Chandelier Do's and Don'ts for Decorating

Everything You Need to Know About Decorating With Chandeliers

capiz chandelier in a modern home
Martin Barraud/ Getty Images

Chandeliers are a great addition to just about any room. Not only do they provide excellent light from the best possible place, but as a design element, they can steal the show or just add another layer to a beautifully designed space. Still, as great as chandeliers are, they can present a few challenges. Knowing what size is best and how high to hang them are just two of the essential considerations.

Follow these general and room-by-room tips for flawless decorating with these gorgeous light fixtures.

General Chandelier Do's and Don'ts

  • DO make sure your chandelier is the right size. A good rule of thumb is to add the dimensions of the room together in feet and then convert the result to inches. The final result should equal the diameter of the fixture. For example, if your room measures 10 x 15 feet, the diameter of the fixture should be about 25 inches (10 + 15 = 25).
  • DO keep chandeliers at least 4 feet from any wall or any large piece of furniture, such as a tall cabinet or sideboard. This isn't always possible in small spaces but it's a good rule to keep in mind.
  • DON'T automatically limit yourself to one chandelier, especially in a large room. Consider two slightly smaller fixtures or three or more smaller pieces in a series. 
  • DO choose a chandelier for function as well as form. Consider how much light is cast by the fixture and whether it’s the right kind of light for the space. Fixtures in kitchens and high-traffic areas should provide consistent, bright light. Lighting in living areas and bedrooms should be bright enough for everyday illumination but also soft and comforting.
  • DON'T be afraid to experiment with styles. Sometimes a modern chandelier can look great in a room full of antiques, and a vintage piece can look terrific in a contemporary room.
  • DON'T hang a chandelier from a standard ceiling electrical box. Standard boxes are not strong enough for heavy fixtures. Use a heavy-duty box with a load rating that is greater than the fixture’s weight. Install the box between ceiling joints with a heavy-duty adjustable brace or solid-lumber blocking, or fasten the box directly to the side or bottom of a joist.  
  • DO use a dimmer switch for a chandelier, if the room is right for it. Dimmers are terrific for creating ambiance and offering a more flattering light. Standard incandescent bulbs work with standard dimmer switches. LED bulbs can be used with standard dimmers if the bulbs are rated as “dimmable,” but all LEDs work best if used with an LED dimmer. 

Dining Room Chandeliers

  • DO size a dining room chandelier for both the dining table and the room itself. The diameter of a dining room fixture should be about one-half to two-thirds the width of the table, or about a foot less than the width of the table at its widest point. 
  • DO go bigger rather smaller in a dining room. If the fixture seems too large hang it a bit closer to the ceiling so it doesn't feel so overwhelming.
  • DO center the chandelier over the dining table, rather than in the room (in most cases). 
  • DO hang a dining room chandelier at the right height for the table and the room. Typically, the best height is between 30 and 36 inches from the tabletop. But also make sure the fixture looks good in the room, feels right with the ceiling height, and properly illuminates the table. 
  • DON'T hang overly ornate chandeliers too close to the table. Since heavy-looking fixtures take up a lot of visual space it's okay to break the rules and hang them a few inches higher than the standard height.

    Bathroom Chandeliers

    • DON'T place a chandelier within 8 feet above the top edge of a tub or within 3 feet (side to side) of the edge of the tub or shower base. This is a standard code rule that is important for safety. 
    • DO select a chandelier that is rated for damp or wet locations. This is required for all light fixtures directly above tub or shower areas, but it's a good idea for a chandelier anywhere in the room. 
    • DON'T use a cord-connected (plug-in) chandelier. These are prohibited by code for all light fixtures in bathrooms. 

    Entryway Chandeliers

    • DO hang entryway chandeliers about 7 feet from the floor in a single-story entryway (any lower and tall people might hit their heads).
    • DON'T hang a fixture so that it hangs below the second floor in a two-story entryway.

    Kitchen Chandeliers

    • DO use a chandelier in the kitchen—but only for general, or ambient, illumination. Complement this general lighting with specific fixtures for task lighting, such as undercabinet lights or other fixtures that shine focused light onto work areas.
    • DON'T choose a fixture that's hard to clean. Moisture and grease from cooking will make everything on your chandelier dirty.