Guide | Chandeliers

How to Choose a Chandelier

When you think of chandeliers, you might envision an upside-down wedding cake structure of crystals and candles, or you might think of a wagon wheel with frontier-style lanterns suspended from it. Neither idea would be wrong.

A chandelier was and is a means of placing light where it is needed. In times past, candles or torches could be placed in sconces on a wall or in holders on a table. Neither solution was especially effective. But by placing the candles in a holder suspended from the ceiling, light could shine down from above, helping dispel some of the shadows that would otherwise be inevitable.

Candles and torches were eventually replaced with gas lights and then with electric lamps. Electric bulbs for all sorts of lighting fixtures are now available. Electrical lighting has made possible many different designs for ceiling lighting in general and for chandeliers in particular.

What Are Some Things I Should Know Before Purchasing a Chandelier?

  • One of the most important things to know before installing any ceiling light is the amount of headroom available in the planned location. The lowest portion of the lamp should be at least seven feet above the floor unless it will hang over a permanently placed fixture such as a countertop or table. This prevents tall guests or family members from bumping their heads on the lamp.

  • The other extremely important thing to know is what sort of structure is available to support the weight of the chandelier. This is especially cogent with large chandeliers, such as the wagon wheel designs. Such lights need to be affixed to a sturdy beam or ceiling joist, not to the fragile struts of a dropped ceiling or similar support.

  • Finally, unless a family member has credentials as an electrician, it’s a good idea to get your new light professionally installed. That way, you will have someone who can take care of details such as not overloading circuits or whether you want a dimmer switch or a regular one.

Brass Polished Nickel Sputnik Modern Chandelier
Black Brass Chrome Metal Modern Sputnik Sphere Chandelier
Metal Modern Sputnik Sphere Chandelier
Metal Glass Antique Black Modern Unique Statement Globe Chandelier
Metal Silver LED Unique Statement Modern Geometric Chandelier
Elegant Metal LED Unique Statement Modern Geometric Chandelier
Glass Metal Sputnik Modern Linear Chandelier

How to Select the Right Style Chandelier?

Chandeliers come in a broad range of styles, so it is easy to find a chandelier to complement your taste and aesthetics. Some of the most popular styles include:


Crystal chandeliers add glamor to any room as the crystal reflects and refracts the light creating mesmerizing light patterns. Chandeliers made from authentic crystal are usually expensive and require a lot of care and maintenance.

Crystal chandeliers are best suited to traditionally styled homes but can add a romantic touch to shabby chic or French country homes as well.


Classic candle-style chandeliers feature vertically elongated bulbs and candelabra arms that mimic the look of traditional authentic candle chandeliers. Ideal for formal dining room and foyers, they add vintage charm to transitional and modern country homes.


Shaded chandeliers are a variation on the classic candle shape and feature lighting shades over the bulbs to create a warmer, dimmer light. Perfect for gentle lighting during dinner, shaded chandeliers create a stately atmosphere that is perfect for traditional homes.


Drum chandeliers are a popular modern style of lighting and consist of an oversized lampshade that encloses the entire fixture. Drum chandeliers are highly versatile, depending on the design and material used for the shade. Choose a shade in a neutral textured fabric for Scandi or modern urban homes. Or try a beaded version in a bold jewel tone for mid-century modern spaces.


Sputnik is another modern style of chandelier and is named for its resemblance to a satellite. Spindles with lighted tips extend from a central spine, often in a sunburst or geometric shape. These avant-garde lighting fixtures make eye-catching accent pieces for modern, eclectic, and bohemian homes.


Geometric chandeliers offer a modern, elevated alternative to standard rectangular or square globe shapes. The design often features a cage structure around a central set of bulbs. Ideally suited to urban modern homes, as well as minimal and Scandinavian style.


Globe chandeliers offer a softer version of modern geometric designs for an elegant addition to any room. A central light source (typically modeled on a candle style chandelier) is encompassed by rings often made out of metal to create an orb cage. Use in a transitional entryway to make a big first impression. Or, hang high in a modern farmhouse living room to contrast with wooden furniture.

Wagon Wheel

Single or multiple rings featuring rows of bulbs are suspended by a chain and are often constructed from iron or wood. They usually lack embellishment, making them perfect for minimally decorated spaces or adding a contemporary touch to country or classically styled homes.


Empire chandeliers have cascading strings of beads that form a conical shape flowing into a bowl or ring structure at the base. The light fixtures can be internal or external, making for a versatile statement piece that adds luxury and elegance to any space. Try a wooden beaded empire chandelier in a bohemian living room.

Metal Adjustable Height Unique Statement Globe Chandelier
Crystal Glass Chrome Adjustable Height Candle Style Classic Traditional Chandelier
Metal Candle Style Classic Traditional Chandelier
Farmhouse Metal Transparent Glass Candle Style Wagon Wheel Chandelier
Matte Black Metal Wood Unique Statement Square Rectangle Chandelier
Antique Metal Wood Candle Style Empire Chandelier
Metal Wood Antique Bronze Contemporary Candle Style Globe Chandelier
Metal Mercado Black Unique Statement Tiered Chandelier
Chrome Crystal Clear Glass Unique Rectangle Crystal Chandelier
Metal Glass Clear Chrome Unique Geometric Chandelier

What is the Right Size Chandelier for My Home?

To find the right chandelier for your room, begin by measuring the length and width of the space. Add the two measurements to get the diameter of the room. For example, if your room is 12 x 16 feet, the diameter would be 28 feet. The diameter of your chandelier should be the same number as your room diameter in inches. For example, a room with a 26-foot diameter should have a 26-inch chandelier.

To estimate the correct height of the chandelier, the lowest point of the chandelier should sit at least 7-feet from the floor to stay in proportion with the room and prevent anyone from knocking their head. To achieve the right height, you may need to change your fixture from non-flush to flush against the ceiling to elevate the entire fitting.

How Do I Size a Chandelier Over a Dining Table?

Dining room chandeliers have slightly different sizing rules than other rooms in the house. To find the right size chandelier for your dining table, find the width of the table and subtract 12 inches. For example, if your table is 45 inches wide, the chandelier should be 33 inches wide.

The chandelier should sit at the height of between 30 and 36 inches from the tabletop to allow guests to view each other easily when seated.

There are no strict rules about the right shape of chandelier for your dining table. You can match shapes with an elongated chandelier over an oblong table or space several mini chandeliers along the length of the table for a modern twist on this traditional lighting style.

How Do I Choose Light Bulbs for My Chandelier?

The type of light bulbs you choose can impact the ambiance of the light in the room and your utility bills. There are three bulb choices for chandeliers:

Incandescent Halogen

Incandescent halogen bulbs are a modern version of the standard electric bulb. However, they are more energy efficient. These bulbs work well with dimmers to allow you greater control over the mood of the lighting.

Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs)

CFLs are curled, compact versions of tube fluorescent lamps and offer up to four times greater energy efficiency than standard light bulbs for longer-lasting lighting. They usually give off a bright white light and work best with enclosed chandelier styles.


LED lights are the most energy-efficient style of lighting and last 25 times longer than traditional bulbs for easier maintenance. They are perfect for chandeliers with a substantial amount of bulbs. However, most LED lights do not work with a dimmer, which may be a factor in creating your space.

Natural Wicker Single Teardrop Pendant
Black Metal Compact Fluorescent Classic Traditional Chandelier
Chrome Metal Glass Geometric LED Chandelier
Black Metal Plastic Unique Geometric LED Chandelier
Clear Crystal Chrome Metal Glass Statement Empire Chandelier
Crystal Black Metal Statement Drum Chandelier

Frequently Asked Styling Questions

What's the best chandelier design for a chic, formal dining room?

The kind of chandelier that might appear in a large dining room or ballroom could be a classic branched, elaborate lighting fixture. This style mimics the design that would have allowed householders in the Regency Era to have placed many candles in one fixture to properly illuminate a room.

Today, specialty lightbulbs can mimic candle flames to create the soft glow associated with candlelight. The addition of crystals, ornate brass work settings and strings of beads can add to the mystique of such a fixture.

How Can I Mimic the Wild West Atmosphere in My Country Western Style Home?

The suspended wagon wheel shape (usually made of wood, but sometimes of metal) is a practical design for hanging light fixtures. You can add to the authenticity of the look by installing battery or electrically powered lanterns instead of simulated candles.

Alternative wild west or outdoor sportsman designs might include twig constructions, or even lighting supports made from deer antlers.

Are There Chandeliers That Present a More Modern, Abstract Look?

Geometric shapes created from wood or metal can have lighting fixtures attached to them. They achieve the same general effect as a traditional chandelier, i.e., suspending the light where it will be most effective. But they do not share the ornate settings, although they might have several branches of lighting source.

Is There a Chandelier That Would Have a Millennial Look?

If you are going for an ultra-cool, computer age effect with your chandelier, you might try a chandelier that has LED tassel pendant lights. They can be purchased in several styles, and the LED strings look like a shimmering curtain of light when they are turned on.

Antique Bronze Metal Lantern Rectangle Chandelier
Oil Rubbed Bronze Metal Candle Style Wagon Wheel Chandelier
Metal Five Light Empire Chandelier
Antique Silver Metal Sputnik Sphere Chandelier
Antique Silver Metal Sputnik Sphere Chandelier
Antique Silver Metal Sputnik Sphere Chandelier

Chandeliers can help set the mood of your room, put light where it’s most needed, and add that perfect final touch to your interior decorating theme. They can be classically beautiful when teamed with crystals, outrageous statements such as wagon wheels and lanterns, or add decorative theme statements such as when using twig designs, wicker, shaped wood, or modern lighting choices.

Regardless of the style you have selected or the mood you want to set, there is a chandelier that will work with your décor. Just be sure to keep an eye on those ceiling heights!

Foter Magazine is a premier architecture, decoration, interiors and design website. We inspire and guide you to make your home a more attractive place.


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