Chandeliers are a tricky source of light to use appropriately. Located in the center of the room, the provide light that can be either shone directly downward or diffused throughout the room, usually broken up using reflection. In this article, I will discuss how to use the unique lighting of chandeliers correctly in lighting design.
Purely as a source of lighting (that is, without considering what they look like in themselves), chandeliers come in two types: downward-shining chandeliers and spherically-shining chandeliers. Downward-shining chandeliers are chandeliers where lamps shades or other obstructions are used to have all the light from the light shine downwards. These chandeliers are most typically used in dining rooms, and are used as task lighting for the purpose of eating. The difficulty with these chandeliers is that they can actually be too good as task lighting. The light they shine downwards can reflect off of the surface of the table, causing glare in people’s eyes when eating. As a result, they should always be used in tandem with a table cloth or with a table surface that is not especially reflective. It is also important when using a downward-shining chandelier to ensure that the naked bulb cannot be seen by those who are eating. Having it be so makes it uncomfortable for people to look upwards while eating.
Spherically-shining chandeliers, on the other hand, are used both in foyers and in dining rooms. These chandeliers will often have lights that look like candles (from the French “chandelle” for “candle”), and this light shines upward, downward and in all directions. The quality of light from these chandeliers has two features. First, because it is omni-directional, it does not serve as well as task lighting for eating. In the dining room, you will likely need to augment the chandelier with additional light sources. Second, the light is usually refracted using beads, crystals, glass and reflective metal. As a result, the light that comes from a chandelier seems to “flicker” slightly, creating sparkling spots of lights on walls and other surfaces. This provides an attractive light source that can beautify your entire room.