Designer Insights

Top Tips for Lighting your Dining Room

The dining room is one of the trickiest spaces to light, due largely to its evolution from a formal dining area into a multi-use space. This article from Angie’s List gives some of our favorite tips for lighting this space that hosts some of your family’s most special events. Lighting supports this space in a variety of ways, from casting an inviting glow to highlighting keepsakes that told the family’s story.

Dining room lighting should still support the room’s traditional role as a gathering place, but it should also honor all the nontraditional ways you use the space. That means layering the light to serve a variety of needs. We have five tips to help you get started.

Define how you use the space.

How often do you use it? What do you use it for? Are the kids doing their homework there? Are you hosting family? Do you just eat and that’s it? Knowing how you use the room — including when you’re not eating — reveals where you need light, unveiling the stations that need lighting.

If you throw dinner parties, consider sconces to accent a buffet. If you display china, mirrors or other items, use floor and table lamps to showcase them. If you work at the table, consider dining room ceiling lights that offer task lighting, such as a bright chandelier.

Look at your hardware.

Look at the hardware around your home — doorknobs, faucets, even register covers — for inspiration, paying attention to metal and finish. Current dining room lighting trends emphasize combinations such as oil-rubbed bronze, brushed nickel and polished chrome. These versatile combinations support the movement away from uniform looks that can feel prescriptive and overly structured.

Love your own style.

Pay attention to the things you love. Many magazines and websites present rules for lighting design, such as matching the shape of your chandelier to your table, but now there are no rules. You can mix and match anything and make it look good. Your chandelier doesn’t have to match the sconces, and wicker can be mixed with crystal. The important thing is to find pieces that suit your personal style.

Use dimmers.

Dimmers have the most staying power of all dining room lighting trends, and they have a powerful impact on mood and make the room multidimensional. Consider how the chandelier, mirrors and art above the fireplace reveal different qualities as brightness changes. For optimal control of mood, use multiple dimmers — ceiling fixtures on one and wall fixtures on another, for instance.

Command natural light.

The last thing to consider is the impact of sunlight based on a dinner party’s start time. In order to determine this, you have to know which direction your windows are facing. You may need shades or sheer curtains layered with drapes help control the intensity of incoming light. Landscaping outside the window can also help control the light to block intense light or allow more light in. If your dining room receives limited sunlight, use mirrors, crystal and glass to maximize light.