Dining Room Lighting

Open up the front door of most homes and you’ll be greeted with a view of the dining area. Whether your dining room serves as an everyday eating area for your family or is reserved for occasional formal entertaining, excellent dining room lighting adds depth and character, enhances the overall mood and brings out the dramatic colors and textures of the space.

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Dining Room Light Fixtures

To provide a level of brightness adequate to perform activities in the room, general lighting is normally provided by a chandelier or a pendant light hung over the dining room table. As the focal point of the dining room, it’s also a wonderful place to let your creativity and style flourish. (Need some inspiration? Head over to the blog to see how this homeowner created a DIY rustic light fixture for her formal dining room using distressed lumber and antique light bulbs!)

  • Positioning a Chandelier – Hang your chandelier approximately 30 inches above the tabletop. It should also be about 6 inches narrower than the width of the table on each side.
  • Positioning a Pendant Light – If you choose to use a pendant light instead of a chandelier, hang it 30 inches above the tabletop. Additionally, the pendant light should be approximately 12 inches narrower than each side of the table.

Don’t stop there, though. To effectively light any room in your home you should use three basic types of lighting: general lighting, task lighting, and accent lighting. Based on the function and style of the room, a good dining room lighting plan combines all three and provides “layers of light”.

Lighting Techniques for the Dining Room

Accent Lighting

Accent lighting adds drama to your dining room by adding visual interest. Whether spotlighting sculpture, houseplants, or other decorative items with recessed downlights or highlighting a painting or photograph with a picture light, well-placed accent lighting will further enhance an attractive dining room.

To draw attention to heirloom collections, add lighting inside hutches, curios and china cabinets. In general, cabinet lights should be mounted somewhere between two imaginary lines representing the front one-fourth of the depth and one-half of the depth of the cabinet. This allows the light to easily illuminate objects below.

Indirect Lighting

Indirect lighting provides soft, appealing, glare-free illumination that improves the mood in a space. Provide pleasant and effective indirect lighting in coves, soffits and other concealed locations with low profile xenon light sources, T5 or T8 fluorescent fixtures, or LED strip lighting.

Wall Washing

Wall washing is a technique where special recessed downlights called “wall washers” are installed in the ceiling and direct light down uniformly over most of the height of the wall. This minimizes the apparent texture of the wall surface and eliminates light “scallops” and their alternating shadows that are associated with standard downlights. Place wall washers no more than 36 inches apart. For the smoothest lighting effect, keep them 24 inches from the wall and 24 inches apart and try to avoid placing them near doors where they can glare into the eyes of people entering the room.

Wall Grazing

Wall grazing provides dramatic illumination by lighting polished surfaces like marble without distracting reflections, while revealing textures like brick and stone. Generally speaking, wall grazing is uneven, bright, and scalloped at the top of the wall. To create the most dramatic effects, try using PAR halogen lamps in small aperture downlights, with the downlights located no more than 12 inches from the wall and separated by the same distance.


A dimming system is essential to create the perfect ambiance in your dining room. Dimmers not only conserve energy and increase lamp life, but they allow you to vary the mood of the dining room and adjust the level of light to suit different activities. With a dimming system connected to your chandelier or recessed light fixtures, your dining room can quickly change from a romantic, intimate setting to an inviting setting for a large family meal.

Cutting the Cord: Wireless Lighting Solutions for the Dining Room

Perhaps you don’t have easy access to an electrical outlet, or you’re renting and can’t exactly start cutting into walls and rewiring the place … Good news, there’s hope. Battery operated dining room lights are a simple, inexpensive and wire-free way to decorate. Use battery operated puck lights inside curios, battery operated picture lights to illuminate artwork, or create a sparkling centerpiece with fairy lights that are powered by a small battery compartment that’s easy to conceal.