Choosing the Right Light Fixture

What size light fixture do I need?

This is a question I get often. The ceiling height is not the only factor that comes into play when it comes to choosing the right size light fixture. The size of the room, the shape of the room, and the other light in the room are also very important factors that need to be considered when choosing a light fixture.

The size of your room

In general, it is a good starting point to add up the length and width of your room in feet. The sum of these two numbers gives you a minimum diameter of the size light fixture you need. For example, if your room measures 20 feet x 20 feet, you need at least a 40" diameter light fixture. You can go up to 20 percent larger in diameter (using this example, you could do up to a 48" chandelier). I do not recommend going smaller that the added length and width.

The shape of your room

Consider the shape of your room when you are choosing a light fixture. Is your room a square? Is it taller and narrow? Or more wide than tall? You want to choose a light fixture that goes with the shape of your room. For example, fixtures, like lanterns, that are taller than they are wide work great in rooms that are also tall and wide. This is why lanterns work so well in foyers. The proportions of the fixture should mimic the proportions of the space in general.  

When in doubt, do as Kate Marker does. One of my favorite designers, Kate Marker, used wide fixtures to fill these living rooms and make a beautiful statement. Pictured below is the Ethan Chandelier (left) and the Saxon Chandelier (right). 

 

The height of your ceilings

Ceiling height is of course a huge factor in choosing the right size light fixture. If you have 8 foot ceilings and you really want a light fixture, then a flush mount or semi flushmount is your only option. You dont want to try to cram a short chandelier in an room with 8 foot ceilings. Don't force it. No thing is better than the wrong thing. Can lights, lamps and natural light is perfectly fine in rooms with 8 foot ceilings. In general, I don't always put light fixtures in rooms that have 8 foot ceilings. But when I do, I always go with flush mounts and semi flush mounts. Click here to shop flush mount lighting.

For ceilings that are 9-11 feet I usually hang light fixtures 85" above the ground. This is 7 feet 1 inch. However, if you don't have any super tall people in your family and have your heart set on a light fixture that is a little tall then 80" is the absolute lowest I would ever hang a chandelier you need to walk under. 

People used to hang light fixtures significantly higher. So, if you are switching your light fixture out and it feels low at 85" don't panic and move it up. I've had at least 10 clients say "does that look low?" about light fixtures when they first see them. I tell them to live with it for a week and if they don't like it then we will shorten it. I've never had to go back and raise any chandelier. If 85" looks low then your last fixture was probably too high. 

Determining Chain length

If you have 10 foot ceilings, then we have 35" to work with for the light fixture. Chain length is very important. You don't want a massive light fixture with 2 inches of chain. A chandelier that is pretending to be a flushmount is not a good look.

The chain length of a chandelier should be at least 30% of the fixture height. For example, if the chandelier is 24" tall I move the decimal point to the left and multiply by three. So 2.4 x 3 gives us a minimum of 7.2" of chain. If you have especially tall ceilings don't go over 50% of the fixture height for chain.

The amount of recommended chain is certainly the most flexible part of choosing a light fixture. I see plenty of designers use just one or two chain links for a light fixture and it looks fine. When I am on the hunt for fixtures for clients I generally stick to these guidelines but if I find something that my client just cant live without then I have no problem skirting the rules. It's your home. Ultimately, you need to love the fixture that goes into your house. 

 

Light Fixture Size Guidelines  

Here are some general guidelines for light fixture height. The width of the fixture depends on the size of your room.

9 foot ceilings

Ceiling height  9'
Recommended fixture height 12"-18" 
Chain length 4.5"-6"
Fixture height above floor 85"

 

 

10 foot ceilings

Ceiling height  10'
Recommended fixture height       20"-28"*
Chain length 6"-9"  
Fixture height above floor 85"

 

11 foot ceilings

Ceiling height  10'
Recommended fixture height 29"-38"
Chain length 9"-11"
Fixture height above floor 85"-90"

12 foot ceilings

Ceiling height  12'
Recommended fixture height 36"-42"
Chain length 10"-13"
Fixture height above floor 90"

 

Virginia Harper

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