Lighting is a significant contributor to the ambiance of your dining room. Too dim and murky and romance turns to irritation. Too bright and you might as well be dining in a bus station. A chandelier -- or pendant light -- over the table eliminates cords and, theoretically, casts an inviting glow over your repast. But all bets are off when you hang the fixture too high or too low.
Get the height right and the right light will eliminate dark spots that leave you groping for the grapefruit spoon or a glaring spotlight highlighting the streaks in your water glasses.
Basic Guide to Measuring Height
Start With the Standard
The standard height for the bottom of a hanging light source over a dining table is between 30 to 36 inches from the table surface. This allows diners to converse across the table without ducking an intrusive chandelier or shouting between the crystal pendants.
Adjust for Personal Height
No standard is set in stone. Your habitual guests or residents impact the lighting height. Test light placement for short and tall people to find the sweet spot -- if you're 5'5" and your significant other is 6'4", the lighting fixture should accommodate the taller person.
Adjust for Ceiling Height
These measurements change further as your ceiling height does. An 8-foot ceiling needs fairly standard lighting placement. Add roughly 3 inches per foot to the chandelier height for higher ceilings. Work to find a happy compromise if you live in a grand villa with cathedral ceilings; the light has to reach the table, and the glittering fixture should look proportional in the space.
Consider Shape, Size & Arrangement
The type of chandelier or light makes a difference in hanging height as well.
If a chandelier has a "bowl" shape that curves down like a globe, be sure to measure height from the lowest point of the fixture. A symmetrical circle of hanging crystals don't block the view so thoroughly, so you can play a bit with height if you have that style.
More than one chandelier or pendant lamp over a dining table frees you to mix heights -- just be sure the fixtures are fairly close in height and keep the lowest one above seated head height.
And note the circumference of your lighting when deciding how to hang it. The ideal chandelier is about 1 foot smaller in diameter than the table. This safeguards diners' heads as they sit down or stand up. If your light is on the generous side, raise it a little -- how much will depend on the room and the chandelier -- or re-deploy the shiny fixture to the entry hall and acquire a smaller chandelier.