How to choose dining room lighting
First you need to consider the scene you want to create, -the style and emotion that you want for your space. After that you can decide what kind of lighting will complement this personal style and feel that you're going for.
Examples of style: A city feel? A country feel? A beach feel? A traditional (more than 100 yrs ago) feel? A retro (eg 50 yrs ago) feel? An eclectic feel? Emotion-wise would you like a romantic mood? A sober mood? An agressive mood? A calm mood? A happy-go-lucky mood? There are many 'styles' 'feelings' and 'moods' or 'emotions' but once you have one or two in mind (eg beach and calm... or retro and happy go lucky) you'll normally remember it and this will come through in the way that you put things together.
Unless the light is above head height when standing you should keep the light to approx 40-60cm diameter if there's just ones, or if many in an interesting spray then smaller is fine - down to 10 or 20cm. The reason for this is that any larger than 60cm and you need to make it higher than head height to avoid bashing your head on it when leaning or cleaning! I love simple, - my favourite is the Ethel Lampshade and Ethel Inverse (as you have some extra light on your food even when the lights are dimmed).
Practically, you want to make sure you have enough light on the table, but also walls, and corners while avoiding glare.
The dining room is not always just for eating – it’s a often a multi-functional space. It can be used for adult home-working, kids' homework, paying bills, playing games, reading and all sorts of other fun and tasks. Providing sufficient light at the table and around the room which makes you want to stay there enjoying the atmosphere is key.
It's always good to have light coming from more than just the centre of the room or from just one area. Great as it is to have light over the dining table, if that's all there is then it will quickly feel both oppressive where the light is and a little sad and lonely in the corners where there is none. Try to place lighting over the dining table, giving a lot of light (but not so much that it hurts your eyes) down onto the table. If possible make sure that it also shoots light up towards the ceiling, - to keep your eyes and spirits up! If there isn't an electric outlet above the table try using a 'swoop and loop' set up, - take a long cable from the ceiling elec point, swoop it down and then attach a ceiling cable grip on the ceiling directly above the centre of the table.
EG: Light the table with a pendant - or 3, or 5! Choosing an odd number for a human sized space like a dining area normally looks better than even, - you can put one in the centre and for some reason it looks more relaxed than even (3 is better than 2 or 4 etc). Once you have a pendant make sure that you have at least 2 floor lamps or wall lamps at the edges of the room. Ideally 3 or 4 lights around the room plus one in the centre is great. Kind-of one for each corner... Doesn't have to be in all corners but a good set up could be 2 on a wall plus 1 high on a shelf near one corner and one floor lamp low down in the other corner!
If with these 4 or 5 lights you can light some walls, and light up the ceiling while you're at it then you will create an uplifting feel, as well as having light at the table. If at the table you have actual pendants (rather than spots or simple bulbs) you're also creating an interesting focal point there.
If some of the lights around the edges point at the walls 'washing' the walls with light this will bring more atmosphere, - the uplifting that I mentioned earlier and also a calm which comes from edges being lit and from the walls changing as you look across them. Make sure that these lights point at the walls so that they don't produce glare as you look across the room.
Tasks and task lighting
There are a lot of task lights about, but I prefer to use solar powered little lamps which can sit at a window by day and be brought to the reading or writing spot when you need them. I haven't found a great supplier, - I have an old one that my mum gave me 14 yrs ago which is still perfect and has its own wire stand, plus some other ones which are a little clunky but all work fine. If you need or want a great permanent and classic task light I'd go for an angle poise lamp on a shelf which can be brought down when needed.
How to pair kitchen and dining lights
For general kitchen task lighting I think that LED strip lighting is fantastic, but to go with whatever you choose as dining lighting I'd also have 2 or 3 wall lights which complement the dining light. Eg if using a One Foot Taller Bell cluster I'd pop a couple of Bell wall lamps on the walls to keep the feel consistent and also give some extra task lighting. This could be for above kitchen worktops near the dining area or walls in living areas as reading lights, it all works well!
How low should a light be over a dining table?
A good thing to keep in mind is making the dining light higher than anyone's leaning-over-the-table height! How high above dining table should pendant light be? Probably 60-80 cm above the dining table if it's a fairly small lamp (10-30cm diameter) and if it's a really big lampshade that comes to the edges of the table then more like 100-120cm above. How high should the base of a light be above a dining table for atmosphere, - well it's pretty good to have an intimate warm light shining down at your food and giving a warm glow to peoples' faces around the room, - if the light is small and not going to get in the way and especially if it is open at the base (throwing a shaft of light down towards the table) I'd make the base of the light as low as 60cm above the table. Make sure that it's a creamy or orange colour if this is the case so that you have an intimate feel as opposed to an interrogation feel!
So, how low should pendant lights hang over dining table? Higher than your head when you're sitting, but only just if possible. Around eye height when standing unless it's too big and then the base of the lamp should be top-of-head height.
How to light a dining table, -what colour light is best for a dining room?
Keep it warm. The priorities for dining should be to make you feel good about eating - and if at all possible good about the people there! Cold light - lampshades in greens and blues, 'cool' lightbulbs and even some of the cool ones (3000K) which are for some reason sold as 'warm' are pretty chilly looking and tend to make our faces look grey and our food too. Yay, sick-looking people eating off-looking food! Try to keep the bulbs 2700K or a lower number for a warmer look, and if your lampshades are colourful, try to make them more orange/yellow/pink than green/blue/purple.
How much space should I leave between each pendant?
If you have a multiple drop suspension, or separate pendants, and need to choose how to space them out then I suggest the following: If they're all the same height (cool calm sleek lines) then make the distance between centres of each lampshade 5-10cm more than the diameter of the lampshade. This way there's a little, measured, but not too big distance between them. They still are lighting personal area - further apart and they can seem to be making more formal, more impersonal line.
So in short: how to light a dining room -
Get yourself at least one word to describe your mood for the room and then choose the loveliest most long lasting pendant lighting you can find... Put it up, -generally 80cm above the dining table will be fine for the base of your lampshades, keep quantities odd if you can, go for warm colours and at least 3 or 4 lights around the room as well as your central feature lighting at the dining table. Easy!