How To's, Resources + FAQs

How to Light Your Dining Room for Dinner Parties

Interior designer Caitlin Jones Ghajar loves a good dinner party. “Everyone’s excited and relaxed, you can sit with your friends, have real conversations, and nourish your bodies with lovingly prepared food, and generally feel lucky to be exactly where you are in that moment.”

For Ghajar, good lighting in the dining room is key to enhancing the dinner party experience. “It can make all of these things so much better,” the California-based designer says.

Read along as Ghajar’s takes us through her dining room lighting must-haves to make your next event a bigger success.

1. Dimmers

All lighting is better on a dimmer. Have you ever been at a restaurant early, when it’s still light outside (I have two kids, so this is a definite YES for me) and you feel rushed? But then it starts to get dark and the restaurant dims the lighting (and your kids are, say, miraculously engrossed in their Legos). Immediately, it feels like a date. The evening stretches out ahead of you and you start to breathe deeper and relax. Why don’t we offer this experience to guests in our dining room, too? The Lutron Diva Dimmer is a simple solution—or you can put your smartphone to work with the Lutron Caseta Smart Lighting Dimmer and Remote.

2. Simple Pendants

Design by Caitlin Jones Design

Replacing an outdated or just plain ugly light fixture is an inexpensive and simple way to improve décor in your dining room. They generally create a soft, even glow in the room, which allows other important elements, like your on-point serving ware, flowers, and food, to shine. One of my favorite choices is the Delta V Pendant Light from Rich Brilliant Willing. It has a little more detail than the one we used in the project above, but it’s still flexible enough to work with many décor styles.


3. Accent Ceiling Lighting

Design by Caitlin Jones Design

Wall washing or recessed lighting over the table is a great way to light food, flowers, and really great bottles of wine. It also adds more dynamic ambient lighting to your dining room.

4. Table Lamps

Design by Caitlin Jones Design

Often dining rooms have space for a great console or buffet. These pieces don’t need to just be decorative. I often set up a drink or dessert bar on them. I also LOVE to put a pair of lamps on the ends of the tables. Accent lighting creates a glow and nicely lights the edges of the room, which creates a cozy feel. It leaves people feeling like they’re in the comfort of your living room, not sitting at a formal table for dinner.

5. Sconces

Design by Caitlin Jones Design

Wall sconces are, hands down, my favorite kind of lighting. They are great to look at and can frame beautiful art and add detail to a room discreetly. I like to use them adjacent to a dining table to add a soft, dimmable light.

6. Multi-Light Chandelier

Design by Caitlin Jones Design

A multi-light chandelier creates even light distribution over a dining room table, connects the people sitting below it, and eliminates unappealing dark spots. I like to use multiple glass globes and keep dimmers low to create a great ambiance. Candelabra bulbs within a metal framework—like the Modo 3-Sided Chandelier or the 14-Light Agnes Chandelier, both from Roll and Hill—create a clean, simple design that floats above the table.

7. Candles

OK—but say that your party is tonight, you can’t replace a light, you have no locations for sconces or lamps, and you’re desperate. I have just one word for you: candles. They’re a great way to immediately add a soft glow and intimate feel to a room. You can use a series or just a few. One of my favorite options is the Agnes Table Candelabra—it’s so graphic and beautiful. You can also fit serving dishes around the tripod base, making it a great space saver. And Tom Dixon’s Earth Scented Candle smells AMAZING—every client whose home I’ve installed it in raves. You can set it on the table in a grouping with some smaller votives, or purchase two and set them on either side of a great flower arrangement.

Caitlin Jones Ghajar is the principal designer at Caitlin Jones Design. She’s a California girl finding her way in Seattle and super-commuting back and forth. When not curating bespoke spaces, she can be found wrangling her two young boys, eating good food, and wishing she had more time for yoga.


Sarah Schaale

Sarah Schaale

Sarah is a Brand Marketing Manager for YDesign Group brands. A writer and editor at heart, she loves storytelling in all its forms and is a copious consumer of the Internet (for better or worse). In design, she finds inspiration in simplicity, warmth and all things Danish.

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