Reader Inquiry: Chandys and Ceiling Height

By Kate Riley June 3, 2010

We all know how the perfect chandelier can add just the right finishing touch to a space.   Great light fixtures do more than simply illuminate – they make a design statement too.   Recently a reader asked this question: 

“I was wondering about your fantastic office redo.   Are you ceilings regular height?  8 feet I think is standard.  I would love to hang a chandelier in my office, but am afraid that the ceiling is too low.  Do you have that problem?  Any help would be appreciated!  ~ Emily N.”

right side after

Great question Emily!  When it comes to hanging a light fixture in a main traffic area in a room (and not over a dining table) lighting designers and interior decorators typically follow two rules of thumb. 

1)  Measure the height of the room and allow 2.5 to 3 inches for each foot of height.  According to this formula, if your room has an 8 foot tall ceiling, you would multiply 8 x 2.5 inches and 8 x 3 inches, to arrive at a light fixture that is between 20 to 24 inches in height (but see comments below).

2)  A chandelier also needs to be proportionate to the room size.   Add the width and length of the room together in feet and convert that figure to inches to come up with the correct width of the chandelier.  For example, in my office, the room measures 10 feet by 13 feet.  You add 10 + 13 together to get 23 inches in diameter.   

ballard chandelierIn my office, my ceiling is nine feet high, so according to the formula, my chandelier can drop up to 27 inches.

This Ballard Designs Montserrat chandy measures 23” wide by 26” in height.   You can’t see in this picture, but with the chain, it actually hangs down 28 inches. 

I fudged and went an inch outside the guidelines – but I love the added drama, plus it’s still 6 feet, 8 inches off the floor which is clearance for all the tall people I know and also the height of a standard door frame.     

Taking these rules of thumb into consideration, you also want to consider the path of traffic through a space, and whether tall individuals may bump their head on your fixture.  

white bedroom flickr You can always hang or swag a statement chandelier a bit lower over a bed, desk, table, sitting area, workspace, fireplace, or focal point outside the path of travel.  Take a peek at this bedroom inspiration picture and note how low the chandelier is hanging, far below the height of the door frame. 

Over a bed, where no one will walk, you can get away with dropping a chandelier a little lower like this for added drama. 

(Note: rules are different when it comes to fixtures over bathtubs, so check with your local ordinances.)

When you’re hanging a fixture over a dining table, the rule of thumb is to choose a chandelier with a diameter equal to 1/2 the width of the table, and suspend the chandelier 30 to 34 inches above the tabletop. 

But back to high traffic areas in open living spaces.  Personally, I would not hang a fixture any lower than 6’8” from the from the floor (the same height as a standard door) to prevent taller people from bumping their head.   If I had an eight foot ceiling like yours Emily, and I was hanging a fixture above where people will walk, I would opt for something closer to a flush or semi-flush ceiling fixture, and measuring no more than 16 inches in height.  

However, if you have your heart set on a larger fixture (closer to the 20 to 24 inch rule of thumb), I would swag it over your desk to illuminate your workspace, and to prevent visitors from bumping their head on your fixture.   But you can certainly capture the uber glamorous feel of a drop chandelier with a semi-flush mount fixture with choices like these:

flush chandy 1

flush chandy 2

flush chandy 3

flush chandy 41.  Vintage jewel ceiling light;  2. Lumens flush mount chandelier; 3. Downtown three light semi flush;  4.  Three ceiling light with chocolate shade;  5.  Crystal three light ceiling mount;  6.  Anastasia ceiling mount   7.  Kingston crystal ceiling mount; 8.  Antique white semi flush fixture

Don’t forget, when you have lower ceilings, you can always make a decorative statement with lighting with dramatic sconces on your walls, and with beautiful floor or table lamps. 

I hope this helps you Emily with your design inquiry ! 



  1. This comes at a right time, when we are trying to figure out what kind of light fixture we can hang in our bedroom and bathroom. Thanks for all the info and the beautiful inspirational pictures, I will come back to this article for reference.

  2. what if you have a very large room that encompasses both the dining and living room? Divide the area up in to the two separate spaces and measure that way (this assumes you are hanging two fixtures, one in each area).

  3. You totally rock! I had no idea you would post my little old question :) I’m glad your anzwers will hepl others who are chandy-challenged :)

    Funny thing was that I got your email late last night, and just now I was going to take photos of my space to send to you but thoguht I would check my blog roll first to catch up on some reading :)

    Thank you so much for all of your awesome ideas and suggestions. I kinda figured with my ceiling height I couldn’t get away with a hanging fixture… but after seeing yours I just had to ask! :) I am definatly keeping my eye out for a ceiling mounted fixture that is bright and pretty to look at…

    I’ll send off photos tonight of the space :) Thanks so much!!!

    ~ Emily N. from “too Blessed to Stress”

  4. This is very helpful information. I tend to just “eyeball” it, but I can see that having this info will come in handy. I never thought of putting a chandelier over the bed…hmmm.

  5. Hi Lisa – You have plenty of options in a living room/dining room combo. You can hang a pair of chandys, one over the dining table and one over the living room sitting area, or pick one large dramatic piece for the middle (expecially with high ceilings), then flank the dining room wall and living room wall with sconces. Would have to see a picture of your space, but I’ve seen the latter done before in high end homes.


  6. This is awesome! As someone who is completely and utterly obsessed with chandeliers that was super interesting and super helpful! Also, want to swap offices? :o)

  7. Great advice, what suggestions do you have for an office fixture for someone who needs daylight balanced lighting — like a professional photographer.

  8. I have always wanted to put up a chandelier, but am nervous that they feel a little bit too feminine for my hubbie. Also, I live in Texas and it is already 100 degrees out here (plus, I am pregnant). It just seems too darn hot not to have a ceiling fan in every room. Anyone else out there having these issues?

  9. Thank you for this! I’ve been considering putting something small in my kitchen, but the ceilings are so low I didn’t know if it would work. Now I have something to base it on!

  10. If you (or that special someone) is handy, you can easily convert any cute lamp into a ceiling fixture.

  11. This is awesome! I just randomly clicked on a comment from Bower Power, and I just posted about a recent chandy acquisition myself! I’ll definitely be coming back!

  12. love this post! we’re looking for a chandelier to put in our master bdrm. could you let me know who (what brand) makes the 4th semi-flush light that you have pictured, the one with the chocolate shade? where can i get it? i need to have it! :) ps – i am obsessed with your blog, your house is gorgeous!!

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