How to Choose the Right Light Fixture Size and Style for Your Home
Lighting is an important feature of your home and it’s one of the major decisions you’ll have when decorating. It’s also one of the most overwhelming tasks you’ll have…eek! Obviously, lighting serves a purpose so you want to make sure you have right amount of light for your space. But it also plays a big role in your room’s design. Light fixtures range from blingy and statement-making to simple, and the lighting you choose can really influence the overall design of your room.
Searching for the perfect light fixture can be a daunting task, as you sift through hundreds of options looking for the right style, comparing quality and budget. I know when I was picking out lighting for our home I spent hours so it was definitely a labor of love. But it’s always worth it in the end when you find the light fixture that is the right size and style for your home.
Don’t have hours to spend looking for the perfect light fixture? I can help with that!
If you are looking to replace the boring builder-grade light fixtures, or if you’re renovating and picking out all new light fixtures, this post will provide some tips to help you choose the best size and style for your home.
I’ll go over the 3 different types of lighting, first, and then I’ll get into lighting recommendations by room and how to determine the correct sizing.
Ambient lighting is the main source of light in a room, most often coming from an overhead light or recessed lighting. It’s the source that provides the most amount of light. Utilitarian rooms like kitchens and bathrooms generally need more light than hallways, living rooms, and dining rooms.
There are calculations you can do to see how many lumens or watts your space needs based on its size that you can then convert into light bulbs when you are deciding what light fixtures to get for your space. It’s important to have the proper amount of light in a room because there is nothing worse than a kitchen that is poorly lit so you can’t see what you’re doing when chopping veggies.
Since the calculations can get a little complicated if you aren’t a pro at calculating lumens (which I am not), I usually go by the number of light bulbs in a light fixture to get a rough idea. For ambient lighting in a room like a bedroom size, you’ll want at least 3 light bulbs around 60W. If you have an open concept living room that is fairly large, you’ll want 5 or more light bulbs in your ambient lighting that you choose.
It may sound confusing, but you don’t want to ignore this – it really is important! Before our kitchen makeover, I got a cheap IKEA pendant light to hang over our kitchen table. This was before I knew the importance of lumens, so I just got a pendant light with one light bulb and I figured it’d be fine. But once we installed it, the kitchen felt so dark because it didn’t have provide enough watts to light up the space, and the downward facing pendant was more suitable for an island as task lighting than an ambient light. So during our kitchen renovation we installed a new light fixture above our table and now we have more than enough light to fill the space and it truly makes a big difference.
Task lighting is made for specific activities or uses such as sconces for nighttime reading, a desktop lamp, or a light above a vanity mirror. It lights up the space even more, and more directly, than what an ambient light can do. We have sconces next to our bed and not only is it nice to have when reading at night, but it also adds to the design and adds a nice touch.
Accent lighting is the most decorative of the 3 type of lighting that plays up architectural elements or a decorative focal point like a fireplace, built-ins, or piece of art. We actually don’t have much accent lighting in our home, because it’s older and pretty small, so ambient lighting with some task lighting works for us.
Now that we’ve covered the 3 types of lighting, let’s dig into the different styles of overhead lighting: flush mounts, chandeliers and pendants.
Flush mounts are generally used in rooms with lower ceilings, smaller rooms, or where you don’t want to make a big statement with a chandelier.
Chandeliers are statement fixtures that hang down from the ceiling. They are often used over dining tables, in larger living rooms, or entryways and large foyers.
Pendants are similar to chandeliers in that they hang down from the ceiling, but they are a smaller scale and usually have just one lightbulb. You’ll often see pendants over islands. Because they’re smaller scale, they are often hung in groups such as 2 or 3.
Determining the Size of Light Fixtures Needed
When deciding what light fixture to get, you need to first consider size. You want a fixture that is big enough for your space that doesn’t look proportionally small.
For ambient lighting, measure the length and width of the room. Then add them together and convert to inches, and that’s the ideal size for a light fixture. For example, an 18-inch wide fixture would be ideal for an 8×10 foot room.
When figuring out the properly sized pendant for your kitchen island, measure the length of your island. Then, decide if you like the look of 2 or 3 pendants. If you go with 3 pendants, the pendant size can be smaller, but if you go with 2 pendants, they should be more oversized. After measuring the island, take into account the amount of space needed between each pendant. A good rule of thumb is to space pendants about 30 inches apart. Then you can go from there and calculate what size of pendants would fit above your island, leaving 6 inches of clearance on both ends of the island so no pendant hangs over the edge.
For dining room lights, look for chandeliers that are about ⅔ the size of your dining room table for a proportionate size.
Just remember, usually a single chandelier or pendant isn’t enough to light an entire room, so you want to include a combination of all 3 types of lighting such as table or floor lamps, bedside lamps, and task lighting above a sink or vanity.
One of the biggest questions around choosing lighting is what type of style to get, and do they all have to match? My recommendation is that lighting should play up the other elements in your room. A room can have a couple different metal finishes, but you want to choose one dominant metal to use throughout your home. For example, it’s perfectly ok to use a combination of both matte black and brass metal accents in your home for cabinet hardware, sink faucets, and door knobs, but choose a dominant and stick with it. That can help you decide which color to go with for your light fixture. So, if you have brass hardware in your kitchen, a black sink faucet, and brass curtain rods, and black is the dominant metal in your home, you’ll probably want to choose black pendants for above your kitchen island.
If you are choosing lighting for an open concept living and dining room, the lighting should compliment each other but it doesn’t have to be the exact same. Find a common element among the lighting in both rooms and play that up.
Lighting is a super fun and relatively easy way to add drama or make a statement in any room. Sometimes the most simple and basic rooms just need a cool chandelier to give it that punch it needs. While nice light fixtures are a bit of an investment, especially when you need multiples, they are easy to fix in about an hour, unlike painting a room which can take hours.