Lighting Proportions for Interior Design


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Selecting an improperly sized fixture or placing it in the wrong location can ruin an otherwise beautiful interior design scheme no matter how exquisite the piece. Designing a lighting plan complete with switch types, outlets, and locations is an integral part of the total project.  This blog focuses on size and placement of fixtures. All of the measurements are general guidelines used by Robin Lechner Designs. Measurements will vary depending upon your design scheme, fixtures, furnishings, and preferences.

Chandeliers in dining rooms should hang 30-36” from the table top – or 66” from the floor. To determine the proper size, add the length, width, and height of the space, using the total as the height in inches your fixture should be. A chandelier that’s too large will overpower a small space, and one that’s too small can get lost and not provide sufficient illumination in a large room.

 

Entry halls look best with several types of lighting fixtures. In addition to a dramatic overheadchandelier, sconces flanking a hallway mirror, or a lamp set on a foyer table add warmth and graciousness to the space and eliminate shadows. Hanging fixtures should be an average of 84”off the floor, though no lower than 81”.

Most apartments have cement ceilings making it almost impossible to add ceiling fixtures. If you don’t already have recessed lighting, you can add track lighting. I prefer recessed lighting, and often have a soffit constructed around the perimeter of a room. Another option is to add coffering in a pattern that allows lighting to be placed in any pattern. If ceilings are high enough, you can drop them a few inches to run wires for additional hanging fixtures.


Perimeter lighting is the most versatile whether you want to use it to highlight artwork, use it for subtle accents, general or task lighting. It should be installed 18” away from the wall and always on dimmers to get the most benefit and avoid getting light or glare in your eyes.



Reading lamps, whether table or floor styles, should be placed 15” to the right or left of the

chair. The fixture should be two feet behind that. The lamp should be about 54” high off the floor. In the bedroom, adjustments must be made in consideration of the size of the mattress. The higher off the floor your bed, the higher the night stand, and the higher lamp will be from the floor, but the ratio of bed to lamp level remains constant. The bottom of the shade should be about 20-22” from the table top. The bedside lamps clients purchase average 31-34” in total height.

Table lamps not used for tasks or reading average 27-30” on tables that are 27-30” high. Floor lamps range from 60-66” in height.
One of my favorite space saving lights are wall mounted swing arm lamps. In a bedroom, the bottom of the shade should be the same as that of a lamp, about 20-22” above the surface of the mattress. For a 21” mattress place the mounting box of the fixture 42” off the floor; a 24” mattress, raise it to 45”, and 48” for a 27” mattress. The arm should be long enough to adjust for reading comfortably, and the on/off switch within convenient reach. I strongly recommend you set up your bed with the mattress before installing the junction box. Every bed supports the mattress at a different height and have different overall widths. The junction box should be 6-8” from the headboard.

I also use them to flank sofas. The bottom of the lamp shade should be 42-44” off the floor and centered over the end table.

Sconces are my favorite decorative lights whether they flank a fireplace, entry foyer or bathroom mirror.  Junction boxes for sconces or wall lights should be installed 66” from the floor. If they’re to be placed above a fireplace mantel, the box belongs 15-18” above it.


A good residential lighting plan brings out the beauty of rooms and flatters the people in them. To avoid a boring, unappealing design, layer lighting by using a variety of fixtures. By using the suggested proportions and measurements above, your home (or office) will be comfortable, welcoming, and a beautiful place to be.


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