Proper lighting sets the mood for a convivial meal and lively conversation.

By Joyce Bautista
Updated January 06, 2005
Jeff McNamara

“People’s biggest mistake with the dining room is getting all their light from overhead sources,” says New York City–based interior designer Bunny Williams. “It’s cold and not intimate.” She suggests counteracting this effect by dimming chandeliers and pendants to mimic the effect of candlelight.

Create a Centerpiece

If it’s too low, your hanging light will distract your guests. Too high and it will seem disconnected from the table. Ideally, the bottom of a chandelier or a pendant should be about 30 inches above the tabletop, says Ace Hardware spokesman Lou Manfredini.

Strike a Balance

“To give some sense of the room outside that central pyramid of light”―and to keep guests from tripping in the dark when they leave the table―“punctuate the walls with sconces,” advises Bentel. (Candlestick lamps on a sideboard work, too.) Plug-in sconces are easy to install; conceal the cord with a plastic cord cover painted the color of the wall.

The bottom of a chandelier should be about 30 inches above the tabletop. Shades soften the glare of bare bulbs.

Sconces―like the mirrored plug-in versions here―should be mounted between 5½ and 6 feet high on the wall, says Williams. Oly Mosaic Bowl Sconce, $200, for store locations. Wire Channel plastic cord cover, $6, Home Depot,