“It is easy to focus first on the style of a light fixture. It is the jewelry in a room. However, when we get too caught up in the love the look we may find ourselves in the dark.”
Lighting is an important aspect of every space. Maybe even more important than storage, in terms of utility, visibility and pulling the look or design together. A great design can be undone by the wrong light fixture. Equally, a bold fixture can add sparkle to a space with or without the bulbs!
How do you know from a catalogue or staring up at the ceiling in a lighting store which one is going work for you? As an experienced Orange Park interior decorator, I’ve seen a lot of missteps. To help future clients and friends avoid expensive, annoying mistakes, I’ve put together my top 5 criteria to keep in mind.
Purpose of the Fixture.
Did you ask yourself enough questions before you fell in love with something cool-looking? Here are a few I find essential.
- Is this the primary source of light?
- Do you get a lot of natural light during the day?
- Is this light necessary for tasks?
- Is it a mood setter?
This is an easy rookie-mistake, don’t feel bad. Scale is not size; it is the relationship of an object to what is around it. We have all seen new construction big open rooms with just a light bulb in the ceiling. It looks ridiculous, like it’s a placeholder. And, it is. That is scale. We also see this mistake when someone inherits a chandelier or valuable Tiffany lamp, or chooses to re-use a beloved fixture from another home without considering the variables of the new space. Just as easy as too small is too big. An oversized light fixture swallows up the room. That being said, you do want to go a hair bigger than you think due to the open airiness of the room. Remember to consider the sight lines from other rooms, as you narrow down your choices. The formulas in the next section will offer guidance as well.
Takeaway: Too small = an after-thought; too big = dominates. Err on larger.
LED vs. Standard Bulbs.
Most newer fixtures are LED compliant. LED bulbs provide more light output options. Fixtures rated for a 60 watt maximum can still light up a space with an comparable LED bulb because they use so much less “wattage”. You can use a LED bulb rated as 100 watt comparable. They also range from a warm white (yellowish cast) to bright white (bluish cast). Daylight LED bulbs will give off a pinkish cast). Just a quick note; incandescent light is measured in wattage (the standard for a long time), fluorescent is measured in watts as well but often in 4 watt or 7 watt vs 40 or 75watt. They burn much cooler so they give off less heat with the same light output. LED bulbs are measured in lumens. Lumens are also based on temperature and will vary from 500 to 3000. Thankfully conversion charts are noted on the packaging.
Fortunately, size is as it suggests – the dimensions of the piece. And there are rules that can be used to guide you. If you are a natural rebel, you can take the following as “suggestions”. (like retail pricing, and speed limits 🙂 )
- Diameter; a standard width table (36+/-“) can support a 25-28” diameter. As the width of the table increase, so does the need for a wider light fixture. Because the rule of thumb is to make sure your chandelier is one-half to three-quarters the width of your table.
- Formulas – the lighting manufacturer Lumes offers a series of formulas on their website to help guide you in selecting the perfect fixture. https://www.lumens.com/how-tos-and-advice/how-to-choose-the-right-size-ceiling-light.html
- Calculator Similarly, the lightology website offers a calculator for chandelier size. You can use this just as well for a breakfast nook needing an overhead lighting space. https://www.lightology.com/index.php?module=tools_chandelier_size
Chandeliers should be hung at 30-36” off the top of the table. A high ceiling will have you on the 36” side of the scale while a standard 8-9’ ceiling height translates to the 30” side of the scale. The height of the chandelier will influence this decision as well. A taller chandelier should be hung lower than a shorter one. Balancing out the amount of visible chain & open space is crucial.
- Look around – Take your cues from the design features in the immediate space
- Similar finish! You do not want gold, chrome & bronze all within a glance from each other. If you want to change it up a little, find a fixture that has a mixed finish, such as black & chrome. That way you can transition from black to chrome. If you find a light fixture that speaks to you the good news is that most light fixture come with assorted options in the same style (wall light, chandelier, sconce, ceiling mount).
- Remember Sight Lines – complement something else you can see
How many fixtures do I need?
A kitchen island – one over the sink for sure – and then it comes down to personal preference. Do you want it a symmetrical look with 3 lights over stools? Or do you prefer randomness or asymmetry? Recessed lights are great options because of their flexibility. There are so many fun pendants to choose from nowadays, for nearly every budget,
Don’t worry if all of this feels overwhelming; this decision is so much easier with an experienced person who can “see” what things will look like in a space. I’m here to help – a mere phone call away.