Pendant Lights vs Chandelier Lighting

Set the tone and mood of any room with the correct light fixtures.

From understated to ornate, the right light fixture not only communicates your personal aesthetic but also determines the decorating theme of a room. Unless you have a flair for design, however, you may not be sure what type of fixture will create the kind of atmosphere you crave in a particular location. If you are outfitting a formal living room or dining area, you may envision fancy and sparkling fixtures, like chandeliers. If you prefer a more casual ambiance, you probably should shop for simpler pendant lighting.

What Makes a Light a Chandelier?

Chandeliers date to the Middle Ages when they were technically candelabra. Homeowners could pick them up and take them along to other rooms as needed. In the 1600s, these fixtures took on a fancier aspect and became status symbols in the homes — or palaces — of the wealthy. In subsequent centuries, such additions as Venetian crystals, gilding and ornate carvings made the fixtures increasingly unique and valuable.

Contemporary chandelier lights run the gamut from elegant to minimalist. At its most basic, this type of large hanging lights features branched arms with a multitude of bulbs. Typically, you would choose one as a focal point for the entire room because of its beauty and style. However, if chandelier crystals diffuse the direct light, plan to add some task lighting such as table lamps to balance out the room.

The black chandelier is one ultra-elegant and contemporary lighting choice that features a svelte black framework with multiple lights. Some styles are minimalist while others tend to the ornate with black crystals and decorative sconces.

What Defines a Pendant Light?

Pendants are suspended lights, and the category encompasses several styles and profiles. Some styles are extremely ornate and may include chandelier crystals, beveled glass and metal scrollwork, such the Murray Feiss line. Others favor clean lines, squared or rounded shapes and a single light source that provides bright illumination for reading or food preparation, such as many Kichler designs.

Choose an over-sized pendant light for the greatest impact in bringing a special room to life. While large hanging lights tend to dwarf a normal-sized living space, an oversize pendant provides a dramatic accent to a location with a soaring cathedral ceiling or an atrium.

Large pendants are ideal for spaces with high ceilings such as great rooms and foyers. They contain several small lights for a total wattage strong enough to illuminate large areas, but you will probably have to supplement large pendants with smaller, more directed lighting.

Small pendants, such as Murray Feiss fixtures, often have a single, directed source of illumination that shines upon a contained area such as a kitchen island, a breakfast bar or a desk. Because many small pendants cost less than large pendant light fixtures, you can select more than one to create islands of lighting where you need it most.

A Lighting Choice to Suit Your Space

With so many choices, from a black chandelier from Hubbardton Forge to an over-sized pendant by Batalion and beyond, you may wonder how to pinpoint the lighting that suits your space. That depends upon a combination of personal preference, a fit for the theme and purpose of the space and your budget.

For example, when you look online, perhaps a large glass pendant light by Capital Lighting catches your eye. Your next thought should be whether it is appropriate for your home. This depends upon the style of the large glass pendant light and whether it is sized and designed to complement its intended surroundings. While large pendant light fixtures may fit perfectly in a steel and glass-style home, it may not work so well in the living room of a cozy log home. A large drum pendant with a mica shade by Quoizel may be a better selection.

Also, consider whether your home decor would coordinate suitably with the fancy chandelier lights you may favor. If your house has a formal entryway or high-ceiling dining room, chandelier lights might be the ticket. On the other hand, if you live in a ranch-style home, you may not have the space where such an over-sized pendant light would work. Instead, you should select smaller pendants, accent lighting or sconces.

The term pendant lighting describes many types of fixtures, including those with crystals. Whether you prefer ornate statement lighting or a decorative large drum pendant, educating yourself about styles of lighting can help you make smart decisions that reflect well on you.

PRO TIP: Pendant lighting for task lighting should feature a downward-directed light source and an open or clear bottom to maximize light capacity. Adding a dimmer switch allows you to tone down the wattage when your task is done.

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