Dining room lighting ideas – switch up the mood from everyday dining to entertaining

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  • With a well-planned lighting scheme, your dining room can really shine. Todays dining room is a multifunctional space that can be used for various different purposes throughout the day, from serving family breakfasts followed by working from home to hosting an intimate dinner party. No one function is the same, meaning dining room lighting ideas are key to cater for the needs of each task at hand.

    Where a home office might require a more directional task light, an ambient dinner setting welcomes a softer approach to lighting. To make the room ideal for all occasions consider mixing your lighting choices.

    ‘Create a conversation with your lighting using different heights with side lamps as well as floor standing and ceiling lights too’ advises Martin Waller, Founder of Andrew Martin. ‘Why limit yourself to a single dimmer switch when you can be surrounded with warmth? Good lighting is imperative to creating an ambience, a cove of cosiness and intimacy.’ Essential qualities in a dining room setting.

    Dining room light ideas

    A dining room is often used at night, so achieving the right atmosphere through lighting is crucial, particularly in the winter months when the days are short.

    For drama in a more formal setting, nothing beats a beautiful chandelier or overside shade suspended directly above the table. Unlike other room, it doesn’t require a high ceiling as it’s not going to be walked under. And here’s another tip – positioning two downlight either side of a crystal or glass chandelier creates extra sparkle.

    Don’t forget that glazed cabinets filled with your favourite dinnerware can look beautiful when lit. Or try a striking floor lamp, perhaps in a metallic of the moment like brass or gold. Table lamps can brighten up a sideboard in more ways than one in a stylish dining room ideas.

    1. Create a point of focus with a captivating pendant

    dining table with wooden pendant light over table

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Rachael Smith

    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 a main overhead light will be your friend. Having a central source of light helps to anchor the room around it, it will determine furniture placement.

    Add floor standing and table lamps on sideboards to add accents to create ambience, to be flicked on as and when it’s needed.

    2. Keep it simple with spotlights

    Pale grey kitchen diner with wooden table with pastel blue, lemon and grey acrylic chairs

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Chris Snook

    By day, this table benefits from the rays of natural daylight streaming in from the skylight above. At night, spotlights installed around the roof lantern will make it bright enough to dine at. Choose dimmable spotlights to have further control of the light levels, to determine the kind of atmosphere you want for the dinner setting.

    3. Suspend a run of pendants

    Navy blue Dining room with built-in wooden bench seating along one wall

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Lizzie Orme

    Take a tip from many a gastropub and get your electrician to install a series of pendant lights along the length of your table. It will give even lighting, and is a good way to go if you regularly host dinner parties.

    For a contemporary look, opt for colourful flex cords and bare industrial-style bulbs.

    4. Change the mood with rise-and-fall lighting

    white dining area with rise and fall pendants over a wooden dining table and blue metal chair

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Dominic Blackmore

    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.

    5. Play with scale in the same style


    Image credit: Future PLC/ David Merewether

    For open-plan kitchen ideas, 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.

    In this smart kitchen dining area the owners have sourced similarly shaped pendants, but used bigger ones over the dining table, and smaller ones as task lighting over the island.

    6. Add accent lighting with lamps

    Dining room storage with neutral walls and plate rack

    Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Whitmore

    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?

    A pair of lamps – one on a sideboard and perhaps one on a tall lamp table – will create just the right ambience for a romantic dinner for two, or relaxed after-dinner chat amongst friends.

    7. Position a floor lamp for directional light

    dining room with bifold doors

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Douglas Gibb

    If you don’t have a sideboard to place a lamp on why not choose a floor lamp instead – one like this arched design to spill a pool of light directly onto the dining table. A floor standing lamp in the corner of the room can also add ambient lighting, allowing the overhead lights to be dimmed or turned off altogether for a more intimate dining occasion. Welcome candlelight to the table to enhance the atmosphere.

    8. Add a pop of coordinating colour

    Green dining room with patterned wallpaper and blinds

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Simon Whitmore

    You can really establish an existing colour scheme by hanging a pendant in a coordinating colour. Enamel designs like this 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.

    9. Mirror a kitchen lighting scheme

    dinging room looking through to kitchen with matching metal pendant lights

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Serena Fokschaner

    If your dining room is off the kitchen create a more cohesive, open-plan vibe with a matching decor – and that includes the lighting. Mirror the kitchen lighting idea to welcome a seamless flow from one room to the other, transitioning the journey through from prep to serving and dining.

    10. Stagger heights and sizes to make a statement

    Full white shutters with tier on tier opening in a dining room with natural accessories and rattan lighting - Colin Poole

    Image Credit: Future PLC/ Colin Poole

    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.

    11. Tone a scheme with metallics


    Image credit: Future PLC/ Dominic Blackmore

    Not everyone is a big fan of colour. So if you feel safer with neutral dining room ideas, here’s a good way to upgrade lighting without it overwhelming your space. Pick a metallic that’s pretty without being too showy – copper and brass are ideal. A metal shade will add class to your space and tones beautifully with wood for a touch of glamour that’s not overbearing.

    12. Captivate with a cascading cluster design

    Dining area with mustard yellow wall and gallery of photos

    Image credit: Future PLC/ David Giles

    To create a real talking point choose a statement overhead light that is sure to start a conversation, such as this striking design with cascading lustrous glass droplets. Not only does the cluster provide a style statement for the overall aesthetic it also adds 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.

    13. Go glam with a chandelier

    White dining room with black chandelier and blue painted dresser

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Mark Bennett

    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.

    14. Pick an oversized pendant


    Image credit: Future PLC/ Simon Whitmore

    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. Here, a woven design is the perfect match for a smart country scheme achieved with greyish oak furniture and a vintage-inspired wallpaper.

    15. Cast a glow with a coloured shade

    White dining area with green glass pendant light and colour coded books on bookshelf

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Colin Poole

    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.

    16. Make it personal

    retro diner light-up sign in dining room

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Rachael Smith

    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 does it add a dining wall decor idea it also helps to add a touch of illumination too.

    These homeowners have chosen to light up their American retro themed dining area with a personalised light up diner sign.

    17. Mix and match pattern


    Image credit: Future PLC/ Mark Scott

    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 an material you love. It’s surprisingly easy!

    18. Display fairy lights within foliage

    blue dining room with foliage and lights hung over the dining table

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Paul Raeside

    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 type of lighting is best for a dining room?

    What type of lighting is best for a dining room is a balanced mix, to create a lighting scheme that caters for any purpose. ‘Use statement lighting to create different zones, that each have a purpose’ advises  Martin Waller, Founder of Andrew Martin. ‘Hang pendant lighting over dining areas to draw people into an inviting dining scene.’

    ‘Layer lighting and use multiple light sources to make a room flexible and versatile. Opt for dramatic pendants as your main source of light and pair with statement table lamps to create an atmospheric mood’ Martin recommends.

    ‘Wall lights work well as accent lighting to highlight interesting features in the room, such as art or artefacts. Choose bold pieces featuring structural shapes, interesting texture or coloured glass to make a style statement, even if the lighting is switched off.’

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