We’re often asked about the ‘rules of thumb’ for determining the right size and clearance for fixtures that hang above dining and kitchen tables. While a quick online search will show that there are a lot of opinions on this subject, there are really no hard rules that will apply to every situation.

Take the issue of clearance, for example. Most lighting experts will tell you that the general rule of thumb for the distance between your ceiling light and tabletop is 30 inches. In reality, however, you’ll want to take a number of factors into consideration. “The recommended height to hang a pendant above a table is 28 to 32 inches,” says Janell Beals of Houzz, “but fixtures can be hung slightly higher or lower depending on personal preference, size fixture and ceiling.”

Essentially, the light fixture above your table needs to be hung high enough to avoid obstructing the view, but low enough to light up your table for essential tasks. Depending upon the fixture width, a dining light above a narrow rectangular table may need more clearance than one above a wide table. Tables that perform double duty as workspaces may need a fixture that’s lower to the table or that throws off sufficient task lighting. And if you have a favorite centerpiece, its size needs to be considered when you specify your fixture’s height dimension.

Determining the right width or diameter of your dining fixture(s) also requires several considerations, including the tabletop width, the overall size of the room, and the quantity of fixtures involved. You want to make sure that all table activity, including people sitting down and getting up from the table, will not be obstructed by the fixture.

The American Lighting Association suggests that above a round table, a fixture should be at least 12 inches narrower than the table diameter. For square and rectangular surfaces, the fixture should be 12 inches narrower than the smallest side of the table. However, the overall table size, the fixture clearance and the room size should also be factored into your final determination. Some general guidelines that take the your room size into account include:

  • Lights should measure no more than 17 to 20 inches in diameter in a dining room smaller than 10’ X 10.’
  • Lights can measure as large as 26 to 27 inches in diameter in a 12’ X 12’ dining room.
  • Lights can measure 24 to 36 inches in diameter in a 14′-18′ dining room.

Bottom line, when considering fixture size and table clearance issues, think about all the elements in the space and how it will be used. Contact us for more information.

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