Lighting Swags 101

chandelier with swag and pennant lights
  • 3 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 200
What You'll Need
Lighting fixture
Swag kit
What You'll Need
Lighting fixture
Swag kit

Maybe you have an older home. Maybe your electrician just wasn't paying attention too well when your home was wired. For myriad reasons, your room's lighting may be asymmetrical, imbalanced, or just too low.

Besides making all of us feel, mistakenly, that we're not incredibly good looking in all circumstances, bad light can be a home safety hazard. Especially in common areas with few windows, good lighting is a must.

What are Lighting Swags?

Today, "swag" often means free product given out by a company for promotional purposes—some say it's an acronym for "stuff we all get." A swag might also be a piece of fabric hung around a window, or between any two surfaces.

If you've never heard of lighting swags, take a look around next time you're in an older home. Chances are you've seen lighting and chandelier swags in action before. Swags are used when a lighting fixture cannot be placed on the ceiling in the center of the room.

off center chandelier on chain

Sometimes the wiring is off-centered. Sometimes a crease or vault makes it impossible to place a lighting fixture directly on the ceiling. A swagged light essentially looks like a pennant light or a chandelier on a long chain, swooped across the ceiling to hang in the right position.

pendant lightbulbs hanging in a row

How to Swag a Chandelier

To swag a light or a chandelier you'll need a special kind of lighting fixture. Pennant light or chandlers with a long wires can be custom ordered to your needed length or bought pre-sized and then cut. You can also purchase a swag kit at a local home improvement store. These kits can be used to convert certain types of light fixtures into swags and can be less expensive than a custom lighting option.

Before you install your light you will need to install a hook in the ceiling at the location where you would like your light to hang. If you are trying to center your light in a room, mark that spot on the ceiling. If you are trying to light a reading nook, mark the off-center location on the ceiling as well.

chandelier with hanging fabric and bright lights

You can also use a wall hook or a hanger bolt too if you find one of them more aesthetically pleasing.

Install your lighting fixture at the source with help from a partner. Have your partner hold the light so that it does not hang down directly from the source and put pressure directly on the lighting source. Swoop—or swag—the light chain or rope across the room and secure it in the hook placed at your desired location.

Screw in a light bulb, give it a test run, and you are good to go.

swag style chandelier with exposed bulbs

Pro Tip: Make sure that the color of the chain on your swag works with the room. Since this chain will be prominently seen in the room, you should be paying attention to the color and material. Sometimes people get more caught up in what the light or chandelier looks like and forget to check the chain.

Other Options

If installing a lighting swag is out of the budget or out of the skillset at the moment, you can do a few other things to bring balance to your lighting situation.

small pendant lights over colorful wall

Lamps are an easy way to add more light to a room that is poorly lit because of a ceiling light being off-centered. Floor lamps can be found at any major furniture retailer and at most thrift stores. If you are purchasing a lamp from a thrift store don't be afraid to bring your own bulb, plug it in, and make sure that everything is in working order. You can give a thrifted lamp a fast revamp in no time flat.

Wall-mounted lamps have also increased in popularity over the past few years. If you would rather have lamps mounted to your walls instead of on a side table, it's a DIY project that will take you an afternoon or two.

If a swag won't work and you've turned out the lights on lamp lighting, it may be time to call in a professional to assess your electrical situation.