Choosing a Light Fixture That's a Perfect Fit


Lighting finishes off a design plan like jewelry on a fabulous outfit. But is choosing it all just guessing? You know what you like, but how do you know if it's going to be the right shape, the right fit, or really polish the look the way you want? There have to be some guidelines, don't there? 

With thousands (yes, thousands) of fixtures in stock on a given day, we answer lighting questions all the time. If you're looking for something totally unique, we can help you find that perfect thing, and guide you on choosing something that will accent your decor and space beautifully.  So what should you know before you start shopping?

What type of fixture do you need?

Depending on the room, your design style, and your lighting needs, your options vary. Chandelier, pendant, flush mount, semi flush, or sconces. 

What style fits your space?

We have fixtures in a wide array of styles and eras- primitive/ farmhouse, Victorian, punched tin, cast iron, brass, pewter, dazzling chandeliers, stained glass, nautical, Art Deco, and more. What is your vision? 

How do you know what size to choose? 

Calculating the size of a dining room chandelier- a quick and easy formula.

If you want to make sure your chandelier is scaled properly with your space and your table- use this:

  1. Chandeliers above dining room tables should have a diameter of 1/2 to 2/3 the width of the table.
  2. To size a chandelier as the focal point of any other space, such as foyers, living rooms, etc, measure the length and width of your room then add those figures together. The sum of those two numbers is the approximate recommended diameter of your chandelier in inches.
  3. Assuming you have 8 foot ceilings, the bottom of the fixture should hang between 30"-36" above the tabletop. But if your ceilings are higher, the suggestion is to add another 3" above the table for each additional foot of ceiling height. 


Calculating the size of a ceiling mount fixture.

If you want a perfectly sized focal point fixture (not over a table), use this calculation:

To size a ceiling mounted fixture to be the focal point of your space, measure the length and width of your room in feet, then add those figures together. The sum equals the recommended fixture diameter in inches. So, if your room is 10' x 10', your ideal ceiling fixture is going to be between 18"-20" diameter.

When you're hanging an ambient lighting fixture (chandelier, etc.) in a room, not over a table, the standard hanging height is going to be 7" from the floor. Obviously this may be a bit of trial and error, based on your height, height of the ceilings, etc.

*Note on chandeliers over a tub: A gorgeous trend over the past few years has been to place a chandelier over the bathtub (especially fantastic over one of our clawfoot tubs!)  Take note when you're selecting one, however, that code typically requires the entire thing (even prisms/ crystals) to be no lower than 8' from the highest point of the tub.


A good rule of thumb by which to adhere is this- the closer you'll be to the sconce, the smaller it should be.

Bathroom: Sconces on either side of the bathroom mirror should be smaller- typically 9" or 10". In bathrooms, they should be placed 36"- 40" apart, on the sides of the mirror, approximately 18" from the center line of the sink. (Make sure you allow 4" on either side of the mirror for the electrical, and pleasing spacing.) They should be mounted more or less at eye level, usually 65" from the floor.  If they require shades, the shades should drop slightly below eye level. 

Staircase and Flanking Doors: Measure your ceiling height in inches, and divide by 3/4. Sconces should be placed approximately 3/4 up the wall. (If they are placed on a staircase, be mindful of placement for those descending the stairs, so they're not looking right at a bulb.) The same rules hold true as for mirrors- space 4" or so from opening on either side. 


Note: Keep in mind that a fixture with a busy or complicated design will actually appear larger, so if that's what is catching your eye, you may actually want to scale your maximum width down a bit.

Outdoor Lighting

Lantern Size: If you're using one lantern, a good guideline is to size it approximately 1/3 the height of the door. If you're flanking the door with two, the size should be closer to 1/4 the height of the door.  (The same holds true if you're placing garage door lights. Scale makes all the difference. Don't undersize! Exterior lights appear about half the size from 50 feet away.)

Lantern Placement: Lanterns should be hung just above eye level, with the bulb center approximately 66" from the threshold.

For a pendant hanging lantern for an exterior covered area, follow the same guidelines as above- add length and width of area, and convert to inches (5'x5' stoop= 25" or so inches in diameter. Sounds large, but outside, it's always better to go larger. Judgement should be made from the street or walk, as that's your maximum curb appeal location.) As always, hang approximately 7' from the floor.

While these aren't perfect formulas, they're a great place to start, and will surely save you some trial and error! So get out your tape measure, take a couple notes, and come see us! We'd love to help you create that look you'll love!