This chandeliers guide is for anyone who is considering buying a chandelier or just looking for more information. It will take you through a brief history of their development to the different styles available. It includes tips on how large it should be and how low it should hang. If you are looking to buy a chandelier in the near future, it could be the best 15-minutes you spend today. You may learn something new or have your questions answered.
This is a stunning group of light fittings that can be hung from a chain or fitted closer to the ceiling. To be a chandelier, they must be ceiling mounted and have more than one lamp bulb. Sometimes called multi-arm pendants, they range from very small light fittings to the very grand chandeliers that we all recognise. This guide will take you through the different styles, their history and where you can use them.
Any chandelier adds charm and distinction to a room. The ever-expanding choice of styles, finishes and designs ensures that there is something suitable for every home, no matter how large or small. It really seems like the sky’s the limit when it comes to the design of these fantastic light fittings and they come in every type of finish that you can think of too. These days, there’s no need to restrict yourself to the traditionally styled crystal chandelier either. What could be more opulent than a grand chandelier lighting your entrance hall, dining room or even your bedroom? From simple and clean to contemporary, traditional or ornate and heavily decorated, a chandelier hanging from any ceiling is going to steal the show.
Chandelier Early History
Chandeliers originated in France during the 9th century and translates into ‘chandelle’ which means candle. Originally used in large stone buildings such as churches and castles, they were very rudimentary. Most often built from wooden planks nailed together and hung from ropes or chains, with candles placed on the planks to illuminate the space.
Metal chandeliers were being made by blacksmiths and became popular with the wealthy from around the 12th century. They were dangerous and were often the source of building fires. Large and heavy, they were held in place by a rope pulley system so that the fitting could be lowered to replace the candles.
By the 15th century chandeliers became a symbol of wealth, with complex tiered designs and gilded in gold. The high cost of manufacture made them a real status piece and only the wealthy could afford them. The late 15th century saw the emergence of the antler chandelier. Left over from hunting trips, the antlers were hung from the ceiling on ropes or chains and candles were attached.
The 18th century saw the chandelier evolve into grandeur, with gold, lead crystal and hand-made Italian glass commonplace. They became larger and were not yet suitable for more modest homes. The 19th Century saw many chandeliers converted to use gaslights. Within a century electricity appeared and this ensured that the chandelier was suitable for everyone, not just the wealthy.
Chandeliers for Every Room in Your Home
There is a chandelier suitable for every room in your home and to suit every budget. They are available in a multitude of styles, sizes, and finishes. Some have a single tier or multiple tiers of lamp bulbs.
Traditional Candle style Chandeliers
Candle style chandeliers, usually but not always feature traditional designs. Typically made from metals such as brass or steel and plated in nickel or chrome. Many are painted and available in a multitude of colours. They will feature a candelabra design, with candle drips and candle pans and usually be fitted with candle bulbs to mimic the look of an original wax candle chandelier. Available with as few as three lights, right up to a multi-tier 36 light grand statement piece. Ideal for period or traditional homes and suitable for every room in your home.
Chandeliers with shades
Chandeliers with shades can be of any style, modern, traditional or contemporary. Regardless of the type of chandelier, all will feature shaded light such as a large drum shade or individual shades covering the lamp bulbs. Shading the light produces warmer softer illumination than candle style lights. The shades are typically made using fabric, different types of glass or metal. Some shades will face upwards, some down and some glass shades will encase the bulbs completely. Ideal for modern, rustic or traditional homes and suitable for lighting an entrance hall, bedroom, living or dining room.
Drum chandeliers will always feature multiple bulbs inside a larger outer shade. Some will be a simple shade and the bulbs will be visible from below unless a baffle is fitted. Others will feature a traditional candelabra within a larger outer shade. Regardless of style, they will have an outer shade housing the light bulbs inside. Ideal for modern, rustic and traditional homes and perfect for a bedroom, hallway, living room or over a dining table. Available in smaller sizes for more modern homes.
Crystal chandeliers are instantly recognisable. They are eye-catching, attractive and opulent. Available in traditional and modern designs, they are suitable for almost any room in your home. A traditional crystal chandelier will feature a candelabra design, crystal candle drips and candle pans and usually be fitted with a candle bulb to mimic the look of an original wax candle crystal chandelier. Available with as few as three lights, right up to a multi-tier 36 light grand chandelier, they can be bought for as little as £150 or many £1000’s depending on size and quality of crystal.
Modern crystal chandeliers typically feature an outer crystal shade with lamp bulbs inside and sometimes have crystal decoration hanging below. They look stunning, particularly in a bedroom or over a dining table.
Modern chandeliers can be almost anything. So long as it hangs from the ceiling and has more than one light bulb, it’s a chandelier. Modern designs come in all shapes and sizes, with many featuring geometric shapes and frosted glass. Almost all will feature modern materials and up to the minute style. They are well suited to modern or contemporary spaces. Here is an example of an on trend chandelier fitted in a kitchen.
Large chandeliers are just that, large, sometimes huge chandeliers. The main factor to consider when choosing a very large chandelier is the ceiling height followed by the room size, as even a large diameter of 120cm can be accommodated in most big rooms. You will need a minimum ceiling height of 3.05 metres (10ft) or a double height ceiling, such as on a landing or stairwell. Getting it right first time is important as you don’t want to end up with a fitting that is unsuitable, so measure down from the ceiling to the point where the lowest part of the chandelier can be and this is the maximum drop. If placed over a dining table, then it can hang lower without impeding free passage.This example shows a solid brass 36 light traditional chandelier with three tiers and weighing in at 45kg.
Cartwheel chandeliers have been around since the 12th century. Originally, they were worn out cartwheels attached to the ceiling using ropes or chains. Candle holders were attached to the rim to light up the space. Still made today from modern materials and in a variety of styles, they will all feature a hoop frame made from metal or wood. Some will feature spokes and many are made from iron in a Gothic style. Here’s an example of a more modern cartwheel chandelier suitable for traditional or modern homes.
Our rustic antler chandeliers are not made using real antlers which means that it is a much more acceptable proposition. Modern resin casting and airbrushing techniques have made it possible for everyone to own this classic design. Smaller versions are suitable for even a modest sized room, whilst the largest is 110cm in diameter and suitable for a very large room, vestibule or hallway. Rustic antler chandeliers have been around for centuries. Originally real antlers were hung from the ceiling with iron candle holders added and they would be suspended from the ceiling to illuminate the space. They were used in more rural areas and country estates where stag hunting was commonplace. Here’s an example of rustic antler chandelier and it’s made in Britain too!
Chandeliers For Low Ceilings
Semi flush chandeliers are perfect for rooms with a low ceiling or you can use a smaller hanging chandelier with a short drop. The majority of hanging chandeliers are height adjustable by shortening the suspension when fitting. This usually means removing links from the chain until it hangs to where you want it. Semi flush fittings are perfect where ceiling light is limited. This small 3 light semi flush is just 26cm high and ideal for a bedroom, living or dining room. Low ceilings don’t need to be dull!
What Size and How High
What size: This simple formula works most of the time and in most rooms. It’s been around a very long time and has not yet made it to metric measurements. First, add the length and width of your room in feet together. Then use that number in inches to get the diameter for your chandelier. For example, if your living room is 12’ x 14’ = 26” or 65cm. This should be regarded as a starting point, not an absolute rule. Adding an extra 25% gives a diameter of 32” or 80cm which is still perfectly acceptable.
How High: As a rough guide, a chandelier fitted in an area where people pass below should allow a minimum of 6ft to the floor from the lowest part of the fitting, so as not to hinder the free movement of adults. If you are installing it over a dining table you need to ensure that it drops to no more than 32”– 36” (80 – 90cm) above the table. The chandelier should be 1/2 to 3/4 of the table width. So, for a 4ft (122cm) table, the chandelier needs to be between 2ft – 3ft (60 – 90cm) in diameter.
Bulbs for Chandeliers
Candle bulbs are usually the first choice but it does depend on style. If your chandelier has candle style lights, with candle pans and tubes then candle bulbs are the way to go. You can also use clip-on lamp shades with candle bulbs making them more versatile. We always recommend LED filament candle bulbs. If the bulbs are hidden by an outer shade or frosted glass, then any bulb can be used as it cannot be seen.
If you have any questions about this chandeliers guide or require any further help on selecting your chandelier or any other lighting enquiry, please call our UK based team on 0151 650 2138 or send us a message using the contact us form for friendly, honest and down to earth information.