Foyer Chandeliers: Your Questions Answered

I always tell my clients that the foyer is the most important space in the home. It’s where you create your home’s first impression and it’s the last thing you see when you leave. I can sum up a space from my first scan at the front door. Foyer chandeliers are key pieces that define the entryway to a home. No other ceiling light in the home has greater impact on one’s first impression. Therefore, you should carefully consider this design element.

Over the years, I’ve been asked the following questions and offered the following tips about foyer lighting. This includes tips for choosing lighting for the entryway

Large foyer chandeliers: Does the scale of the chandelier matter?

Yes, scale matters. Many homeowners opt for a small fixture, whose minimal impact underwhelms. Go for the big gesture, instead. If you aren’t sure, you can Photoshop a scale photo of the light onto a photo of your room.

If the entryway is large – double-height or taller – a large foyer chandelier should be used. A grand fixture will draw the eye up and enhance the volume of the space. And if the entrance has a lower ceiling, consider a flush mount or semi-flush lighting fixture. A light that is too large may bring down the ceiling and make the space feel cramped. No one wants to inhabit a space that feels oppressive.

This foyer designed by Ken Gemes at the Hampton Designer Show House uses my double-tier Choros chandelier to great effect. You can see, the airy mixed-metal fixture helps fill the space without blocking the wonderful natural light in the home’s entry. For perspective, the chandelier dimensions are 37.25″ (width) and 43.0″ (height).

Ken Gemes Hamptons Show House Goralnick Choros Chandelier
Ken Gemes Hamptons Show House foyer with Choros chandelier

Unique chandeliers: Can I use a statement light fixture in the foyer?

Hatton Chandelier Foyer Goranick Visual Comfort
The Hatton chandelier by Barry Goralnick

I love statement fixtures. And there is no better place to use a unique chandelier than in the foyer. Remember, statement fixtures do not have to be crazy or overscale. Something unique, tasteful, or exquisitely designed welcomes visitors and encourages them to expect a well-thought-out home.

Fixtures that have gold or silver leaf and crystals add to the feeling of light and height. They are the jewelry of the home. This is especially helpful in foyers without natural light, as is often the case in apartments.

Should I have only one light in the entryway?

Depending on the entrance, you may want multiple lights. For example, in a Lower Fifth Avenue duplex project, two pendant chandeliers, several sconces, and a mirror with candelabra were all used in its graceful foyer. It all depends on the size and proportion of the entrance.

FIfth Avenue Duplex Foyer Barry Goralnick Architect
Fifth Avenue duplex foyer

A long gallery definitely requires more than one fixture, as I’ve done in the apartment below.

New York Foyer Barry Goralnick
New York foyer with multiple surface mount chandeliers

Contemporary chandeliers vs Traditional chandeliers

You can’t go wrong with the traditional way of thinking: Contemporary chandeliers and pendants are probably going to be more successful in more modern settings. And traditional lighting will feel more organic in traditional-style homes.

Latimer Pendant Light Barry Goralnick Currey
Latimer Pendant by Barry Goralnick for Currey & Co.

The Latimer pendant a clean-lined fixture from my Currey & Co. lighting collection, would be just as at-home in a modern foyer as in an Art-Deco-style home.

If one has a creative eye, mixing eclectic designs can be the right move. Traditional interiors can be off-set by a modern fixture, adding whimsy and loosening things up. The use of different styles at once can be interesting, too. Eclectic combos of traditional lighting in an industrial chic loft provides drama. Similarly, a modern fixture in a traditional farmhouse can make the space feel fresher and less predictable.

Is recessed lighting something I should consider?

Recessed lighting can be used to great effect as you enter a home. For instance, I used recessed lighting in a project with a floating ceiling. This had many benefits.

Industrial Chic Loft Foyer Barry Goralnick Architect
Floating ceiling with recessed lighting in loft foyer

First, the floating ceiling allowed for a slightly lower ceiling entry, which then opened up to a larger full-height ceiling in the living room. The recessed lighting added dimension both above (toward the ceiling) and beyond. This provided a sense of space in the distance, rather than cramping the entry.

Second, it provided dramatic lighting for a painting which hung in the entryway. The fixtures are not the star of this entryway, but the light they project gives additional impact and drama to the entrance of the home.

I find the best use of recessed lighting is to highlight art on the walls. It ensures that your art is evenly lit and also augments decorative lights in the room. Plus, it helps to create different scenes and moods within the space.

What is the right height for hanging a chandelier?

Over the years, I have found that people tend to hang entry chandeliers too high. If the fixture is too high, it makes the proportion of the space feel “off.” Plus, the higher the fixture is hung, the harder it is to see anything but the underside. And, when you are able to see more of the fixture – not only the bottom – you are able to appreciate the overall design of the lighting piece.

As long as entryway chandeliers are 7 feet above the floor, you are probably OK.

How do I find the right foyer light?

You can search for lighting ideas on your computer, network with design-savvy friends who know where to shop, or hire a professional with resources you may not find. A design professional will know where to find the best lighting, as well as understand the scale and application of the design.

Of course, if you’re looking for lighting, check out my fixtures for Currey & Company, Visual Comfort & Circa Lighting, as well as Kichler.

Shipping and installation

When purchasing foyer chandeliers yourself, make sure the fixture is UL-Rated for safety. Also, check if standard shipping includes free shipping of the fixture. Crating and shipping charges can be significant when purchasing larger lighting pieces. Additionally, find out if the piece needs to be assembled on-site. I recommend using a licensed electrician for all installations.


Depending on the home and the volume of the foyer, I always opt for a dramatic foyer chandelier (or chandeliers). It is a welcoming gesture that lets you know what’s to come. Be it an iron lantern or gilded piece with crystals, the foyer lighting sets the tone.

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