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Schoolhouse 101: Hanging Pendants & Chandeliers

Schoolhouse 101: Hanging Pendants & Chandeliers

Lighting is our specialty here at Schoolhouse. It's our first born, it's in our blood and we wouldn't be here without it. Almost fifteen years after we discovered a trove of long-abandoned glass shade moulds in a forgotten warehouse and restored them back in to production, we're still doing what we love: crafting heirloom-quality light fixtures. For us, there's no more crucial element to an interior than the lighting. It's the visual backbone of a space and has the luxury of being either quiet or loud depending on the aesthetic and the utility desired. 


Which bring us to one of the most common lighting questions we receive on a daily basis: What height should I hang my pendant or chandelier from the ceiling?

 Kitchen pendants hanging over sink

The quick answer is: It depends — mostly according to your own personal style. We have a few rules that we tend follow when it comes to installing chandeliers and pendants that we thought we would lay out for you below. First, you’ll need to determine the overall length that you want for your space. To do this we recommend hanging a balloon with a string from your ceiling. This will allow you to step back and assess the height from multiple angles along with the visual impact.

measureing the length of a ceiling light fixture

Once you know the overall length you’d like your light to be, then you need to determine if the pendant or chandelier you’ve chosen comes with a shade or if you need to purchase one separately. If the shade is included, then you can simply enter your desired overall length on the lights product page before you order. If the shade is not included, you can figure out the length you need for the fixture by subtracting the height of the shade you’ve chosen from your overall length. This will give you the final length you need for ordering your fixture.

Two common placements for pendants and chandeliers are in the dining room and/or over a kitchen island. For hanging lights above a kitchen island, there are a few factors you'll want to consider. Will your pendants serve as accent lights or will they provide the general light in the kitchen? 

diagram of ceiling light fixtures above a kitchen island

counter with bar stoolsVia @oursouthwestnest
kitchen with white cabinets and brown open shelvesVia @thecoldcrafstman
kitchen with a table and chairs and white ceiling lights

Ideally, the bottom of the shade won’t hang lower than the tallest person in your household. As a general rule, you'll want at least 30" to 36" clearance between your surface and the bottom of your fixtures. Small islands (4 to 5 feet long) usually do well with one large or two medium pendants, while larger islands can handle two larger or three medium sized pendants. For hanging multiple pendants we recommend spacing them about 24" apart. Below are a few examples of kitchen island pendant placement from the Schoolhouse archives. 


kitchen with blue cabinets

dining table with chairsVia @saraparsons kitchen with a table and a stove

When it comes to your dining table, it's all about your aesthetic and the level of formality you want for your dining room. Traditionally, more formal dining rooms have lower hanging light fixtures. A general rule of thumb is to hang the fixture 3 feet (36 inches) above your table or 6 feet (72 inches) off the floor. However, all rules are made to be broken and some people consider this too low for casual entertaining. For a more modern or laid-back feel, you might want to bring them up a bit and and hang your fixtures 6 ½ feet to 7 feet (78 to 84 inches) from the floor. For tips on selecting the right size light fixture for your dining room, read here


diagram of ceiling light fixture above a dining room table


There are so many different styles and types of light fixtures that work in a dining room, it really all boils down to personal preference. Hung high or low, what looks and feels good to you will mostly likely work in the space. Depending on the size of your dining table, you might want to consider a single chandelier or pendant, or if you've got room to play, we love the impact of multiple pendants above a table. Below are a few favorite Schoolhouse fixtures that we love in a dining space (or anywhere!).


dining table in a room with a table cloth
dining room with a wood floor and a plant in the corner

dining room with a chandelier and cabinet

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