How To Choose The Best Ceiling Lights For Your Home

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If you are looking for a décor update that highlights both style and function, consider upgrading your ceiling lights. With contemporary selections available from big box stores, your favorite design hubs from Target to Restoration Hardware and online lighting showrooms, we’re not talking about your grandmother’s chandelier!

Follow our tips to find lighting that will put the “wow” in your room. As you begin to visualize the impact that the right lighting choice will make, you can rest easy knowing that it will be relatively easy on your wallet.

Types of Ceiling Lights


Chandeliers are most frequently found over the dining table, of course. But today’s light fixtures come in so many shapes, sizes and styles that a chandelier may be just the right choice for your home’s entry or as a centerpiece in a bedroom.

Usually, chandeliers hang from a single round ceiling plate and are categorized by the number of bulbs required, such as a 5-light chandelier or a 9-light chandelier. Lights can be on one tier or on multiple levels, and a chandelier has the added benefit of being not only a potential showstopper in the room but also one of your most useful mood-setting décor items.

For a fun design approach, consider replacing your bathroom ceiling light fixture with a right-size chandelier for a glamorously fun update. Another improvement idea for a more feminine bedroom style would be to use two hanging chandeliers over nightstands in lieu of table lamps.

Measure Twice, Shop Once

Choosing the right size and scale of a chandelier for your space is a factor that needs serious attention. In design, you may select the right style and finish for a piece, but if the scale is not the right match for the room, its décor impact is lost.

Fortunately, there are a few design guidelines that we can use to help choose the right size. First, consider the diameter of your chandelier. Measure your room’s length and width in feet: For example, a dining room measuring 11 x 12 feet. Add the measurements together: 11+12 = 23 and convert the sum to inches for a quick diameter guide. In this example, a chandelier with 23” in diameter would work well.

The fixture height guideline can be determined by multiplying the room’s height by 2.5 to 3 and then converting that number to inches. In our example above, if the dining room’s height was 9 feet, the chandelier height should range from 22.5” to 27”.

Once you’ve determined the right scale for your chandelier, you will want to make sure that it is hung at the correct height for its location. If your chandelier is in a space where people will be walking underneath it, like a bedroom, living area or study, then make sure there are at least seven feet of clearance underneath. If you are installing a chandelier in an entryway foyer, consider placing it so that the bottom is at least 6” above the door. If your chandelier is going above a dining table, then hang the fixture 28” to 36” above the tabletop.

Related: Redecorating Your Living Room [High And Low End Options]

Track Lighting 

Track Lighting is characterized by individual lighting components set inside a track that is usually mounted on the ceiling. Track lighting provides excellent accent lighting because the fixtures can help focus on the areas you wish to highlight, such as artwork over the mantle or decorative shelving.

This type of lighting is often more functional than decorative and is well suited for galley kitchens, bathrooms and hallways.

For living areas with high, sloped ceilings or ceilings with beams, track lighting may be the right type of lighting to consider. The individual light fixtures along the track allow the lighting to serve multiple purposes by providing both accent and ambient lighting to the room.

When planning a track lighting system, there are a variety of track lengths and lighting fixtures available. The system will be installed using your home’s electrical feed, so it is important to avoid overloading the track with too many fixtures.

A general rule is to plan for one fixture per linear foot of track, although you can place them as close as 4” apart.

A more updated and versatile version of track lighting is a monorail system. These systems come with their own transformers, generally require professional installation and have more decorative lighting options available, such as mini-pendants and specialty finishes.

Linear Chandelier 


Linear chandeliers are ceiling fixtures that work well over a rectangular surface such as a kitchen island. Their shape can be rectangular or oval.

This style of light is quite popular for use over today’s farmhouse, industrial or contemporary dining tables that are long and narrow in shape. Linear chandeliers are also used over pool tables to provide task lighting as “billiard table lights.” When one fixture is used instead of several over a kitchen work surface, you may find them online as “island lights.”

Linear chandeliers work well in rooms with above-average ceiling height, as they are not lost in the space created by the high ceilings. Choosing a linear chandelier for a rectangular table should focus on finding a fixture that is ½ to 1/3 of the length of the table. In general, the bottom of the chandelier should be hung at least 30” above the tabletop. Still, a linear chandelier can be hung even higher in order to maximize its design impact due to its size.

Pendant Lights

Pendant lights are extremely versatile and can be subbed in for chandeliers and island lights through the use of multiple pendants or extra-large scale individual pendants. Until recently, pendants were primarily found in kitchens and bathrooms, but due to changes in scale and expansion of design styles, they have found a place in dining rooms, bedrooms and entryways.

Pendant lights offer an incredible variety of size, style, shape and finish. When shopping online for pendants, pay particular attention to the diameter of the light’s shade. Otherwise, you can end up ordering a pendant that is too small or too large for your space. Many pendant designs come in multiple sizes, so be certain to double-check your measurements before ordering.

An updated approach to using pendants is to group several above a surface, such as a kitchen island or dining room table in place of an individual chandelier. While many designers employ the “rule of three” for balance and interest, it is also wise to consider using just two fixtures over an island or table in order to avoid too much visual activity in the room. If you choose pendants in a row, hang them about 24” to 30” apart, measuring from the center of each fixture.

Guidelines for hanging height are the same for chandeliers; pendants should be hung 28” to 36” above the surface that they are illuminating. When planning for pendants over a kitchen island, consider the height of those working at the island and the width of the fixture to avoid unpleasant head bumps!

Flush and Semi-Flush Mount


Flush Mount and Semi-flush Mount lights are often found in hallways and bedrooms. These lights are extremely functional, especially if they are the sole source of illumination, but they do not have to be boring.

A flush light fixture is mounted on the ceiling with no space between the light source and ceiling. A semi-flush mount fixture also has a relatively low profile, but the fixture usually has a space created by a stem or hardware that allows for some distance between the light source and the ceiling. Flush lights can blend into the ceiling and are well-suited for rooms with low ceilings.

In rooms with 8-to-9-foot ceilings, a semi-flush mount may be your best choice for lighting. The space between the light source and the ceiling provides an up-lighting effect which creates greater ambient light.

Fortunately, our choices are not limited to those round saucer lights that builders have been using for the past 30 years. There are many decorative options available, and particularly if you are using the lights in a room rather than a hallway, it’s worth exploring finishes and styles that will compliment your other décor choices.

Lighting Styles, Finishes and Coordination

One of the most fun things about choosing light fixtures is exploring the wide variety of styles that are available. To achieve the most cohesive design, match your lighting choice with your décor. If your style is minimalist and modern, seek out lights in contemporary finishes with a sleek design. If you live in an older home surrounded by antiques, classic styles may work the best.

Most online lighting stores have terrific filters that will help you narrow down your style choices. Many are quite specific, with distinctions between design styles, some of which may be new descriptors to you. If you are uncertain as to the name of your own style, be sure to take the time to click through the style examples on various websites to narrow it down.

While it is not necessary to match your lighting choices from room to room, some cohesion will help convey an overall calmness to your design and coordination. When shopping online or in the stores, once you’ve found a fixture that you like, make sure you look at the other fixtures within the brand and design family. Especially with open floor plans, coordinating your kitchen island pendants with your dining table chandelier using the same line can pull your look together quickly.

A Word of Caution

Too much “matchy-matchy” activity can make your space seem uninteresting. To coordinate your look, you can focus on the finish (color, texture, metal, glass) without choosing the exact sister piece in the collection. Think of how we are making our beds now with a mix of coordinating textures and colors, but not the 7-piece “bed in a bag” comforter set. Instead, we look for finishes, scale and style that coordinate in an interesting combination. The same goes for your lighting.

Before choosing the metal finish of your lighting, consider how it will coordinate with other items in the room and throughout the house. What metal color is your interior door hardware? Do you have lots of brass accents in your décor? What type of kitchen cabinet hardware do you have? Do you have stainless steel appliances? Are you comfortable mixing metals together?

Today’s fixtures are available in a wide variety of metal finishes. Some of the more unique finishes to consider include tarnished silver, antique or unlacquered brass, matte black with silver or brass accents, polished nickel, rust, iron, zinc and architectural bronze.

In addition to the lighting’s finish color, your selection might include glass globes or shades that can be seedy, clear, matte, iridescent or several other colors and textures. You can achieve a more cohesive look by keeping with one type of glass texture and repeating it throughout the fixtures that are in adjoining areas or rooms.

Related:  10 Things To Do Right Now To Make A Small Space Feel Bigger

Where to Buy Ceiling Lights

Now that you are considering the many opportunities in your home for a lighting style upgrade, where are the best places to shop? Lighting choices online and in stores are plentiful, so it’s wise to check out a few sources by category, depending on your style and budget.

For stylish options at affordable price points, consider Lowe’s, Ikea, Home Depot, and Walmart. Make sure to check out the selections on Wayfair and its sister sites, as you can often find items that are the same as the ones offered by major lighting brands but sold at a lower cost under a Wayfair private label name.

For restoration projects and period-specific lighting, check out Vintage Hardware, Old Good Things, and Rejuvenation for authentic options. Replicas of old school style are available through many manufacturers, but Schoolhouse is one place you will want to investigate.

Your favorite catalog stores such as Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, West Elm, CB2 and Crate and Barrel have stylish choices that coordinate well with their other product offerings.

A few places that may be new to you include Lumens, Arhaus, Lamps Plus, Shades of Light, YLighting, and Build.com. If you find a brand that you like, be sure to check out the manufacturer’s website to have the best opportunity to find just what you are looking for.

Let Your Light Shine

Now that you’ve considered lighting type, size, style, finish and budget, you are ready to make an update to your space. While some lighting installations are fairly straightforward and are meant to be a DIY project, don’t hesitate to employ a professional electrician for the safest outcome, particularly when working with restored vintage fixtures, fragile fixtures and the monorail track system.

You might also be interested in: 16 Of The Best Ceiling Fans For Your Bedroom [Buyer’s Guide]

Patrice Devereaux

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