Expert lighting ideas for the dining room

dining room lighting

The way that we use the living areas of our home has evolved over the years, with many households using the kitchen as a central hub to eat, relax and socialise. As a result, the dining room isn’t always used as it was traditionally intended—for dining.

Instead, dining rooms have many uses, from home offices to playrooms, increasing the need for adaptability. Here, we will look at ways different types of lighting suit the varied purposes of this multi-functional space.

This guide will cover:

  • How the British public use their dining rooms
  • Expert advice and ideas for lighting your dining room
  • Advice on hanging a chandelier
  • Changing the mood of your LED lighting to suit different uses of the room
  • Layered lighting
  • Choosing the correct colour and brightness
  • Lighting tips to suit your décor
  • Top tips on positioning your dining room lighting

The multi-functional dining room

To find out more about how the British public use their dining rooms we ran an independent survey asking: “How do/would you mostly use your dining room?” Here’s what we discovered:

  • Almost half admitted that the main purpose of their dining room was not for eating everyday meals.
  • Over a quarter mainly use the room for entertaining or for special occasions, indicating infrequent use.
  • A further 13% mostly use the room for work and study.
  • More than one in ten use the space as a children’s playroom, suggesting the room is only in use during the day.

How lighting can change the way we use the dining room

As our survey indicates, the dining room is not always used to its full potential. With lack of space being an issue in many homes, it makes sense to make much better use of this room.

One of the best ways to instantly transform a room to suit multiple purposes is through lighting. The right tone and temperature can change the mood of a room from a functional space by day to an inviting entertaining space at night.

To discover more about lighting dining rooms, we spoke to a selection of respected experts in the lighting and interiors fields:

srthur smith rebecca dupere louisa de paola

Arthur Smith

Lighting Expert

LED Watcher

Rebecca Dupere

Interior Designer

Dupere Design

Louisa De Paola

Interior Designer

Louisa De Paola Interiors

What styles of lighting do you find are best suited to a dining room?

Arthur: For dining rooms, the obvious choices are chandeliers and pendant lights. In addition, for ambient or general lighting, track or recessed lights will work flawlessly. If you want to add some specific accent lights then wall scones, table and floor lamps are ideal, especially when strategically placed around the dining room.

Rebecca: Pendant lights or a single chandelier will create an atmosphere around the dining table, which is the main focus of the room. Matching wall lights and a few table lamps dotted around the room will also add to the ambience.

Louisa: You can really play with the lighting within a dining space, have fun and be daring. A large statement chandelier— classic or contemporary—will act as a piece of art/sculpture as well as being functional and will create a ‘wow factor’ and talking point.


chandeliers lighting

This example showcases two different styles of chandelier—traditional crystal and modern contemporary. Both chandeliers would be compatible with LED candle bulbs.

When hanging a large chandelier over a table, consider the hanging height—ideally, the bottom of the chandelier should be 30-32 inches above the table.

Also, think about the size of the fixture in proportion to the table. It is advised that the chandelier measures half to three quarters the width of your table.

Large statement fixtures can be heavy, so it is important to ensure that your ceiling can support the weight of the fitting. If possible seek expert advice from a qualified electrical specialist.

Many households reserve their dining room for entertaining or for special occasions. What lighting tips could you suggest for making the dining room feel more inviting for day-to-day meals?

Louisa: Lighting should always be around the dining room table, as this is the focal point in a dining room. Layered lighting will help to change the mood and function of the space— I would specify a statement chandelier or pendant to hang low over the table and side table lamps or wall lights to create extra lighting and atmosphere. To create a more intimate mood, candlelight with wall lights work well together.

Rebecca: I would advise using a mix of lighting to create different moods. Wall lights, table lamps on a sideboard or table, and hanging lighting over the table. A dimmer switch is a useful addition so the light can easily be altered to achieve the required effect.

Arthur: To create a dining room that’s multifunctional and as suitable for day-to-day means as it is for special occasions, you need to add multiple lighting layers to the room. For example, in addition to the chandelier, you could add some recessed lights into the ceiling and smaller accent lighting like floor lamps or wall scones will be great when you want to keep the room dim and cosy. Make sure each layer of lighting can turn on and off separately to allow the lights to serve their multiple purposes.

Layered lighting

layered lighting

This example uses different lighting sources to create a layered effect. Recessed LED spotlights and track lights in the ceiling create ambient lighting, while a central pendant fitting focuses attention on the table.

This lighting arrangement creates a bright, fresh atmosphere for everyday meals. For a more formal dining environment, the overhead LED spotlights can be dimmed, leaving the statement pendant to provide focussed lighting over the table, creating a more intimate ambience and effectively taking the room from day to night.

Layered lighting can also be achieved with wall lights, table lights and free standing floor lamps. The same layering principle can be applied to any style of décor, from sleek modern to traditional to rustic farmhouse schemes.

How would you suggest lighting a dining room so it could be used for working/studying in the daytime and then for eating in the evening?

Louisa: Dimmer switches are perfect for solving problems like this. Rise and fall fixtures can also work. To change the mood from day to night—particularly for a dinner party—low-level lighting and lots of candles or fairy lights will create a dramatic atmosphere.

Rebecca: Lighting a dual-purpose dining room requires multiple lights. What you use rather depends on the level of natural light. A dark room will obviously require more so layering with a mix is a good idea. Consider using bar lighting above the table to give an even distribution of light. A pulley pendant light is useful as you can move it up and down to fit in with what you are doing. In the evening, there is nothing to beat dining by candlelight. I would suggest dimming any electric lights and lighting candles in some attractive candleholders for formal occasions. Hurricane lamps, lanterns, candleholders of different heights and candelabras all look lovely.

Arthur: It all comes back to layering your lighting. I would suggest installing both general overhead lighting such as recessed lights or track lighting and an over-the-table light. Depending on the style of the room the over-the-table lights could be in the form of a fancy chandelier or simple low-hanging ceiling lights. Just remember to tailor the over-the-table lamps to your dining room table so they look proportional and also provide enough functional light so that eating meals at the table is pleasant.

Something that any dining room will benefit from, including the people that use their dining room for infrequent formal occasions, are dimmers. The moment you install dimmers you are allowing for much more variety with your lighting. In addition to having different lighting fixtures to turn on and off, you can also dim your lights to fit the ambience to every occasion.

Multi-functional lighting

This informal dining room layout uses natural light from large windows to create a bright living space. The well-positioned mirror creates further light by reflecting daylight towards the table while also enhancing the light emitted from the table lamp. Recessed LED spotlights enhance the natural lighting for work and study and the over-table pendant light provides focused light on the table.

To change the mood for evening dining the ceiling spotlights can be dimmed or switched off, allowing the pendant and table lamp to provide soft, welcoming lighting. Add in some decorative candles to provide a subtle warm glow on the dining table.

What colour and brightness would you recommend for dining room lighting?

Louisa: I would avoid cool bulbs – just by changing a bulb to ‘warm white’ will soften the feel and mood instantly.

Rebecca: Harsh lighting is a definite “no, no” so strip lighting shouldn’t be used and I wouldn’t advise installing spotlights unless you can dim them. 

Arthur: When it comes to the colour of the lights, the general ‘daytime’ lights will work better if you install bright white bulbs in them. This will make sure that the room is light and suitable for work, eating and play. An over-the-table chandelier or pendant lights can have warmer bulbs installed in them, as dinner parties and other special events will benefit from a warmer, more inviting light. And as for the accent lights, you should use warm-coloured bulbs in these to transform the room into a cosy space for long conversations over a glass of wine.

Tips on choosing lighting to suit your decor

decor lighting

In many homes, the lighting choice is inspired by the style and décor of the room. Often, a well-placed side lamp or fitting can provide a stunning addition to a theme. For example:

  • A rustic wooden fitting can be a welcome addition to a farmhouse scheme.
  • Exposed wires and industrial clear glass globes work well with a minimalist interior.
  • Flush, dimmable LED spotlights can add well-needed light in a country cottage, particularly if ceiling height is restricted.
  • Bold, bright-coloured lampshades and statement pendants can be effective against a sleek Scandinavian-inspired theme.
  • Wooden based table lights with pale coloured shades can be effective in a simple Shaker-style dining room.
  • Chunky brass fittings can effectively complement a nautical theme.
  • Traditional dining rooms can benefit from sleek, polished silver fittings.

Distinctive table and floor lamps are a cheap and easy way to add a statement or splash of colour to the dining room. In a minimal space the introduction of an unusual or unexpected fitting such as a Tiffany inspired table lamp or a retro globe can create a point of interest as well as adding a valuable layer of light.

If you choose lamps that require shades, consider the colour and weight of the shade as heavy, dark shades will restrict the amount of light that the lamp emits.

Positioning your lighting

lighting positioning

When planning your dining room layout, consider the positioning of your table if you intend to complement it with a chandelier or statement pendant light. Some room layouts may not work with a central table, meaning that the pendant will also need to be off-centre.

A solution to balancing an off-centre ceiling pendant is to install wall lights, a large statement floor lamp or contrasting ceiling lights (such as the above example) on the opposite side of the room to create considered lighting zones.

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