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Heather Scott Home & Design is an award-winning interior design firm and sophisticated boutique based in Austin, TX and Scottsdale, AZ. Our blog shares the tasteful home accessories, furnishings and gifts that you can find in our retail boutique. We also feature our design projects, industry trends and expert tips that hope to inspire homeowners to create the stylish & chic home of their dreams.

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Top 10 Lighting Tips for your Home
December 23, 2011 in Uncategorized | no comments

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

It has been a couple of crazy months at Heather Scott Home & Design.  Scott and I have been enjoying the festivities since we decorated the store November 1st!  We are so glad Christmas is finally here!

As if we didn’t have enough to do already, Allison and I spent Wednesday night decorating a gingerbread house (or should I say ‘fantasyland beach cottage’) as part of my friend’s, Stacy Naquin, gingerbread decorating contest.

If you ‘like’ the house, you can go to her facebook page and ‘like’ it there.  The contest has two judges who will be the final deciders, but their vote is influenced by the number of ‘likes’.  The winner gets some cool audio equipment for the home.

Here is her website:

gingerbread house on beach

And let me just say, as a first time gingerbread house decorator, there is a lot more that goes into putting together a gingerbread house than I ever imagined.  4 hours of ‘set’ time?  Really?

Now, onto some practical tips about lighting.  Make sure you file this info away for future reference.  I use these numbers all the time and regularly get questions about light fixture placement.

I know, a lot of decorating ‘rules’ are meant to be broken, but you can’t break them if you don’t even know what they are.  So, here goes for some key lighting ‘rules’:

Chandeliers – often used in a dining room or entry hall


  • Tip #1- How high to hang the chandelier

The bottom of a chandelier should be about 6ft9” to 7’3” from floor and 30”-36” above the surface of the table (30” with 8ft ceiling, 33” for 9ft, 36” for 10ft).  There should be at least 18 to 24 inches of clearance between the bottom of a fixture and the height of a taller person

  • Tip #2- How to determine the right size chandelier

To determine the correct size of chandelier, a good starting point is to add the length and width of a room and then use that number as the diameter of the fixture.  For example, a 12’ by 12’ room becomes 12+12= 24, so 24” is the rough starting point for the size of the hanging fixture.  I think light fixtures are the jewelry of a room and always go by the ‘bigger is better’ mantra. Skimpy looking light fixtures are not for me.

  • Tip #3- How big should the chandelier be over a dining table

Start with tip #2 to get your basic dimension, then figure fixture should be 12” -24” narrower than the width of the table it hangs over.  Again, if in doubt, go bigger.

Pendants – often used over a kitchen island or bar area



  • Tip #4- How high to hang pendants

Hang pendants 30”-35” above counter height or 72” above the floor.

  • Tip # 5- How many pendants do  you need

The pendants should be 12” smaller than the width of the table (ex., 2 lights for 3ft counter).  This ‘rule’ is a hard one because so many factors come into play.

Wall Sconces: often used in bathrooms, in hallways or beside mantels



  • Tip #6: What type of sconce should I use

In bathrooms, a single light fixture on either side of a mirror (as shown above) is much better than 1 overhead with 3 lights on it.

  • Tip #7: Where should sconces be placed

In the bathroom: 5’6” above the finished floor (AFF- meaning once your floor is installed).

In a hallway or stairwell: 5’6” above nearest tread at stairwell

On either side of a mantel: 15-18” above the mantel



  • Tip #8: What size lamp you need to read by (i.e., functional lighting)

You generally want your lamps to be about 56-60” AFF. Usually lamps are 27-30” H on tables that are 29-30” H

  • Tip #9: What size floor lamp you need to read by (i.e., functional lighting)

Floor lamps are 60-66”H, but if used next to an armchair, try a 54”




  • Tip #10 What type light bulb you should use

Since this is a blog about making things look good, I’m going to side step the environmental issue and say hands down designers prefer a GE Reveal light bulb (yes, incandescent light).  You can have a beautiful room, but if the lighting is bad it can bring the whole feeling down.  Do yourself (and your guests) a favor and invest a little bit more in some good light bulbs.


I hope this post helps you when it comes to selecting new light fixtures for your home.  If you are looking for new light fixtures of any shape, size or form, swing by to check out the catalogs for some of our favorite vendors.  We would love to help you out!