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In truth, there are few who shouldn’t consider a chandelier for their home these days. Long divorced from their centuries-old stereotype of showy, crystal-festooned fixtures, chandeliers are now more on par with sofas or chairs—with one designed to suit every style. Whether you seek something high-wattage and Swarovski-flecked (yes, there’s still plenty to go around), or something luminous and visually demure (say, an LED halo ring), chances are high that there’s a chandelier to suit your lust for light. To help you land your perfect chandelier, we’re spotlighting a bevy of options, plus giving you tips on what rooms they work best in, and how to hang them.

Photo by Stacey Brandford / Design by Alexandra Naranjo Designs

What is a Chandelier?

While it’s no secret that the definition of the word chandelier is broad, plugging the word “chandelier” into your search bar can still be a bit of a shocker. Large pendants, especially those measuring over 30 inches wide, as well as globe-shaped lanterns are all considered chandeliers. In truth, the term “chandelier” has come to encapsulate all disruptive overhead lighting. If it’s super-sized and showy, chances are that a manufacturer will dub it a chandelier.

To understand what qualifies as a true chandelier, it pays to first understand the form’s Medieval origins. To illuminate a pre-Age of Enlightenment world, chandeliers were fashioned out of two wooden beams, crossed at the center, and tipped with spikes on which to spear candles. To this effect, any suspended lighting fixture outfitted with multiple bulbs is a chandelier. Traditionally, a chandelier’s multiple bulbs needed to be affixed to arms that are connected to the central body of the fixture; however, that definition has loosened in recent decades, making way for inductions such as the ring chandelier, which bears no branches of any kind, just a central ring studded with bulbs. 

Photo by Stacey Brandford / Design by Alexandra Naranjo Designs

Let There Be Light: Uplight vs Downlight

The terms “uplight” and “downlight” refer to the way chandeliers filter light. Uplight achieves a more ambient glow (perfect for basking), while downlight provides a more focused beam of light (ideal for tasking). Generally, for chandeliers over a kitchen island, you’ll want downlight, and for dining room chandeliers you’ll want uplight. Living room chandeliers and family room chandeliers are more of a toss-up, but easy enough to make a call on based on whether you spend the majority of your time streaming shows in near-total blackness or engaging in more dirunal tasks. In either case, forgo the interrogative spotlight and priortize fixtures with dimming capabilities, if possible.

Photo by Lisa Russman / Design by Tina Ramchandani Creative

How High to Hang a Chandelier 

Hard and fast interior design rules are about as rare as authentic Murano chandeliers (by which we mean: few and far between), but when it comes to how high to hang a chandelier over a dining table or bathtub, the laissez-faire attitude is noticeably absent. In addition to buttoning up safety concerns, having a firm grasp of the recommended hanging height will allow you to decide what size chandelier will best fill your space. 

Hanging a Chandelier Over the Dining Table 

Above a dining table, opt for a chandelier that’s approximately 12 inches narrower than your table. With a standard 8-foot ceiling height, a chandelier should hang about 30-36 inches above your table’s surface. For every additional foot of ceiling height, add an extra 3 inches of height above the table—meaning, for a 10-foot ceiling, add 6 inches.

Hanging a Chandelier in an Entryway

Cavernous entryways tend to be better complemented by showy chandeliers, so keep that in mind as you shop for your home’s focal fixture. Allot at least 7 feet of clearance from the floor and 4 feet of space from the nearest wall.

Hanging a Chandelier in a Bathroom

If the thought of bathing under the stars gives you an obvious pause, positioning a chandelier over the bathtub could be just the thing to simulate the experience without requiring you to shed inhibitions. Pay mind, though: government code mandates that a chandelier suspended over a bathtub be hung so that the chandelier’s bottom edge is at least 8 feet above the top of the tub’s wall.

Photo by Aimee Mazzenga / Design by Studio CAK

How to Choose a Chandelier Shape & Style 

From Murano show-stoppers to molecularly-inspired models, there are no shortage of chandeliers for your living room, dining room, or bedroom. Not sure what style turns you on? Discover the chandelier styles designers turn to for high voltage drama again and again.

Crystal Power 

Chandeliers made from rock crystal, or transparent quartz, began cropping up in approximately the 16th and 17th centuries. Unabashedly opulent, these crystal-decked fixtures were coveted by nobility as brazen status symbols. Today, crystal chandeliers remain the epitome of lights-out glamour. Those who aren’t going for Baroque so much as understated elegance should consider a modern riff such as the palm crystal chandelier, featuring a bowed brass frame mimicking palm fronds and fringed in dangly drop crystals. 

Rainbow Reign 

Topping most chandelier shoppers’ lists these days? Colored glass chandeliers. Be they pink, black, or blue, homeowners are coveting tinted glass. King of glass, of course, is Murano, the OG glass act responsible for curly-cued hand-blown fixtures in candy-colored hues. Due to Murano chandeliers’ superior craftsmanship (the Venetian virtuosos who craft them hone their skills for decades), it’s hard to top them, but there are suitable subs on the market that tap into Murano’s knack for vivid color and aesthetic theatrics. Designers, in particular, love colored chandeliers for the way they toe the line between traditional and trendy.

Photo by Anice Hoachlander / Design by BarnesVanze Architects Inc.

Spires that Inspire

Need a fixture with funk? Enter the sputnik chandelier. Constructed of a central orb from which metal arms capped in lightbulbs protrude in all directions, the sputnik chandelier is an era-defying piece that flatters just about any interior. Designed in 1939 by Italian aeronautical engineer-turned-designer Gino Sarfatti, the design was originally deemed “Fuoco d’Artificio,” or “Fireworks” in Italian. Eighteen years later when the Soviet Union launched their Sputnik satellite into space—and dually launched a public fervor for all things atomic—Sarafatti’s design experienced a redux in popularity. Today, designers love juxtaposing these radiant orbs with traditional architectural details—think Brownstone mantles and Neoclassical ceiling medallions.

Modern Mobiles

For rooms where gobs of crystals and spires in spades simply won’t fly, consider a modern chandelier that trades in bobeches and pendalogues for globes appendaged out on constellation-like frames or sleek, LED-lit bulbs that also function as the chandelier’s core structure. Modern chandeliers move into the realm of sculpture, making them ideal for architecturally refined spaces in need of a literal star. Those looking for a wide chandelier (a common request for those with elongated dining tables) may also want to consider a modern chandelier. A wide chandelier needn’t feel like a consolation, but rather a constellation

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Lead photo courtesy of Aman and Meeks

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February 17, 2021

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