By definition, chandeliers and pendant lights are strikingly similar. They are both categorized as a type of lighting that hangs suspended from the ceiling. And although they are different, the design of each can make the lines of differentiation a bit blurry. We’ll walk you through the main differences–including installation and design differences, provide you with visual examples, and offer you expert advice on which type of lighting would best work with your space.
What is a Chandelier?
Most people can easily identify a chandelier when they see one; the grandeur and elegance of a chandelier hanging from the ceiling is hard to miss, which is the point of having one in the first place. No matter the type, a chandelier serves as a brilliant focal point that pulls the entire room together. Technically speaking, a chandelier consists of a central body that hangs suspended from the ceiling, usually by a link chain. The central body is connected with multiple lighting branches. There are several lights included in this type of lighting, but back in the day before electricity, candles were the lighting source. In fact, the word “chandelier” is a French word that comes from the Latin word “candelabrum.”
What is a Pendant Light?
A pendant light is also a category of lighting that hangs from the ceiling. However, unlike a chandelier, a pendant light is a singular light fixture that hangs by a metal rod, chain or cord. There are several configurations that can be done with the lone fixture; it can be hung as a standalone light source or it can be hung in a series.
What’s the Difference Between a Chandelier and a Pendant Light?
The main point of separation between a chandelier and a pendant light is how they are suspended. Chandeliers hang with multiple branches that hold multiple lights while pendant lights hang singularly from a central cord or chain. Chandeliers tend to be more intricate and fancier, while pendants lean toward a modern, minimalistic look. Of course, there are endless styles on the market these days, so you can find a cleaner, modern chandelier or a fancier, more intricate pendant.
Beyond appearance, there is also a significant difference in how these two types of lighting are used. Chandeliers are designed to provide more ambient lighting. That means that they are intended to be a source of elegance or aesthetic and to create a desired environment. Think of it as a decorative piece in your room that also happens to provide light. The lighting source is indirect so the room will be filled with light in a uniform manner, but will likely need to be paired with additional lights throughout the room to provide an adequate amount of lighting.
Alternatively, pendant lighting can double as a decorative, mood-setting piece while also serving as a functional and purposeful lighting source. Depending on placement, it can be used as task lighting or in other words, as a direct light so you can see what you’re doing (think of a hanging light over your kitchen counter that illuminates your workspace as you’re cutting vegetables!).
That’s the basic way to differentiate between the two lighting types, but you may still be wondering which of the two is the right application for you and your space. Here are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind:
- Chandeliers tend to be at a higher price point than pendant lights. This of course, depends on the type of pendant, but as a general rule, chandeliers will be more expensive than a pendant light. They are usually larger in size, require professional installation, and feature more expensive materials.
- Hanging a chandelier is not a DIY endeavor—at least it probably shouldn’t be, no matter how many YouTube videos you’ve seen. Hiring a professional is your best bet, especially when it comes to rewiring the electrical. There are rules and regulations on this per the National Electrical Code. Depending on your level of expertise and comfortability, you can hang a pendant light on your own. The caveat for this is that if the pendant light requires hard wiring, you’ll likely need to hire an electrician to handle the re-wiring in the ceiling.
- Pendant lights fit in any room, again, depending on the style. Chandeliers, due to their size, look best in entry ways, dining rooms and living rooms. Keep in mind you need to take into account the size of the room when choosing a chandelier—both in length and width. Your chandelier should be proportionate to the size of your room.