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I’m looking for a new pendant light above our breakfast table. I’ve searched Pinterest for inspiration, but most results showcase modern black and brass pendants. What am I missing? I’d like something that will look great over time, is family friendly, and won’t break the bank. We have two young kids and durability is key. What do you suggest? —Amy F., Pasadena, California

Congratulations on these updates. A pendant light is often referred to as the jewelry of a dining space, and for good reason. Selecting the right piece can transform a room. In addition to discovering a few fun options, I turned to up-and-coming interior designer Christina Nielsen to find out what she looks for when selecting pendant lights for her clients. She notes, “For renters who don’t want to spend a lot, CB2 has great plug-in options. Homeowners may want to go a more bespoke or vintage route.” 

Lighting is so important to living well at home, so whether you’re looking for a sculptural statement piece or something more functional to get the job done, here are a few things to consider, as well as some suggestions for your family’s space.

How High From the Table Should It Be Installed? 

“For a more minimalist style, I like the light to be lower so you can really appreciate the piece. A general rule of thumb is having the pendant fall about 36 inches from the tabletop,” says Nielsen.

What Do You Recommend for Families Like Amy’s? 

Functionality is key for families, especially because how they use the dining space might change throughout the day. Nielsen notes, “Rise-and-fall pendants are great for families, as they are versatile and timeless.” These classic lights can be lowered down for homework and raised when it’s dinnertime. 

What Materials Should You Consider? 

Glass and plaster are great for a clean look, while a fabric shade “adds texture to an otherwise simple shape,” says Nielsen. She also prefers designs that completely conceal the lightbulb, as well as pieces that feature more than one material or color. “Otherwise,” she notes, “your pendant will feel basic and lack originality.”

What Size and Scale Should Amy Consider?

Of course, size and scale are dependent on where the pendant is going. “For hallways, smaller is better (around 10 to 15 inches in diameter). For over a table, 20 to 40 inches, dependent on table size, makes for a great statement piece,” explains Nielsen.

What Type of Lightbulbs Should Be Used?

Soft white is always best.

Best Value

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Heidi Rattan Pendant Light Shade, Urban Outfitters ($99)

Rattan offers an on-trend and casual look. A low-watt bulb paired with this open design creates interesting shadows on the ceiling in the evening.

A Twist on Timeless

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Capiz Honeycomb Chandelier, Serena & Lily ($998)

Classic with a twist. A honeycomb globe is never out of style and creates an ambient, crowd-pleasing glow. 

Fun and Function 

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Lucia Rise and Fall Pendant, Hector Finch (Price upon request)

The ingenious rise-and-fall pendant light allows maximum flexibility for a space whose functions change throughout the day. Lower it during the afternoon for extra light on homework, and raise it in the evening at dinnertime. 

Renter’s Choice

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Mantis Swivel Wall Sconce, CB2 ($149)

Try an above-the-table light source that mounts to a wall and can swing out above your round table. This is a great option for renters who do not have electrical wiring in that space. 

Design Time

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Ray 17″ Pendant, Schoolhouse ($729)

Simple and sophisticated, this pendant light features clean, Eames-inspired lines and comes in a variety of pleasing colors.