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Ideas and Inspiration

How to Add Drama to Any Space Using a Chandelier

The chandelier used to mark your arrival. Clad in crystal, it met you in the foyer of a well-appointed home, then dazzled you from a power position over the dining room table.

Rarely did you find a chandelier in a starter home. To see them illuminating any room other than one used for entry or dining, more unusual still.

My, how times have changed!

Today chandeliers rate as a brilliant idea just about anywhere — from modest homes to magnificent mansions, contemporary digs to traditional houses. They dangle decorously in almost every room of the house.

Credit our bigger-is-better building boom. Taller ceilings and increased volume in today’s homes means chandeliers are less likely to crowd a room.

“Nine-and-10-foot ceilings almost demand something hanging to fill the space,” says Joe Rey-Barreau, educational consultant for the American Lighting Association (ALA) and assistant professor of interior design at the University of Kentucky. The ALA is a non-profit organization of leading manufacturers, retail lighting showrooms and sales representatives in the U.S. and Canada dedicated to expanding public knowledge about lighting.

Colorful chandeliers create drama in the kitchen. Mini ones provide elegance to powder rooms. Even walk-in closets go upscale when lit with a small chandelier.

“Beyond laundry rooms and garages, any room is an open target for hanging a chandelier,” adds Rey-Barreau. “More commonly, kitchens and bathrooms have become the popular locations for chandeliers.”

Chandeliers add twinkle to a boudier. “People are treating their bedroom suites as more luxurious personal spaces with elaborate bathroom areas, so it is not unreasonable to consider chandeliers there, either,” says Dan Blitzer, Director of Education for the ALA..

“Chandelettes” or mini chandeliers, add a new sense of intimacy to small rooms and to corner spaces and alcoves of larger ones. “Minis are even being used as wall sconces in some instances — and they look fantastic,” says lighting and furniture designer Sergio Orozco whose offices are in New York City.

These compact chandeliers are nine-12 inches in diameter to slip easily into tight spaces. For added impact, consider grouping them.

“You can hang two small ones over a kitchen counter and the result is gorgeous,” says Eileen Schonbek-Beer, with Schonbek Worldwide Lighting. The manufacturer has been making crystal chandeliers for 134 years. “These smaller chandeliers also work in more modest homes or where there are 8 ft. ceilings.”

Chandeliers have also sized up to accommodate the soaring foyers and sweeping two-story spaces of larger homes. “The demand for massive chandeliers to fill these areas has also increased,” says Schonbek-Beer. “A 20-foot ceiling today is no longer unusual.”

The experts at the American Lighting Association have spotted the following trends in chandeliers:

MIXED MESSAGES: Mixing of materials and styles within one fixture is now a common design trend. It is not unusual, for example, to find a rustic cast-iron fixture with crystals hanging from it, or different metals and types of glass all incorporated into one fixture.

“American styles are decidedly eclectic and homeowners today are very comfortable mixing styles,” says Blitzer. “Chandeliers lend themselves neatly to that process. You can look for a chandelier that is inspired by the period reflected in the room, but you don’t have to. Many contemporary designs are a blend of traditional elements with modern materials — glass and alabaster with polished chrome or satin nickel, which makes them work with a variety of styles.”

COLOR ME BEAUTIFUL: While sparkling clear crystal refracts and reflects light, designers offer chandeliers in a rainbow of shades to complement decor. Colored crystal can combine with clear to create a prism of hue. Smokey quartz, rock crystal and amethyst offer an antique feel.

FINISH LINE: Chandeliers no longer feature just one metal or just one finish. The latest looks offer multi-tone finishes created by painted or chemical processes.

MOD SQUAD: The freshest face in chandeliers is clean and simple, designed to work in more contemporary spaces. “We just introduced a dramatic new category of crystal products that are very contemporary,” says Schonbek. “It features colored crystal geometric shapes — cubes, rectangles, spirals, pyramids. The colors mix together to create auras of light for a vibrant rich look.”

DIM LIT: Whether they are ornate and multi-armed or simply feature a large-scale bowl, chandeliers need a dimmer so homeowners can control the intensity of light. “Most of the time, the lighting capability of a chandelier is more than is actually necessary to light the space,” says Rey-Barreua. “They should always be controlled by a dimmer to add to the aesthetic appeal.”

MATCH POINT: Once a design preference has been identified, the chandelier should simply be another decorative element. “There is a trend to eclectic interiors where traditional, transitional and modern will blur even within the same room,” says Rey-Barreau. “The chandelier doesn’t need to “match” the decor in a very rigid manner. If it works visually for the user, then it’s fine.”


Chandeliers are designed to float in a room as an important part of the decor. Too large and this fixture will overpower the space. Too small and it will look out of place.

“Placing a chandelier that is too small in a space is likely the biggest mistake because it’s very noticeable,” says Joe Rey-Barreau. “Great designers, therefore, tend to make their decisions on fixtures that may appear slightly larger than might be appropriate. It’s generally always best to make the mistake on a fixture being too big than too small.”

To make sure your chandelier is the right size for the room in which it will hang, consider the following questions.

  1. How high is your ceiling? Taller ceilings demand larger fixtures.
  2. What is the size and shape of your table? island? The chandelier should complement, not overpower, anything you plan to suspend it over.
  3. How big is the room you are trying to illuminate? Again, be sure the chandelier is not too big or too small for the room.
  4. What is the form and design of the chandelier? Light, airy fixtures tend to look larger.


Fashionable and functional, chandeliers should be incorporated into the home just as any decorative accessory or object of art would be chosen. “I would urge consumers to view this purchase with the same enjoyment they would use in buying fine furniture,” says Dan Blitzer, educational consultant for the American Lighting Association. “A fine chandelier is an investment that will add to the value of your home.”

To find the right style chandelier for your home, simply begin with a color or a material that is predominant in the decorative scheme of the room. What catches your eye in the room? What type of statement do you want to make? If the room is more traditional, choose chandeliers with more ornamentation and decorative details. If your home is modern, opt for clean compositions with defined lines.

If the choices are not clear, it’s always best to rely on the help of a professional lighting consultant.