A chandelier or pendant light is like jewelry for your dining room, drawing the eye upwards and adding a level of elegance. However, as mismatched jewels can diminish the look of a fantastic outfit, so, too, can a poorly hung light detract from the overall impression of the room.
A dining room fixture, whether it's a sparkling chandelier or multi-light pendants, should be placed low enough to illuminate the dining area, but high enough to not block the sight lines of dinner guests. Rule of thumb for an average height ceiling: For an 8-foot ceiling, that typically means the bottom of the light should be between 30 and 34 inches from the top of the table.
Rooms With High Ceilings
In instances where ceilings are higher than 8 feet, designers differ in opinions. Some believe that ceiling height has no bearing on the relative placement of the ceiling fixture above the table and that the distance between the top of the table and the bottom of the fixture should remain between 30 to 34 inches.
However, other designers support the notion of adding 3 inches to the chandelier height for every additional foot of ceiling height. In a dining room with a 20-foot cathedral ceiling, that would mean a gap of at least 66 inches between the table and the bottom of the chandelier, which could appear very out of scale and imbalanced depending on the fixture.
Scale and Proportion
In taller rooms, use the 3-inch increment rule as a rough guideline only and test the appearance before deciding on the final hanging height of the fixture. The size and volume of the room and the dimensions of the dining table and chairs, as well as any accessory pieces, such as a sideboard or buffet, should appear in scale with the chandelier for a balanced, well-proportioned aesthetic.
Rule of thumb for chandelier diameter: Ideally, the diameter of the chandelier should be at least 12 inches narrower than the table's width.
An alternate method of calculating the approximate diameter of the chandelier is to add the length of the room to the width of the room. If the room is 20 feet wide by 10 feet long, for example, the light should have a diameter of 30 inches.
Scaling Fixtures for Comfort
For more narrow tables, also consider the height of the people who most often use the dining room and the manner in which they use it when positioning the light. If the table is only 36 inches deep and one of the primary diners is 6 feet tall and will regularly lean over the table to serve and clear dishes, a high probability exists that he will hit his head on the light quite regularly if it hangs only 30 inches above the table.