Choosing dining room lighting ideas is often a second thought, but getting it right is crucial for creating the perfect balance for day and nighttime use. Getting dining room lighting right is as simple as day and night, you need the right lighting during the day for brightness and then be able to create a moodier ambience in the evening, especially when you are entertaining.
It also depends on whether you're considering dining room ideas for a stand-alone room or part of an open-plan space, and how you plan to use the space. Does it have to double up as a home office, or somewhere for the children to do their homework?
'When creating a lighting scheme, you should consider the different ways that the space is going to be used and what moods you’ll need to create,' agrees Victoria Rothschild, Co-Founder, Rothschild & Bickers.
'Whether it’s eating as a family during the week or entertaining friends at the weekend, most people tend to use their dining room in the evening and at night. As such, statement chandeliers and clusters of pendants above a dining table are a great way to achieve drama. If your dining room is part of your kitchen or lounge, a statement light or row of pendants will also provide a zoning effect.'
Dining room lighting ideas
Think about layering light for a complete look, so not just overhead lights but table lamps, floor lamps and wall lights can all be used to create wonderful dining room lighting ideas.
‘We’ve found a combination of wall lights and directional spotlights works well most of the time.’ Says Heather Marshall of Corston Architectural Detail. ‘Regularly placed wall lights will create a gentle, diffused glow. While spotlights will be brighter for when you’re working (or tackling hectic family meals) but can be angled so they’re not shining in anyone’s eyes.’
1. Use statement lighting as your starting point
You may find a light that you just have to have, which could be the starting point for your dining room scheme. This beauty is a case in point. Made from the lightest glass balls in different sizes with barely-there gold fittings. It appears to float like bubbles. A light like this needs neutral walls for it to shine. The design is so delicate, that any bold colour scheme would detract from it, so build your dining room colour scheme around it.
'Our best-selling Ribbon pendant light diffuses a dimmable warm glow, while acting as an artistic design piece with its looping curves, offering a touch of luxury when poised above a dining table and a sleek alternative to a chandelier,' says Claire Ansty, Lighting Buyer at Heal’s. Similarly, the Makiko Pendant Collection by Heal’s offers a range of showstopping fixtures that cast a dramatic yet beautifully ambient glow – perfect when hung individually or as a cluster above the table.
2. Keep it simple with an oversized pendant
For an uncluttered look, a classic white pendant shade is hard to beat and an easy dining room lighting idea. 'Hanging pendants work really well when positioned over a dining room table, and to draw attention to the centre of the room, choose something big and impactful,' advises Marketa Rypacek, Managing Director, Industville Ltd.
'If you use your dining room to host parties often, you might want to consider changing your shades for the occasion. Treat the dining room lighting ideas the same way you would your wardrobe - keep it looking and feeling fresh for every party.'
3. Add shine with metallics
Metallics add instant glamour and are the perfect pairing to glamorous dining room wall decor ideas. Having double pendants over the dining table puts light where you need it. Not only do metallics add shine to the space, but these ones are also hammered so they have a textured finish and they bring a modern touch to a traditional space.
‘A dimmable pendant – or, for a dramatic look, a row of pendants - is useful for switching from functional to relaxation mode,’ says Charlie Bowles, Director of Original BTC. ‘Consider also accent lighting to highlight areas of interest – it’s a great way to showcase a collection of china, or wall art.'
4. Create a vintage style with a chandelier
Chandeliers may vary in style from traditional ones to uber-modern ones and are a timeless dining room lighting idea. They have been with us for centuries and will continue to do so – they are so versatile and can create a great talking point over a table.
If you are looking for a vintage look, a metal, French-style one with candle holders is a good choice that won’t date. They come in sizes from large to small, so choose one that suits the size of your room.
5. Zone the space
If you are working with small dining room ideas or your dining area is set into an alcove, use a statement light to zone the space and draw the eye in. Visually, make sure it’s centred over the table and choose a strong colour such as this black design, then add colour with cushions in a plain room to add a bit of life.
A colourful or patterned blind would also be a good background to the light, to bring in more colour and make the space feel cosier.
6. Go for an industrial vibe
There have been a lot of industrial-style lights around in recent years and they are a lovely dining room lighting idea. Use them singly over a small table or hang a few at different heights as they have here.
They tend to have filament bulbs which are designed to be seen and traditional cord that you can have in different colours to suit your decor. They don’t give off a lot of light but are a nice design feature.
7. Introduce colour with your lighting choice
If you feel like a colour refresh in your dining room, it’s a simple dining room lighting idea to add coloured pendant lights, and you don’t need an electrician to do it. There are some reasonably priced ones around, these ones are glass, so easy to clean too. Then build up your colour story with a bold tablecloth, china and glassware, or artwork for an instant colour hit to change up the room.
8. Put the lighting where you need it
Pendant lights aren’t always where you want them to be, but with the trend for industrial lighting with trailing wires as a design feature, you can simply add a hook into the ceiling to get the light where you need it, or to centralise it over a table.
There is some symmetry in this dining room too, the round pendant light is placed above a round table for a pleasing look.
9. Go for drama with an unusual light
The best dining room lighting idea is to work with the room. This cottage has a striking stone wall and a black fireplace, so a simple light would go unnoticed. Go for something dramatic such as this black glass droplet chandelier with candle holders, it’s gothic, impressive and suits the room perfectly.
10. Choose a pendant bar over a rectangular table
Bar or linear pendants are a great way of lighting a long, rectangular table, or could be used over a breakfast bar. They are made up of multiple lights attached or suspended from a bar structure that is attached to the ceiling, so they are easier to put up than individual lights and it generally means you won’t have to upgrade the electrics.
There are lots of really cool designs in all sorts of shapes and sizes to choose from but bear in mind the light should be between 300mm-600mm shorter than your table for the most pleasing look.
11. Work with your space
'Dining room lighting needs to be practical and visually appealing,' says Ian Cameron, Creative Director, Cameron Design House.
'If you're working with small dining room ideas, opt for subtle yet statement pendant lights, the delicacy of this design will add elegance to the area and accentuate the feel of the room. Where room size is at a premium, a large statement chandelier is a great way to optimise the ceiling space, creating interest to the dining space.'
12. Create bold contrast
If your dining room space is situated within an open-plan kitchen, then you can use your lighting to help zone the space.
'Whether you have an open plan kitchen diner, or a separate living room, hanging a ceiling light above a dining table creates a focal point and helps to define the space,' explains,' Julian Page, Head of Design, BHS.
Reinforce this definition of the space by choosing a boldly contrasting colour for your dining room lighting ideas. This will make the dining area visually zoned even when the lights are off.
13. Play with heights
'Make the dining table the focal point of the room by hanging an impressive fixture above it,' suggests Marketa from Industville Ltd. 'A popular trend for dining room lighting to hang a clustered pendant above the table to create a modern statement show-piece.'
'For best results hang the pendants at varying heights and choose shades of varying sizes and styles to create a standout dining room decor fixture.'
14. Suspend a row of pendants
'When it comes to introducing dining room lighting ideas, it’s all about planning and thinking about where the lights will sit best,' says David Amos, CEO, Amos Lighting + Home. 'Incorporating task lighting such as pendants works particularly well above the table to highlight a specific area.'
A row of three pendant lights above the table creates a striking look while also ensuring the whole are is evenly lit.
15. Disguise lighting during the day
Not all dining room lighting ideas needs to shout about their presence. By choosing the right shade you can effectively hide your light during the day.
Translucent or transparent shades do this especially well. The light will still perfectly light your dining room table decorating ideas at night, but not distract when switched off.
16. Lean into luxe
If you're going for glam, you might as well go all in. Keep things on the contemporary side by switching up the colour or material of your light in contrast to other key pieces around the room. Think gold instead of silver, or metallic instead of glass.
17. Embrace natural light
At the end of the day, nothing quite lights as well as natural light. A glass extension is the perfect place to situate your dining table, and you'll be more likely to make use of the space during the day.
At night, collections of candles and lanterns will reflect prettily on the glass walls and ceiling, creating a dreamy ambience.
18. Create a focal point
Hanging a single statement pendant light centrally over the dining table helps to create a point of focus, to draw the eye to the main area within the room – the table.
Whether you use that table for mealtimes, homework or your day job, singular overhead dining room lighting ideas will be your friend. Having a central source of light helps to anchor the room around it and it will determine furniture placement.
'We always recommend having a stunning statement chandelier or pendant light as the centrepiece of a dining room,' says Ian from Cameron Design House. 'Hung centrally above a table, a nice bright light draws the eye in and brings people together. To create an ambient setting, install a dimmer switch, and dim the lights ahead of serving the meal to create a relaxing atmosphere.'
19. Keep it simple with spotlights
Spotlights are a great choice for dining room lighting ideas - both by themselves and in combination with other light sources.
'Decorative pendants have always been the staple over dining tables but note that some decorative products are not very bright and can cast shadows,' notes Piero De Marchis, Director, Detail Lighting. 'It’s advisable to ‘fill-in’ with focused spots either at 4 corners of the table or in line down the centre of the table.'
'Ideally opt for dimmable lighting as these have second function as calming night-time lighting, if you have existing circuits that cannot be changed then there is a new generation of intelligent Bluetooth receivers that allow you to dim the lights where you couldn’t have it before.'
20. Change the mood with rise-and-fall lighting
No space for table lamps? You can switch the atmosphere using a rise-and-fall light. As the name suggests, it can be lowered and raised on a whim. Keep it low to the table for intimacy and high up for a brighter feel.
Installing a smart design will give you the flexibility you need to adapt the space to suit multiple purposes in an instant.
21. Play with scale in the same style
In open-plan spaces, a matchy-matchy approach can ensure a coherent look. But don't go for shades all the same size. Use an assortment of the same style in different sizes to add scale to different zones.
A smart kitchen idea is to source similarly shaped pendants, using the bigger ones over the dining table, and the smaller as task lighting over the island.
22. Add accent lighting with lamps
In a living room, you wouldn't think twice about adding a couple of table or floor lamps. Turn the 'big light' off and you can use them to create a more relaxing mood when you're watching a movie or curling up with your Kindle. So why not do the same in your dining room?
'Create layers of light that you can control separately (ideally on dimmable circuits) to create different moods,' suggests Victoria from Rothschild & Bickers. 'Even if that is as simple as having a few table and floor lights, as well as a central pendant light, you can balance these together in different ways. Using smaller amounts of light from multiple sources and locations in a space will create visual depth.'
23. Position a floor lamp for directional light
If you don't have a sideboard to place a lamp on why not choose a floor lamp instead?
A floor standing lamp in the corner of the room can also add ambient dining room lighting ideas, allowing the overhead lights to be dimmed or turned off altogether for a more intimate occasion. Welcome candlelight to the table to enhance the atmosphere.
24. Add a pop of coordinating colour
You can really establish an existing colour scheme by hanging a pendant in a coordinating colour. Enamel designs come in all the shades of the rainbow, so you're sure to find one that's exactly right.
Up the ante with an Anglepoise-style lamp on a nearby sideboard. Though they're typically used on a desk, they'll work well in a dining room, since you can angle the bulb differently depending on the mood you're trying to create.
25. Mirror a kitchen lighting scheme
If your dining room is off the kitchen, create a more cohesive, open-plan vibe with matching decor – and that includes the lighting.
Mirror kitchen lighting ideas to welcome a seamless flow from one room to the other, transitioning the journey through from prep to serving and dining.
26. Stagger heights and sizes to make a statement
Break with the norm and add a decorative twist to the design rule of three (using the uneven number for displays, to avoid stark symmetry).
Use three lights, use the same lights even, but add interest by choosing to stagger the display, with different heights and sizes. You can of course buy lights that welcome the look, but this idea allows you to be flexible with exactly where you place each one.
27. Tone a scheme with metallics
Pick a metallic that's pretty without being too showy – copper and brass are ideal.
28. Captivate with a cascading cluster design
To create a real talking point choose statement overhead dining room lighting ideas sure to start a conversation, such as a striking cascading design.
Not only does a cluster provide a style statement for the overall aesthetic it will also add light on many different levels to create a central focus of interest.
Be sure to position a show-stopper light in the middle of your your dining scheme to avoid it throwing the rest of the room off balance.
29. Go glam with a chandelier
Talk about stealing the show! This glam black chandelier instantly ups the wow factor in this traditional dining area. A low-hanging piece such as this is only practical when positioned above a table, so that it cannot be bumped into.
'Lights above a dining table need to be perfectly situated so they create visual interest without being impractical during dinner time,' notes Ian from Cameron Design House. 'The general rule of chandeliers is to have them between 30 and 36 inches, with a conventional 8-foot ceiling height.'
30. Pick an oversized pendant
Chandeliers are great for adding impact, but they're not for everyone – or, indeed, every look. Another route is to choose an oversized pendant. Changing a pendant shade is an easy and affordable way to change the decor. No need for an electrician for this simple job!
This idea will create a more subtle statement, and you have more freedom to choose a material that works with the rest of the room.
31. Cast a glow with a coloured shade
Jazz up your existing lighting solution by simply changing the shade. Swap your standard drum shade for a coloured glass or acrylic design which will add a fun element to the decor when the light is on, omitting a glow of colour to the surround ceiling and walls.
Be daring and choose a shade in a strong colour that will dissipate the light further when it's dark, and add colour by day.
32. Make it personal
Add a touch of personality to your dining room with the addition of a bespoke light-up sign. From neon signs to retro diner designs choose a light to personalise your space. Not only is it a creative dining room wall decor idea, it also helps to add a touch of illumination too.
33. Mix and match pattern
A sociable dining area is a great place to have fun with pattern – and may encourage the family to sit at the table for dinner. Pick a colour, then clash patterns – as long as they're the same tone, you're guaranteed success. However, you may want to stick with a theme for your fabrics – like floral.
Buy a drum lampshade-making kit and you can make your own in a material you love. It's a surprisingly easy budget dining room idea!
34. Display fairy lights within foliage
It's an amazing idea at Christmas, of course, but this look can be effective all year round. You will first need to assess how much weight your ceiling can hold.
If you're using a branch as a base, which is a good idea, make sure it's supported with several lengths of wire or metal chain, spread evenly for stable support.
Alternatively, you could attach foliage to existing fixtures, like ceiling rafters or a chandelier.
What lighting is best for a dining room?
Always base your lighting around your dining table. If the table is small just use a single pendant, if the table is large, use multiple lights or a bar pendant to an even light along the length of the table. Use a dimmer that can be turned up during the day and down at night for a more flattering light. We would always suggest combing a range of different lighting that can be blended depending on the task and mood using dimmers.
‘We love to use a focal lamp or pendant above the dining table that creates intimacy and is not too bright or harsh,' says Thomas Housden, Design Director of Hand and Eye Studio.
‘We then add one or two wall lights in key locations that can accent key walls and areas. We would then always suggest a couple of different free-standing lights so a small bookshelf light or a floor (uplight) light. These can add the homely feel and allow you to illuminate corners of rooms of a particular area of joinery etc.’
How low should a light be over a dining table?
'Low level lighting is best when it comes to the dining area,' says Victoria from Rothschild & Bickers. 'It creates intimacy but you don’t want to get stuck with a light that hangs too low or too high or an undersized or oversized light that will create disproportion in your interior.'
'The general rule to follow for dining room lighting ideas is to ensure the bottom of the light fixture is between 30" and 36" from the top of your table,' adds Marketa from Industville Ltd.
'The standard recommendation is based on an average sized room however, factors such as the ceiling height, room size, table size and the amount of light that is projected from by the fixture should also be taken into account.'
What can I use instead of a chandelier
Using an industrial-style light is a great option instead of a chandelier. ‘With your ceiling lighting, it’s always best to make a statement in the dining room,' says Julian Page, Head of Design at BHS.
‘The industrial look looms large in lighting design, creating a statement with its use of weathered materials, visible production methods and exposed filaments. Consider industrial ceiling pendants or a group of them light a dining room. It speaks to a rise in urban living and an appreciation of architectural detail, seen clearly in lighting with the use of exposed wires.’
What colour light is best for a living room?
Warm white light is best for living rooms, so choose warm white bulbs instead of cool white ones for a cosier look. ‘As the seasons change, so will your lighting. Easily switch up colours in the living area by using lampshades,’ says Mary Buchanan, Creative Director of Laura Ashley Lighting and Mirrors. Opt for richer ‘jewel colour’ hues like burnt orange, navy blue, emerald green and mustard to quickly upgrade your space with warmth and cosiness, with a luxe twist.’
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Tamara was Ideal Home's Digital Editor before joining the Woman & Home team in 2022. She has spent the last 15 years working with the style teams at Country Homes & Interiors and Ideal Home, both now at Future PLC. It’s with these award wining interiors teams that she's honed her skills and passion for shopping, styling and writing. Tamara is always ahead of the curve when it comes to interiors trends – and is great at seeking out designer dupes on the high street.
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