Chandelier Buying Guide
A chandelier is both a practical and aesthetic addition to a room. They're also statement-pieces, symbolizing elegance, opulence and success.
And depending on your point of view and purpose for buying a chandelier, any one or a combination of these factors may be more important to you.
Finding a chandelier that can deliver the lighting you want, while also imbuing your space with the look and feel you seek can be challenging. This buying guide will help inform you of the various characteristics and features of chandeliers, as well as other important buying considerations like size and aftercare, that you should keep in mind when shopping for the best chandelier for your space.
Let's start at the beginning.
What is a Chandelier?
Chandeliers are hanging light fixtures. They provide ambient lighting in a space while also adding a decorative touch to a home. Since chandeliers come in a variety of shapes, sizes and styles, you can find one to complement just about any design vision you have may for your space.
Chandeliers are most often used to add elegance to dining rooms, but you will also find them installed in kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms, entryways and patios.
How are Chandeliers Different from Pendant Lights?
Chandeliers and pendants have a number of similarities, and this can sometimes make it difficult to readily know whether a particular light fixture is one or the other. However, there are a few key differences that can, once you're aware of them, help you distinguish between the two.
Perhaps the biggest clue is that chandeliers are designed with multiple lights, while pendants almost always have only a single light.
Since pendants have just the one light to account for in the design, they typically hang straight down from the ceiling. Chandeliers, on the other hand, tend to have a more intricate body architecture with multiple arms to accommodate the many lights. Also, chandeliers often display a more formal appearance than do pendants, which frequently have a simpler, more streamlined look.
Another difference between chandeliers and pendants is how they're used. Chandeliers are almost always hung on their own and serve as a design focal point in a room. Pendents, on the other hand, are often hung in groups, carefully arranged, to provide a desired amount of lighting or achieve a particular style objective. Of course, pendents are also used on their own, and the more distinct designs can certainly hold their own as design focal points.
Finally, the lighting objectives people have in mind when choosing a chandelier versus a pendent are often quite different. Pendants are typically used to provide lighting that is more functional than mood-setting. For example, you'll often find them hung in kitchens to brighten a workspace. Conversely, chandeliers are generally used to create ambient lighting, give a space a feeling of warmth. Rooms with chandeliers frequently have other light sources, such as sconces and lamps, that supply direct lighting where it is needed.
Types of Chandeliers
When you hear the word chandelier, your first thought may be of an elaborate light fixture with multiple tiers and bulbs. While some chandeliers display this look, there is, in fact, a remarkably wide array of chandelier styles to choose from.
Crystal chandeliers are shimmering accent pieces that serve as the visual focal points, drawing the eye and suggesting everything from wealth and social grace to romance and intimacy. Whether it's on the big screen, on the cover of glossy magazines or in the foyers of fine restaurants, crystal chandeliers are always popping up when there's a style statement to be made.
In the late 17th century, chandelier makers switched from using rock crystal to manufactured glass crystal, which is less expensive and far easier to work with.
When shopping for a crystal chandelier, beware that not all crystal is made the same. You need to do your homework to understand the different styles, cuts and price points.
Here’s a brief overview of the major types:
Swarovski crystals are considered the world's finest precision-cut crystals, and Swarovski Strass is the premium crystal lighting line by Swarovski. The historic Austrian today uses a patented "Advanced Crystal" manufacturing process that allows them to produce top-quality crystal that is lead-free. These crystals are available in a wide range of colors, sizes and shapes, allowing designers unmatched flexibility to create chandeliers that are true statement pieces.
The glass is generally machine cut and polished for optimal clarity and faceting. Afterward, a clear protective coating is applied for easier cleaning and maintenance. Look for the Swarovski logo etched onto each glittering piece as a certification of authenticity.
Spectra Crystal is a less expensive line of Swarovski crystal glass, available in limited sizes and shapes. Nonetheless, it offers superior clarity and beauty due to the combination of quality materials, precision cutting and consummate polishing.
Aurora Borealis Crystal
Swarovski introduced this exotic line of crystals after discovering that a new technique for coating the surface of crystals produced a beautiful, otherworldly colour effect, from shimmering greens to blues, violets and reds, like the Northern Lights. Hence, the name Aurora Borealis.
Asfour Crystal (Egyptian)
Asfour Crystal is an Egyptian manufacturer that produces first-rate machine-cut crystal. Asfour-brand crystal typically is made with 24% to 30% lead oxide content. It is known for its sparkling clarity and sharp faceting, though the level of perfection is somewhat below that of Swarovski crystal.
Turkish, Heirloom, Bohemian, Czech Crystal
This lead-free crystal rivals lead crystal for optical clarity and light refraction. A mixture of non-lead oxides, such as soda ash, is used to meet the EU's requirement for at least 10 oxides for the glass to be labeled Crystal. The manufacturing process for this type of crystal is centuries old. The crystals are hand cut and polished on a wood wheel with marble dust, leaving faint traces of wood as a sign of authenticity.
Murano Glass (Italian)
Manufactured on the island of Murano in Italy in much the same way for centuries, this crystal is formed at very high temperatures from a mix of quartz, soda, sand, potassium and lead oxide. Artisans blow and stretch the glass by hand, creating unique shapes and designs.
Italian Crystal (Legacy, Venetian)
Artisans use this lead-free crystal to produce reproductions of earlier crystal glass designs, dating back to before lead was introduced in the making of crystal. Italian crystal is manufactured in historic glass-making regions of Venice and has a distinctive look all its own. Rather than being hand cut or machine cut, Italian crystal is molded and then fire-polished, resulting in concave, instead of flat, facets and an exquisite, yet subtle, luminosity.
Pressed Glass & Chinese Crystal
This crystal is generally made from sand, soda and lime. It is frequently pressed into shape, resulting in visible seams and less precise facets and edges than you get in higher-end European or Egyptian crystal. Pressed-glass crystal is typically the least expensive crystal option. It's great for budget-conscious shoppers. You'll be giving up some of the clarity and sparkle associated with more expensive crystal, but few will notice the difference.
Tiffany chandeliers originated during the Art Nouveau and Aesthetic movements of the 19th and early 20th centuries. These distinctive and easily identifiable fixtures are designed using stained-glass shades that soften the lighting, add colour and make a strong style statement.
Tiffany chandeliers are available in numerous glass types with different textures and finishes.
The word chandelier is derived from the French word chandelle, which means candle. Early chandeliers were designed to hold two or more candles. Today, you can find chandeliers that hold faux candles if you are looking to add a touch of history and tradition to your home.
An Empire chandelier is a way to make a dramatic style statement in your home. These chandeliers often display a grandiose and cascading design, narrow at the top and flared out with its draped strings of crystal or wood beads at the bottom.
A drum chandelier is designed with a branched frame and a cylindrical drum-shaped shade or shades. This style of chandelier often has a fabric shade to soften the light, making them a good option if you're looking to add a feeling of warmth and comfort to your space.
Just as you might suspect, a modern chandelier is much less ornate than more traditional chandelier designs. They often have a single-tone finish, like chrome or satin nickel. A modern chandelier would be a good option to consider if you're looking to add a touch of flair to space decorated in a minimalist style.
Geometric chandeliers are another chandelier option for a more modern-looking space. This chandelier type is easily identified by its angular, open-cage design. The open design of a geometric chandelier can help it make your space appear larger and less cluttered.
Industrial chandeliers often feature metal construction, reclaimed wood, exposed bulbs, and other components to give them that industrial look. They are most definitely a way to go if you're trying to create a look that is different or unique. You can find industrial chandeliers for just about any room in your home.
Choosing the Right Chandelier
Before purchasing a new chandelier, there are a few key factors to consider. First, you will want to think about the size of your space to help you identify an appropriately-sized chandelier. You don't want to purchase something so small that it looks like it doesn't belong in your space, but you also don't want to purchase something so large that it completely takes over.
Another important thing to consider is the type of light output and its direction. Are there exposed bulbs that shine a focused light you may find glaring. Or is the lighting more ambient in nature? And which direction do the bulbs shine the most light, up, down or sideways?
You should also think about whether you want the light to be adjustable. Some chandeliers are dimmable, allowing you to vary the light for different situations. You can lower the lights when serving a romantic dinner or make them brighter for doing work at your dining room table.
Finally, be sure to consider your design vision for your space. Select a chandelier that will complement this vision and help you create a space you will enjoy.
Tips for Decorating with a Chandelier
A chandelier is a great way to add style to a space and can help you elevate the look of just about any room in your home.
Before making a purchase, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Consider the different colors and materials in your space. Look for a chandelier that will complement the existing decor and look like it belongs. It's fine to select a statement piece, but you don't want it to seem out of place in your home.
- If you're completely redesigning your room, you can use the chandelier as the starting point of your design. Instead of trying to find a chandelier to match the existing items in the space, base the room's design around the chandelier. Look for décor items that will highlight some of the features, colors, and materials in your chandelier.
- You can instantly transform a space in your home by adding a chandelier. They can go in any room too, and putting one somewhere unexpected can have a dramatic effect. For example, putting a chandelier in a bedroom or bathroom can add a touch of extravagance and style.
There are three main chandelier styles available for you to choose from. They are traditional, transitional, and contemporary.
A traditional chandelier features an elegant and classic style. While many chandeliers that fall into the traditional category are crystal chandeliers, this isn't always the case. You can find stunning traditional chandeliers that do not have crystals. Due to their grand and majestic design features, traditional chandeliers tend to be the focal point of a room.
Contemporary chandeliers are a more modern take on a classic look. Their design typically features much cleaner lines than you'd see in an ornate traditional chandelier. Contemporary chandeliers often feature distinctive shapes and finishes. They may also be designed using reclaimed or recycled materials or LED lights.
A transitional chandelier lays somewhere between traditional and contemporary chandeliers. This chandelier can still add a touch of elegance and grace to your space without being overly showy. Transitional chandeliers are designed to be more versatile and can be used in a variety of spaces to match different design preferences.
Chandeliers for Different Rooms in the Home
While a dining room is the first place most think to hang a chandelier, it is only one of the many rooms in your home where you can do so.
Dining Room Chandeliers
Dining room chandeliers are used to add style and mood lighting to a space used for intimate gatherings with family and friends. You may choose to hang a traditional, transitional or contemporary chandelier in your dining room depending on your specific design preferences.
People often purchase a dimmable chandelier for their dining room. This allows you to select low-lighting for a cozy meal, while later turning up the brightness to so that you can do work at the dining room table.
Kitchens, particularly open concept designs, are another room in your home where you can hang a chandelier. Your kitchen chandelier can be for show or to provide task lighting to a work area, or both.
Many people also hang chandeliers in the entryway. You can use an entryway chandelier to make a grand statement or choose something more subdued to create a welcoming environment for guests arriving at your home.
Installing a chandelier in a bedroom is another option to consider. A chandelier in a bedroom can create a sense of grace, sophistication and grandeur.
Determining the Appropriate Chandelier Width for a Room
Wherever you're hanging your chandelier, it is important to purchase a fixture that is appropriately sized for the space. There are two quick and easy ways to determine the best size for your needs.
The first way is to measure the length and width of the room in feet. You should then add those two measurements together to determine how many inches wide your chandelier should be. For example, if the room is 12 feet by 14 feet, you will want to look for a chandelier that is approximately 26 inches wide.
If you're buying a chandelier to hang above a table, you can also use the width of the table to help determine how wide your chandelier should be. In general, you want your chandelier to be about half as wide as the table. Remember, when measuring a rectangular table for this purpose, you typically want to use the width, not the length.
Chandeliers by Lighting Function
Something else to think about when looking for a chandelier is the type of lighting it will provide and how that lighting will function in your space.
Most chandeliers are designed to provide ambient lighting. These chandeliers have an uplight design that focuses the light up towards the ceiling. This design type giving a room a warm feeling and provides a good environment for conversation.
If you are looking for a chandelier to deliver focused light down towards a dining room table or the ground, you may want to consider a downlight design. The more direct lighting provided by a downlight chandelier that can help brighten darker space and allow you to perform various tasks, such as doing homework or reading.
Tips for Installing a Chandelier
If you'll be installing your new chandelier yourself, there are a few things you'll want to think about. You will first need to confirm that the electrical box in the ceiling will support the chandelier's weight. Be prepared to replace the existing electrical box with a heavy-duty option or add a fan brace.
Before beginning your installation job, ensure the power to the chandelier's circuit is turned off. Next, carefully remove your existing light fixture. When disconnecting your old fixture, take note of how the wires are connected. If they are not already color-coded or otherwise distinguishable, you may want to use colored tape to mark them.
Next, you should make sure your new chandelier is fully assembled (except for the bulbs which are best added after the fixture is installed). Also, determine how long you need the chain to be and remove any excess length using a pair of pliers.
If there is not already a mounting strip installed on the mounting box, you will need to install this next. One should be included with the chandelier you purchased. Screw the mounting strip into the junction box using screws that are long enough to ensure a secure connection.
Thread the wires through the chain, and mount the chandelier. You will likely want help from someone else to hold the chandelier in place as you work.
There should be a grounding screw on the junction box. You will need to wrap the base copper wire from the chandelier and your home's electrical system around this screw.
Next, use a wire stripper to strip the ends of the insulated wires on the chandelier. Then, join the neutral wires of the chandelier and the junction box together using a wire connector. Repeat this step for the hot wires from the chandelier and the junction box.
Refer to the instructions that came with your chandelier to bolt it into the place and secure it to your ceiling. Finally, add the light bulbs to the chandelier and test the power to confirm that it works.
If you aren't comfortable hanging the chandelier yourself, or if you've started the job and but are not confident that you can complete it, contact a professional electrician to hang it for you.
Tips for Hanging Chandeliers from Different Ceiling Types
Chandeliers can be hung from different ceiling types, including low, high and vaulted ceilings. If you're hanging a chandelier from a low ceiling, you'll likely want to remove most of the chain. This will shorten the overall length of the chandelier, keep it closer to the ceiling.
Conversely, if you're hanging a chandelier from a high ceiling, you will want to use most or all of the chain, and may need to purchase a longer chain.
Depending on how high your ceiling is, you may also want to consider installing a motorized lift for your chandelier. This will make it easier to get at the fixture for cleaning or changing the bulbs.
If you have a valuated ceiling, you should be able to install a chandelier with a cord or chain without issue. These designs will hang straight thanks to gravity. However, if you're purchasing a chandelier that has a downrod, you will need to verify that it can be installed at different ceiling angles to adapt to sloped ceilings.
Determining the Correct Placement for a Chandelier in Your Room
Determining the proper placement for a chandelier is critical. You want to make sure the chandelier doesn't look off-center or out of place.
In a dining room, a chandelier is generally centered above the dining room table. The height of your dining room ceiling can help you determine how high to hang the chandelier.
If your space has standard 8-foot ceilings, you should hang the chandelier between 30 and 34 inches above your table. If your ceilings are higher than the standard 8 feet, you will want to add an extra 3 inches for each additional foot. So, for example, if your ceilings are 10 feet, your chandelier should be hung between 36 and 40 inches above your dining room table.
If you're looking to hang a chandelier in a great room or large foyer, you will likely want to choose a larger chandelier than you would for a dining room. A chandelier that is too small won't look right in the space. You will likely want to center the chandelier in the room, but the shape and layout of the space could dictate otherwise, so prepare to be flexible.
Brightness and Dimmers
Many chandeliers are compatible with dimmer bulbs. When paired with a dimmer switch, this can provide you with control over the intensity of the light that your chandelier emits. Using your dimmer, you can seamlessly transition your dining room from a work area or homework zone into the perfect place for an intimate meal.
If you are adding a new chandelier that uses LED bulbs, you will likely want to invest in an LED compatible dimmer switch. This will help prevent the lights from flickering and ensure they operate more smoothly.
Installing Chandeliers in Wet or Damp Locations
Chandeliers can go everywhere, including places that may get wet or damp, such as a bathroom, patio or veranda. If you are planning on hanging a chandelier in a location that is not always dry, there are a few important things to keep in mind.
When selecting a chandelier for use outside, be sure to choose a model that is designed and approved for outdoor use. Some outdoor models will be "damp rated," meaning they can be used in areas like covered patios that are not directly exposed to rain. "Wet rated" models are approved for use in areas, such as a gazebo, where they will be directly exposed to rain.
If you're planning to hang a chandelier in your bathroom, make sure there is sufficient ventilation to prevent damaging moisture build-up. When hanging the chandelier, be sure to position it at least three feet away from a shower or bathtub.
Chandelier Care and Maintenance
You likely spent a lot of time selecting the perfect chandelier for your space. To keep in looking good and functioning well for many years to come, you'll need to give it proper care and maintenance. Regular cleaning will not only ensure your fixture always puts its best foot forward, but it can also prevent built-up dust and grease from causing damage. You should plan on giving your chandelier a good cleaning about once a year.
Since chandeliers often are composed of lots of little parts, it is a good idea to take a picture or draw a diagram to help ensure you know how each piece should be reconnected once you have finished cleaning.
Before cleaning, gather all the tools and materials you'll need, including a ladder or step ladder, a drop cloth to protect your furniture and prevent accidental damage to your chandelier, and lint-free cloths or white gloves. You'll also want to switch off the chandelier lights, or even the circuit breaker, before beginning to prevent an accident.
When cleaning a crystal chandelier, you can clean the crystals in place or remove them to clean them more thoroughly.
A solution made of one part isopropyl alcohol and four parts distilled water paired with a lint-free cloth can be very effective for cleaning glass and crystals. You won't want to use any ammonia-based cleaners as they may remove the finish from the metal elements of your chandelier.
When cleaning the chandelier, avoid rotating or spinning it around. This could loosen the support for the chandelier, causing it to drop slightly or even crash to the ground. Rather, move your ladder around the chandelier to clean one section at a time.
We sincerely hope you've found this buying guide helpful. Before you go, here's a quick summary of the key points you'll want to keep in mind.
Key Points to Remember
- There are many types of chandeliers, including crystal chandeliers, glass (non-lead) chandeliers, drum chandeliers, empire chandeliers, modern chandeliers, geometric chandeliers and industrial chandeliers.
- Consider the size of your space and your design vision before purchasing a chandelier.
- You can choose a chandelier to match the existing décor in a space, or you may opt to create a new design around the chandelier itself.
- Home chandeliers can be hung in nearly any room, including the dining room, bedroom, entryway, kitchen and bathroom, even outdoors in a patio.
- A chandelier hung over a dining room table should be centered over the table and situated about 30 to 34 inches above the table.
- Chandeliers for living rooms, great rooms and bigger spaces will need to be larger than those you would select for a dining room.
- Pay attention to whether a chandelier provides uplighting or downlighting and choose an option that will provide the lighting effect and function you need.
- Pairing your chandelier with a dimmer switch provides you more versatility and control.
- If you plan on installing a chandelier in a bathroom or an outdoor location, be sure to select a model that is approved for use in damp or wet conditions.
- Chandeliers should be carefully cleaned about once a year.