What are Chandeliers: The Ultimate Guide
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What are Chandeliers: The Ultimate Guide


Whether you’re considering a change to your lighting or just curious about the options, chandeliers are a great way to go. To that end, we’re going to cover the following five questions:

  1. What are chandeliers?”
  2. “How do chandeliers differ from pendants?”
  3. “What are the benefits of chandeliers?”
  4. “Are chandeliers out of style?”
  5. “How do I choose a chandelier?”

Let’s dive in!


What are chandeliers?

Chandeliers are “a decorative hanging light with branches for several light bulbs or candles.” The name came from Modern French “chandelle” which means candle and the Latin word “candelabrum” which meant “candlestick” or “candle holder.” Besides branches, chandeliers can  feature levels known as “tiers” (which we will discuss later) and can be installed in any room.


How do chandeliers differ from pendants?

We’ve answered the question, “what is a chandelier?” But, what are pendants, then, and how are chandeliers different? Pendants are hanging fixtures with only one bulb and they either hang alone or in clusters of two or more. Chandeliers have multiple lights, but with the exception of rooms larger than the typical home will have, hang alone.

Chandeliers typically offer diffused or reflected light. Pendants, on the other hand, rarely reflect light as they tend to focus its path through the use of shades. Chandeliers can also be aimed toward the floor or up at the ceiling, but pendants are almost exclusively downward facing.


What are the benefits of chandeliers?

Beyond mere illumination, chandeliers are preferred over other lighting solutions for what they stand for and how they look. From their earliest days in the 1400s until the 1900s, chandeliers symbolized class, luxury, elegance, and wealth—especially since most people couldn’t afford to own and maintain them!

When gas-powered chandeliers were invented, however, prices dropped, as did the range of possible materials for use increased, along with aesthetic appeal, functionality, and demand. When the light bulb was invented, these trends continued. Nevertheless, the reasons for using chandeliers have remained consistent from the beginning.


Are chandeliers out of style?

Chandeliers are very much in style today and not just for the aforementioned reasons.

Chandeliers can be more expensive than pendants and other solutions, but they light up any space they’re in better than just about every option out there. Their main rival, recessed lights, can also light up even larger rooms, though it will require more lights and may cost more money and/or labor to install. Also, because chandeliers hang lower, the light source is closer to you.

Chandeliers are an affordable way to add that something special you’re looking for to any space without researching/making extensive, painstaking changes to your home like painting walls, buying new furniture, or adding or updating flooring or other features. (Pro tip: adding mirrors is usually inexpensive and will not only brighten your room but also create the illusion of space).


How do I choose a chandelier?

Chandeliers come in a variety of shapes and materials. Some are more ornate than others, but their popularity has remained high, even to today. They can even increase your home’s value!

So, how do you choose a chandelier? The main considerations include styles, types, dimensions and hanging position, and room choice. Price is also an integral part of the process, but we won’t be covering it today since it’s a complicated consideration that depends largely on your other preferences.


Chandelier styles

The six main chandelier styles are traditional/classical, neoclassical, modern/contemporary, industrial, geometric, and unique chandeliers. That said, styles can and do overlap.


These chandeliers feature crystals and prisms to reflect the light, arms that enable multiple sources of light (since candles weren’t terribly bright), and antique finishes. Its basis is in the search for perfection. Candle-shaped lights are often used with this one, but not any more often than other light bulbs.


This style appreciates the ancient and has a fascination with antiquity. In other words, it aims to keep the ancient aspect of traditional chandeliers while bringing the touch of modernization to it. An example would be a classic metal central candle holder with multiple candle holders branching out from it, and in place of candles, it would use candle-shaped lights.


Innovation is at the core of modern/contemporary chandeliers. Chandeliers of this style are characterized by a clean, fresh (as in what’s trending) look and optimal functionality while maintaining great aesthetics. For example, chrome or brushed nickel is often paired with glass or wood for a fresh take on the timeless classics.


This style embraces vintage bulbs, finishes in rust, gold or brass, wood, pulleys and gears, and a machine-like look. They are typically pretty simple in design and function rules over beauty in most cases (at the time of writing, I saw one chandelier that had a rack complete with hooks for pots and other kitchen items!).


Designers love this style because it features artistic ways of implementing geometric shapes. These chandeliers are most often symmetrical and fairly simplistic by design. Most, if not all, have an open frame which reveals the entire shape. The most common materials for these are metals, plastics, and crystals.


Chandeliers of this style have been gaining popularity in recent years as people love using the artistic flair on their homes. That said, it’s extremely difficult to pin down the style’s exact principles because the variety possibilities are endless (one chandelier with pink mason jars in a waterfall-like shape; another featured colored glass that glass blowers shaped into a sun or star shape).


Chandelier types

There are a number of chandelier types. Each is classified by some particular feature, and overlap between categories does happen.

Shaded chandeliers use shades to change the ambiance of a room. Drum chandeliers use one or more drum-shaped shades across the fixture. Candle-style chandeliers use candle-like bulbs (some even copy real candlelight!). Crystal chandeliers use crystals to reflect light. Sputnik chandeliers feature light bulbs on spindles connected to a central point and make use of the sun-burst, satellite, or other geometric shapes.

Globe chandeliers use orb- or globe-shaped light bulbs. Waterfall chandeliers make use of the waterfall shape with either light bulbs up at the top shining down on reflecting crystals, or a cascade of light bulbs. The idea is to make a falling water look. Caged chandeliers use open-frame cages to protect their light while giving it a special light-trapping appearance..

Finally, tiered chandeliers are chandeliers with more than one tier of lights in a combination of shapes and/or materials for an elegance that is difficult to top. (One example is the empire chandelier, which features two tiers, the top tier shaped like a cone and the bottom tier shaped like a bowl).


Chandelier dimensions and hanging position

It is imperative that the size of your chandelier and how low it hangs corresponds to the space you’re putting it in. This will affect overall brightness in the room, how the piece looks, and more.


Chandeliers less than 22 in (56 cm) in diameter go best in areas less than 100 ft2 (9 m2). Chandeliers with diameters from 22-30 in (56-75 cm) are for rooms sized around 144 ft2 (14 m2).

Chandeliers more than 30 in (75 cm) in diameter need at least 200 ft2 (18 m2) of space.

If these standard recommendations don’t work for you, as long as you can make adjustments that do, go for it.

Hanging position

This will depend on how high your ceiling is and which room it’ll occupy. Assuming an 8 ft (2.44 m) ceiling, the standard height to hang the chandelier at is 30-36 in (75-90 cm) above a table. If the ceiling height is greater than that, raise the chandelier 3 in (7.62 cm) per additional foot of ceiling height. This principle applies for kitchen islands as well. For chandeliers hanging over the floor, make sure you have 7 ft (2.13 m) of clearance to protect even the tallest of guests.

For those that reject the standard height recommendations, it’s perfectly okay for you to try something different. Just make sure to consider how the chandelier looks in your room from different angles (including entrance up to sitting at the table), how it impacts the overall design and feel of the room, and how well it serves your purposes overall (be it lighting, design, or something else entirely)page on chandeliers just for you. This is especially important for any two-story foyer, where it may be seen even from above.

If in doubt, make sure to consult with a licensed, bonded electrician. Larger, heavier chandeliers may require additional ceiling support. Also, be sure to research your ceiling type as it will also make a difference in your choice of chandelier and its position.


Room choice for your chandelier

As mentioned in the dimensions section, you want to make sure your chandelier is sized well for the room it will occupy. But there’s more to consider.

What is the impression your chandelier gives?

How does the chandelier actually look in a given room? Does it stand out? If you have nothing else to show off in the room’s design, great! The chandelier will serve its purpose well. If you do, though, it could overshadow the other item(s) you want to pop. You might consider a smaller chandelier. Does it look right in the room? Some chandeliers look better in one room than they will in another.

What about the role(s) your room serves? You want to ensure that the lighting is appropriate for that/those role(s). Kitchens need light everywhere, which makes chandeliers a great choice. Some kitchens also function as dining spaces, so dimmable smart-enabled bulbs are a great way to change the mood for the particular company it serves. Living/family rooms love chandeliers because the light bounces off the ceiling, creating greater ambiance.


The Bottom Line

Choosing a lighting solution can be a tricky process. Now that we’ve answered your important questions, especially “What are chandeliers?” and “How do I choose a chandelier?”, you should feel confident and ready to make that final lighting choice. To help you along with that, we’ve got a page on modern chandeliers just for you! Happy hunting!

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