Yanic Simard Principal Designer at the Toronto Interior Design Group
Pendant fixtures are both a beautiful way to add a jewelry-like feature to your decor, and an important part of a well-layered light scheme. Installing an extra light source hanging below the ceiling line adds a glow that will compliment the task lighting from potlights or table lamps and the wall-washing light from sconces or floor fixtures, reducing shadows and glare so your interior can live up to its true potential. The best part is that many pendants are now available in plug-in versions that don’t require any electrical work, allowing you to add one in just an afternoon, no electrician required.
Whether you want to invest in some permanent home upgrades or just quickly brighten up a temporary space, this guide will help you determine what height is right for hanging your fixture in any situation.
In the Entry:
8′: In your entry (or a drab hallway), your pendant should make a statement — you probably don’t have much free floor area in this relatively small part of your home, so the space overhead provides the best spot to add a little drama and welcome guests in with radiant light. However, this can be one of the most difficult places to judge height since there probably isn’t a piece of furniture underneath to help gauge the distance.
Hang it at least eight feet above the floor (or as high as you can get under a low ceiling). If you have doors that swing out toward the fixture, make sure you allow for them so you don’t end up with a collision. Don’t be afraid to go a bit big (as long as the bottom is still high enough) to really make a memorable statement in the brief time people spend here.
In the Living Room:
5′-7′: When a pendant is hung in the centre of a seating group, such as over a sofa or coffee table, don’t be afraid to hang your light fairly low. It won’t interrupt your sightlines when sitting, or the flow of traffic, and when you enter it will become a focal point — your guests will definitely take notice of your sparkling investment. I suggest choosing a light that is not too bright, and/or having the light connect to a dimmer, so that you can set the mood for intimate conversation rather than leaving guests feeling like they’re under an interrogation lamp.
Over a Table:
28″-32″: Here personal preference is a big factor, but around 30″ above the table is a good starting point. A solid or heavy fixture may get in the way of conversation if hung too close to the eyeline, but a more airy option can work well lower to the ground. Consider mounting two or three slim pendants above the table for added light and visual appeal without getting in the way when someone wants to pass the salt.
Above the Kitchen Island:
28-35″: Like at the dining table, personal comfort will play into the decision between hanging lights out of the way and hanging them where they can be better seen. However, here people will generally be standing and working so lights should sit above the shoulder.
Downward shining pendants will add functional task lighting to the work surface, so these may be more practical than ones that glow in all directions — however, you can achieve an even richer effect by combining discreet potlights in the ceiling with a more decorative pendant to get the best of both worlds.
Above a Vanity:
66″: Instead of sconces, consider hanging two pendants in front of a large mirror for an elegant look that allows for one uninterrupted sheet of glass. Choosing a fixture with clear glass will offer more light, aiding a busy morning routine, while a diffused shade will produce a more tranquil ambience.
The middle of the shade of the pendant should hang at eye level or higher, close enough to the wall so no one will bump into it, but not touching the glass itself. For a foolproof result, simply hang your mirror and the lights so that the centreline is the same (66″ being a good average eye-level).
In the Bedroom:
12-20″: Instead of table lamps (which can quickly eat up your entire bedside table) consider hanging pendants to free space. Leave at least a foot of space between the tabletop and the bottom of the lamp so you can reach your clock or a drinking glass without bumping into it – go higher if you want lots of room to stack books or display photos.
If you want to add a light over the bed itself, this can make a beautiful focal point. You’ll just want to hang it close to the ceiling to make sure you don’t hit your head when your jumping out of bed in the morning – hanging it toward the foot of the bed will also help minimize this issue.
Above the Staircase:
96″: If you’re looking to add drama and interest to your staircase, hanging a light fixture is the perfect way to do just that — especially in a larger home with a grand staircase that spans several floors. Make sure the fixture is high enough to clear heads if people will be passing under it. If the light can be placed where people will simply walk around it, take the opportunity to hang one or more lights at eye level so people can full enjoy their beauty as they move between rooms.
Embrace the cord on a plug-in pendant and make it a feature. You can create a design on the wall with a long cord anchored in several places, or simply dress yours in a bright colour (with a cover kit or paint) to make a simple, modern statement.