Dining rooms are tricky things when it comes to décor. A single piece of furniture definitionally dominates them, and even frequently changes size! Empty, with all the chairs pushed in and some leaves removed, there can be a lot of extra space. Add extra leaves and chairs, and put guests in all the seats, and suddenly the same room can feel cramped and stuffed to bursting! The versatility of rustic lighting can be a great way to work around these challenges, so here are three tricks you can use to get the most versatility and style out of your dining room.

Rustic chandelier over dining table in bright, modern room.

1: Think in Layers, But Overlap Them

We talked recently about thinking in three layers of light: ambient lighting, task lighting, and accent lighting. Because floor and wall real-estate is at a premium in a dining room, though, it helps to overlap those layers in terms of the physical light fixtures that fill each of those roles. For example, the chandelier over the table can be ambient lighting by projecting some of its light upward to bounce off of the walls and ceiling. It can also serve as task lighting if it includes optional down-lights. Finally, if it’s dimmable, it can provide flexibility in terms of the mood you want to set—low for a romantic evening, bright for family game night, and in between for a holiday feast.

Consider a rustic chandelier for this role, as an example. Their flexibility lets you customize them to fill both roles without compromise. Multiple candelabra-base LED bulbs can perch on a twig chandelier, for example, to interplay both light and shadow to create inviting light patterns without being overwhelming. You can also nestle a more powerful down-light underneath for direct, task-oriented lighting. This can be perfect for game night or to do crafts, or to to showcase a meal while serving. Then you can dim them or turn off entirely for a more relaxing ambiance with the flip of a switch!

Rustic wall sconces are another great option to serve as a blend of ambient and accent lighting. Because of their decorative nature, you have some extra flexibility in terms of mounting height, and can get them high enough to avoid bumping people’s heads as they maneuver around the table, and still cast soft, inviting light in all directions, rather than just up or down as pure accent lighting like more contemporary sconce designs.

Long twig chandelier over open plan dining area in contemporary home.

2: Change Mood and Impression With Different Rustic Lighting Configurations

When installing your lighting solution in your dining room, don’t just use a single on-off switch! Instead, include enough switches, dimmers, and other controls to configure the room to suit a variety of uses. Try to set up lighting configurations that encourage different moods and give off different impressions. Separate dimmer switches for a chandelier’s ambient candelabra lights and its focused down-lights lends great flexibility in one fixture. It can let you shift from an intimate, table-focused lighting dynamic to a more cheerful, celebratory whole-room configuration in seconds!

Consider using separate dimmer switches for wall sconces and other accent lighting as well. This will let you further shift the feel of the room more than you might think. Lighting along the edges of a room, especially that projects upward onto the ceiling and upper walls can make a room feel bigger and more open. Lighting that focuses downward, especially in the middle of a room, promotes a smaller, more intimate or focused feeling.

Wish Designs ProTip

To avoid confusing guests or future homeowners, consider labeling each switch clearly. Depending on your budget and tastes, you can get labels ranging from transparent stickers to custom-engraved or -silkscreened faceplates!

3: Think Outside the… Room!

No room is an island, and dining rooms are no exception. If anything, they can benefit from extra consideration of the lighting and ambiance of the surrounding areas, indoor and out!

You see, dining rooms are often used during times when outside lighting conditions are changing dramatically. A dinner party that lingers for several hours can see your windows transform from beautiful sunset vistas to reflective, inky black voids that may even disturb some of your guests. The most common solution is to cover the windows with curtains or blinds, but that can make the room feel small and cramped.

Fortunately, you can combat those nighttime reflective voids in a better way, with an exterior lit feature! Try lighting a feature of your garden, a tree, a flagpole, or a statue. Make sure it’s visible through the biggest windows and/or sliding glass doors in the dining room. This lets the eye focus naturally beyond the confines of the room itself, making it feel more open, even at night. It can also serve as a nice conversation piece! If you don’t have a lot of landscaping options for exterior lighting, don’t despair! Even something as simple as a line of solar-charged ground lights along the driveway can do the trick. Alternatively, a cheerful fire safely contained in a brazier or fire pit can add great ambiance for very little investment.

Wondering How Big Your Rustic Chandelier Should Be?

We’ve got you covered! As a basic rule of thumb, try to stay a little under the width (the narrower dimension) of your table, but don’t go below two-thirds of that. For a more sophisticated take that incorporates the room itself, check out our blog on that topic below!