Chandeliers & Pendants

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Ceiling fixtures, such as chandeliers and pendants, are traditional ways of lighting a kitchen, hallway or bedroom. They date so far back, in fact, that the original ceiling fixtures used candles, not light bulbs to function. A ceiling light fixture adds a general glow to a room that normal ceiling or floor lights don't offer, and they make beautiful and function additions to any room.

Types of Chandeliers & Pendants

Chandeliers are multi-armed, branched light fixtures that hold a number of bulbs. These bulbs have no shade controlling their light, so the lighting is generally more intense than with typical light fixtures.

Crystal chandeliers are extremely dramatic and meant to take command of a room. They come in two- or three-tiered models, and are typically found in the dining room or entryway of a home.

Traditional chandeliers are more subtle. Usually made of wrought iron, they are very durable. They can be dressed up with accents or left alone, but are traditionally meant to add to a room's ambience, rather than overtake it.

Contemporary chandeliers usually feature more striking metals, such as chrome and brushed nickel, often accented with colored or frosted glass. They work as excellent lighting fixtures and provide a nice focal point in a room.

Rustic/lodge chandeliers are made of metal, animal antlers or wood. They usually focus on a kind of nature theme and are meant to suggest a rural look. They're typically found in cabins or country homes.

Miniature chandeliers, also called chandelettes, are a more recent trend. They are smaller than the average chandelier, between 9 and 12 inches, making them appropriate for unexpected spaces, such as bathrooms or walk-in closets. They also work well hanging above nightstands or end tables in lieu of a table lamp or sconce.

Pendants, unlike chandeliers, are single sconces suspended from the ceiling with the help of a solitary chain or metallic tube. The lighting of the pendant is done by the lamp shade itself, which greatly expands the light from the bulb used.

Conventional pendants are ideal for foyers, gates, walkways or reception areas. The open side of the shade or glass faces downward.

Inverted pendants are more appropriate for over a dining table or kitchen island, because they offer great general illumination and focused task lighting. Their open side faces upward. Inverted pendants can also save bedside table space, because they hang overhead, rather than taking up surface space like a table lamp.

Miniature pendants are exactly like regular pendants, except they are smaller in size. They can be used a multitude of ways, from ambient lighting to task lighting or even just decorative display. They are very popular above kitchen islands or counters.

Important Chandelier & Pendant Features

  • Wattage: When used over work spaces, particularly in the case of pendant lights, the amount of wattage needed can be calculated by multiplying the area's square footage by 2.5. The product of those two numbers is the approximate wattage needed.
  • Number (pendants): Because pendants are individual lighting fixtures, they are often used in sets for a sleek and modern look. Typically, two or three shades will suffice for a kitchen island, but large dining areas may require more. To determine the number of pendants needed, measure the length of the task area. There should be, for smaller pendants, one fixture for every 3 square feet, and for larger pendants, one fixture for every 6 square feet. The key is to avoid looking too cluttered, so less is usually more.
  • Dimmer: Dimmers are excellent for softening the lighting to set a mood when dining with guests. It also helps to control energy consumption, allowing brighter settings during tasks such as homework and hobbies but dimmer settings during less focus-intensive tasks.

Chandelier & Pendant To-Do List

  1. Determine the correct diameter. In whichever room your fixture will hang, measure the length and width of the ceiling in feet. Change the number of feet measured to inches, and that will be a good diameter for your fixture. For example, an 8- by 12-foot room would need a 20-inch-diameter chandelier. If your fixture is going in a dining room, then the chandelier should have a diameter that is about 12 inches less than the table is wide.
  2. Measure for the length. The taller the ceiling, the taller the fixture. A foyer fixture should hang about 7 feet off the floor when measured from the bottom of the fixture. For a chandelier or pendant hung above a dining room table, there should be 30 inches from the bottom of the chandelier to the tabletop.
  3. Pick a style that matches the room. A chandelier should complement the theme of a room, not deter from it. For a little girl's room, a chandelette with pink plastic crystals would be appropriate. A rustic/lodge chandelier would be appropriate in an aged dining room. For shabby chic, try a fixture with a distressed black or white finish and antique glass sconce shapes. A modern dining room would do well with a symmetrical rectangular chandelier with extensive glass pieces.
  4. Adjust the height of the chandelier. Chain chandeliers are easy to adjust in height. Just use pliers to remove links in the chain and coil up the electrical wire in the ceiling house. If the fixture has no chain, then see if it has a sliding adjustment on the cord. Most chandeliers without chains have a sliding mechanism that allows you to double up the cord and shorten the length.
Last Updated: July 22, 2011
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About Emelie Battaglia Emelie Battagila is a contributing writer for

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