Today’s post is about the dining room - making sure your lighting and tablescape are ready to give the right ambiance to your holiday meal. With Thanksgiving coming up this week, and Christmas just around the corner, I have been thinking about ways to make dining rooms more comfortable and inviting, thereby enticing your guests to linger at the table (and rave over your delicious food, funny jokes, and ultra polite children, naturally!)
In conjuring the image of a holiday table that delights and invites, I initially think about the all-important element of lighting. Most dining rooms have a single chandelier over the table. How high should that chandelier be mounted? A good rule of thumb is that the lowest element should be 30” to 32” above the table in a room with an 8’ ceiling. If the ceiling is over 8’ tall, then the chandelier itself can be a bit taller (to visually fill the space more dramatically) and it can be mounted an additional 2”-3” higher for each additional foot of ceiling. Also important is the diameter of the chandelier. To arrive at a ballpark chandelier diameter (assuming a round chandelier), add the length and width of the room in feet (say 10’ + 14” = 24), and that will give you the best diameter (in inches) for your chandelier. So, in our example of a 10’x14’ dining room, a 24” chandelier is a good bet. But it is also important to consider the width of your table, and a chandelier should generally be at least 12” narrower than your table, to ensure that your guests don’t hit their heads or have to sit uncomfortably right underneath a light. Some designers use the convention of ½ to ¾ the width of the table for the proper width of a chandelier, but most definitely make it narrower than the table. The most important part of the dining equation is that the guests seated at the table can see each other and don’t have to dodge a crystal fob or metal arm to make eye contact that says, “That drumstick is clearly mine!”
Here is a beautiful transitional fixture from Uttermost, the Boreas 7 light chandelier. What a lovely art piece that softens the room. And did you know I am an Uttermost dealer? (I know that’s a shameful promotion, but hey, this is an interior design blog after all and you are probably looking for design solutions.)
Another important factor in dining room lighting ambiance is the use of a dimmer on the chandelier and using other lighting sources in the room, like candles and lamps on a sideboard. You see, the light shining down from an overhead chandelier will cast harsh shadows on faces…and light sources lower to the table will counteract that effect. Who doesn’t look better in candlelight, anyway? Another solution to soften the light is to use individual shades on the chandelier bulbs or select a drum shade chandelier. Just like lighting in a bathroom where sconces on the sides of mirrors give a better glow to the face instead of a fixture directly overhead.
Perhaps you are considering a rectangular or oval lighting fixture? I love all the options for rectangular and oval fixtures available today, and the abundance of these shapes will give you many options for a rectangular table, especially one that is narrow. Below is a photo from KW Designs (Del Mar, CA) which features a Jonathan Adler “Meurice” chandelier in a mid-century transitional setting. I love the use of wood in the room and the live-edge table (which, by the way, you can get here on the East Coast through me at Harden Furniture).
Another popular lighting option is the hanging of multiple smaller mini-chandeliers or pendants over a dining room table. I much prefer it when 3 or more are used rather than just a pair (just a designer thing……)
Other proportion advice for the dining room: the area rug. For your dining room, you must find a rug size that allows the table and chairs to completely sit on the rug, even when the chairs are pulled out. For most dining room tables an 8’ x 10’ rug may be sufficient, but most certainly a 9’x12’. Of course, circular tables require round rugs.
Here’s my last piece of advice for making your dining room comfortable for guests; nothing says “gracious entertaining” more than an arrangement of fresh flowers. Because it’s the holiday season yesterday I visited an Open House by Isabelle Zee, a floral designer in Sudbury who creates the most spectacular arrangements, each a sculptural work of art you wish would last forever. You can learn about her business, Les Bouquets Du Grillon, at her website:
Here are photos of some of Isabelle’s custom creations that she showcased during the Open House. Amazing! Just remember the rule that your guests should be able to see each other across the table and therefore any center floral arrangement that you put on the table shouldn’t be too tall.
And here is the arrangement I purchased from Isabelle for my own Thanksgiving table. I guess that I will have to use the “good china” to do justice to this centerpiece!
While attending yesterday’s open house it occurred to me that this coming Saturday, Nov 25th, is “Shop Local Saturday”. Since I heartily agree with the concept of supporting local small businesses in your town I wanted to share this news with all of my clients, especially those who in Sudbury and surrounding towns of Concord, Acton, Maynard, Wayland, and Weston. Sudbury has some wonderful artisans and shops for décor items, and I look forward to sharing news of other local business owners with you through my blog. It seems like great new small businesses are popping up in Sudbury and the surrounding towns all the time. Since I can’t seem to keep up with them all I’m grateful to my friend Ellen for introducing me to Isabelle Zee of Les Bouquets du Grillon.
Buy Local!! Happy Thanksgiving! I have much to celebrate this year. Blessings to you and yours for a Happy Holiday.
Barbara Phillips, interior designer and owner of Center Stage Interior Designs, has delivered impeccable window treatments and design services to both residential and commercial clients in Massachusetts since 2001.