Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Choosing Light Fixtures - Rules and Helpful Hints

I get questions about this all the time, so thought it might be helpful to share a couple of useful tips for choosing the right light fixture for your home.  Whether you're buying online or in a store (where the tall ceilings can make the fixture seem much smaller than when you get it home!) there are some simple guidelines that can make it easier.  But like anything else, there are exceptions to the rules.

Let's say you're looking for a dining room fixture.  To determine the diameter of the fixture you need, you simply add the length and width of the room in feet - and that gives you the inches for the fixture.

So for example, if your dining room is 12' x 10', you would add 12 + 10 = 22.  So you would look for a fixture approximately 22" in diameter.  This might seem a bit simplistic, but it works surprisingly well.
But there are exceptions.  Let's say you have a dining room like the one in our new project that has a cathedral ceiling - and it's also in a large open floor plan.  In that case, you may want to go with something a bit larger.

In a case like this, I love to do a mock-up of the size fixture I have in mind.  These paper globes are a great way to get a visual representation of the fixture.  I found inexpensive ones at Christmas Tree Shop in multiple sizes and use them as mock ups.

I did the same for the island.   Usually I use 3 light fixtures over an island.  However this time I decided two slightly larger fixtures would work better - but I wanted to do a mock up.  A couple of different sized paper globes let me see which fixtures would work (Answer - smaller and I ordered them.  I can't tell you how much I love these lights!!).

In our own kitchen, I made a mock-up of a sputnik fixture, using a styrofoam ball and paint sticks. My husband and I had a hard time agreeing on something we both liked - but putting this up gave us a way to come to agreement (BTW - this is much larger than what was recommended by the length x width calculation, but because the ceiling is very tall and the fixture is so open, it worked just fine).
Sputnik fixture in completed dining room
And what height do you hang the light?  Well most dining room tables are 30" tall.  In general, I like the bottom of the fixture to be 30-36" above the dining table, so you have room for a centerpiece and so the light fixture doesn't obstruct your view as you've sitting at the table.  But as with any other rule, you should  have your electrician hold the light up and look at it from multiple angles before you do final installation.

Ultimately, these are just guidelines.  Every room has its own special features and you should consider them as you purchase your new light fixture.  Good luck!

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