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Interior Design Lighting Tips and Tricks: Ceiling Edition

Coddington Design; San Francisco Kitchen, Photo: David Duncan Livingston

I like to think of the lighting in a room as the jewelry. It’s like when you’ve got a beautiful outfit and you need that simple chain drop gold bar necklace to make it look Friday night ready. Lighting completes the room, especially when the rest of the decor needs to be kid and pet-proof.

Some lighting types have a functional purpose (like overhead cans in a kitchen) and other lighting is meant to look luxe and create ambiance. . Pendants, chandeliers and semi flush mounts are the beautiful workhorse lights that wow a kitchen island, become a focal point in the hall or maybe act as bedside lights that hang from the ceiling instead of eating up nightstand space.

What’s the difference between a pendant and a chandelier? They are both ceiling fixtures, but chandeliers have more than one bulb and a pendant has only one. Now ya know!

If you’re not really sure how to pick the right fixture for your space, you’re not alone. Maybe you aren’t sure what size you should order, what wattage is best and which finish will you still love years from now? Sometimes picking lighting is not as easy as it looks. Read on for some of our tried and true tips as well as some of our fave pendant projects.

Size Matters

Trying to figure out how big the dining room chandelier should be and how long? We recommend the bottom of the chandelier should be 30”-34” above the table. It should be close enough to the table that it will light more of the table than the ceiling, but people won’t hit their heads on it.

A quick way to figure out a fixture size is to take the length of the room and add it to the width. Turn it into inches and that’s roughly how big the fixture should be. For example if my living room is 15 feet by 21 feet the sum is 36. A chandelier for my living room should be 36” wide.

Island Details

Pendant spacing at the kitchen island is another common question we hear frequently. Here is a short list and an elevation of how to make them look amazing.

  • If lighting a short island (6? to 7? wide), use two pendants that are at least 30” apart and equidistant from the center point of the island. The widest part of the pendant should be about 30” from the center of the island
  • A general rule of thumb: measure the width of your island and subtract 12” to determine the max width light fixtures should hang. That is, you want at least 6” from the edge of counter on either side to the widest outside part of the pendant
  • If lighting a larger island with three pendants, hang one directly over the center of the island, then space pendants about 30” apart (but also remember that you want the outside of the pendant to be at least 6? from the edge of the island … sketching a quick diagram like below is a great idea and double check your math.
  • When hanging multiple pendants, the spacing will be determined by the diameter (how wide it is) of the pendant. Ideally, you want the space between each pendant to be at least the same as the width or diameter of each fixture
  • Space pendants at least two feet (24?) apart
  • If you choose one long pendant, it should be hung centered with the center point of the island and take up no more than ? of the island

Ok, now for the fun stuff. Here are some of our current overhead lighting favorites in their beautiful homes.

Coddington Design; Nantucket Bath, Photo: David Duncan Livingston

Skip the sconces and try two mini pendants in the bath. These hand blown bubbles are simply perfect.

Coddington Design; Nantucket Hearth Room, Photo: David Duncan Livingston

The modern shape of this Holly Hunt chandelier enhances the rustic feel of the room without fighting for attention.

Coddington Design; Woodside Living Room, Photo: Vivian Johnson

Simple hex of brushed gold floats above this Scandanavian modern living room. The sconce over the mantle highlights the art.

Coddington Design: Oakland Kitchen, Photo: S.E.N. Creative

I mean what’s not to love here? Copper pendant becomes focal art against the bold wall.

Lighting is one of our favorite design elements as you can tell. We know it can make or break a space and also the functionality of a room. Decades of experience and a jam packed black book of resources, we can help you find the perfect fixture. Book your Discovery Call & chat with us.



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