07 March, 2011

"Behind the Scenes - Chandelier Height . . . "

Marina Project, SMW Design, San Francisco


Thought we'd start out our Monday with a little math problem.  If an antique brass chandelier leaves Chicago going 85 miles an hour - and a dining table leave Miami on the fourth Tuesday after New Year's Day - How high do you hang the chandelier over the dining table?

Well, actually, someone emailed me the other day with that very question.  Well - not *THAT* very question - but a more general one requesting advice about the proper height to hang a light fixture over your dining table.

Antique Chandeliers.

And, yes, there can be a simple math equation to solve this particular dilemma.  Here's how I do it :

To start, hang your fixture 35 inches above the surface of your dining table -
or basically 65 inches from the floor.

BUT, in cases of larger rooms, add two inches to that
height for every foot over 9 feet of ceiling height.

I can almost hear all of you saying "What?!?!?!?"  

Modern Chandeliers. 

The 35 inches over the dining surface (usually a 30 inch height) gives you a great place to begin . . . but adding a bit more based on your ceiling height gives the light fixture proper balance in the room.

So a dining room with an 11 foot ceiling - you would hang at 69 inches from the floor.
(the basic 65 inches, plus 4 inches (two for each foot of ceiling height over 9 feet))

Candle Chandeliers.

And clearly, this works for candle-lit fixtures as well as electric ones.

But remember - always trust your eye.  
Use the equation to start, but always be willing a add or subtract a bit
based on how the fixture actually looks and feels in the space.

Happy measuring,

(all images from SMW Design - photography by Nicolas Smith and Eric Tagan Hooten)


Jeannine 520 said...

Your "marina project" dining room is gorgeous! I never thought I'd be attracted to a look that was that modern but I love it. You've done a fab job of mixing the modern with the traditional to achieve a very hip but cozy room.

Scot Meacham Wood said...


Thank you! SO much of design is about mixing influences for me. Glad you like the project!


Beryn Hammil said...

Great article and pictures. Thanks for sharing them.

Unknown said...

few things irk me more then a chandelier hung too high over a dining table. chandeliers should illuminate the dining table, not the ceiling.

My Notting Hill said...

You're opening was hysterical and brought back a few bad flashbacks from various math classes. Great advice.

Luciane at HomeBunch.com said...


I like it! I truly do! I like you're mixing it a bit! Now... please... I need to forget the math! I can't stand it since my 4th grade teacher said I sucked at it! LOL Still hating her too!!! LOL

Have a great week!

By the way, come drop by my blog to see my interview with Paloma Contreras of High Gloss. Isn't she fabulous?

Luciane at HomeBunch.com

Brillante Interiors said...

Oh Yes! Good advice, I would also take in consideration the width of the table and the width of the lighting fixture to avoid bad lighting on the faces of guests. It can happen with a small round table and a large ceiling fixture.

shiree segerstrom said...

I'm with Christian. Too high is irksome. Shiree'

Marcy said...

I like your opening math question also! Very helpful advice but I love looking at the photos. Each design is so different but exquisite in its setting. I featured your blog today at stylesson.com.

Brooke said...

HAHA. Very clever post and helpful information too!! Thanks, Scot.

Maggie O said...

Love all the pics...favoured the Marina project one...nice little trip through design world lighting. Doubled up my classes for spring and guess what? ...Lighting is one of them...Fabrics and Materials is the other one so inundated with math and code. Chandeliers...not too low (want to be able to see across the table/ guests),not too high, scale and proportion, not too big ,not to small for room or table, fun to oversize, don't light the face, don't light the ceiling. Now if you can follow the course along Scott and blog the content like this one...much more enjoyable!!

home before dark said...

Love the math question. Still makes the tremble remembering seeing the dreaded question on tests. To the equation I might add: when the train left the station it was carrying a 6'5" husband. At 5'4", we have very different perspective on "eye level."

Daniel Shigo said...

The light in the first project is quite beautiful. I love how it makes the red chairs glow and makes what is essentially a small space seem expansive.

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