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Hanging lights
Courtesy Photo

Gone are the days when a simple flush-mounted light is placed in the middle of the room and it’s called "good." Lighting is now accomplished in layers – several types of lighting in the same room to enhance function and beauty. Because many types of lighting coexist, proper spacing of the fixtures has become more important than ever.

Recessed lights

Placing recessed can lights evenly across your ceiling is like a mathematical equation. Begin by dividing the ceiling height in half, and then use that number to indicate how far apart the lights should be from one another. For example, recessed can lights are best placed four feet apart in an eight foot ceiling.

Recessed lighting should be kept three feet away from walls. This distance helps limit shadows and keeps your ceiling from looking lower than it is.

Vanity lights

Bathroom lighting can be tricky. The best lighting is achieved when sconces are used on either side of the mirror, but sometimes that just isn’t possible. In those cases, when a bath bar above the mirror is the only option, vanity lights should not exceed the length of the mirror, preferably around 75 percent of the mirror’s width. Ideally, three inches should sit between the bottom of the light fixture and the top of the mirror.


When used in a bathroom, the smaller the sconce the better - sconces no bigger than nine to 10 inches are best. These sconces should flank the mirror, sitting roughly 18 inches in either direction from the center of the sink. To prevent glare, they should be placed at eye level - around 65 inches off the floor. If there are double sinks, and the mirrors are close enough together, three sconces, one in the middle and one on either side, sometimes is best. Because of room needed for the electrical box, make sure sconces sit four inches away from the edge of the mirror.

Elsewhere in the home, sconces are placed three-quarters of the way up the wall. That is, if you have eight-foot ceilings, the sconce should sit six feet off the floor.

A swing-arm sconce beside the bed for reading should be positioned at the height of your shoulder when you’re seated on the bed. This will allow the light to fall unobstructed between your head and surface of your work.

Pendants and chandeliers

The width of a pendant or chandelier used for general purposes, not over a table or countertop, is figured by adding the length and the width of the room together and converting that number to inches. So, for example, an eight-by-10-foot room would warrant a fixture 18 inches in diameter. When the fixture is hung over a kitchen island or dining room table, measure that surface and then subtract a foot for the maximum width of that fixture.

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When used in an entryway, a pendant or chandelier should be hang at the midpoint between the floor and ceiling for 14-foot-plus ceilings. For ceilings less than that, they should be no closer than six inches from the ceiling and a minimum of seven feet from the floor. If you have a picture window atop your entryway, center the light in that window so it can be seen from the outside when others approach.

When using multiple pendants over an island or table, they should be spaced evenly every 24 to 30 inches from the center of the shade. A good height for either over a raised surface is 30 to 36 inches. They should be at the top end of that range for a large table, whereas they should hang closer, more towards the lower end, for a small table.

An odd number of pendants – one, three, or five – is often more aesthetically pleasing. Spaced evenly, the light from one pendants should overlap the other.

Keep in Mind

Even if you pick a perfectly-sized fixture, the busier the fixture is or the more complex its design, the larger it will appear. For this reason, smaller rooms often warrant more simple designs.

Happy hanging!