can be used in any room as well as outside.  Experts say to hang sconces 6 feet from the floor if you have an 8′ ceiling height.  If   the ceiling is higher or if it is a large room, use larger sconces  to match the proportions of the room.

Outdoor entry sconces should be 6-8″ on either side of the door and 18″ from the top of the door.  Generally speaking they should be mounted at three quarters of the height of the door…eg. if the door is 8′ tall, the light should be placed 6′ from the ground.

Vanity lights

Vanity lights in bathrooms should be placed about 75″ from the floor. The mirror should be about 75% of the width of the vanity and the light should be about 75% of the mirror width.

Recessed (pot) lights

Recessed lighting or pot lights provide a clean and streamlined look and opens up a space making it look bigger and brighter.  They are very versatile and are commonly used in kitchens, but can be used in any room because they are very unobstrusive. How many and how far apart depends on the size of the room, the size and intensity of the bulb and the amount of desired light. Six inch fixtures are best used in large areas such as two- story hallways and entryways.  Smaller 4″ and 5″ bulbs are better suited to smaller areas.  Generally speaking, 4″ lights should be placed 4′ apart and 6″ lights 6′ apart.  In a kitchen place the lights at least 12 inches from the face of the cabinets. 


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