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What is a swag light?

Swag lights, also known as pendant lights or hanging lights, are a popular lighting choice for many homes. A swag light gets its name from the swagging or draping of the electrical cord and fabric that connects the light fixture to the ceiling. Swag lights add a decorative touch and are available in many different styles to match any home’s décor. In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know about swag lights, including their history, design, installation, uses, and more.

The History of Swag Lights

The origins of the swag light date back to the 1800s during the Gaslight Era. Homes at this time used gas lamps for lighting, which produced a bright yet flickering glow. Wealthy homeowners wanted a softer, more ambient light and began experimenting with fabric lampshades. These lampshades diffused and softened the harsh gaslight. Eventually, decorative chains and fabric cords were added to hang or “swag” these lampshades from the ceiling.

The swag style became extremely popular in the Victorian era. Large, ornate bronze and crystal chandeliers with fabric swags were a hallmark of Victorian décor. Following the electrification of lighting in the early 1900s, swag lights continued to be a fashionable lighting choice. Their soft glow and flexibility in placement made them ideal for bedrooms, entryways, and other living spaces. Modern swag light designs are updated versions of these early swagged lamps and continue to be a versatile lighting option today.

Types of Swag Lights

There are a few main types and styles of swag lamps:

Plug-In Swag Lights

Plug-in swag lamps are likely the most common and easiest to install. Rather than hardwiring directly to an electrical junction box, plug-in swags simply plug into a standard wall outlet. They come in kits that include the light fixture, fabric cord cover, and ceiling attachment. Many also include a light bulb.

Hardwired Swag Lights

Hardwired swags connect directly to wiring in the ceiling and do not plug into an outlet. A junction box is installed into the ceiling, and the swag is permanently wired into it. Hardwired swag kits come with a mounting bracket, wiring, and decorative cord sleeves. They provide a more seamless look than plug-in versions.

Single Swag Lights

Single swag lights have one lightbulb and fixture that hangs down on a swag cord. Simple single swags work well centered over tables, windows, or other small spaces.

Multi Swag Lights

Multi swag lights feature two, three, or more lightbulbs and fixtures suspended from swag cords. Multi swag lights can be clustered together or separated to light larger areas.

Drum Swag Lights

Drum swag lights get their name from the round or cylindrical drum-shaped light fixtures. Classic drum swags mimic gas or kerosene lamps with a font cover and chimney-like shade.

Bell Swag Lights

Bell swags feature downwards facing shade in the shape of a bell with minimal ornamentation. The clean bell shape complements modern and transitional room styles.

Crystal Swag Lights

Crystal swags contain strands of crystal prisms or beads draped along the swag cords. The crystals reflect and refract light for a sparkling, elegant look.

Fabric Swag Lights

Fabric swag lights use lampshades made of fabric in a variety of colors, prints, and shapes. Flowy fabric swags recreate the soft look of early gaslight-era lamps.

Swag Light Design Elements

Swag lamps showcase a variety of decorative details and design elements. The style of swag lighting you choose will impact the overall look and feel it provides. Here are some of the main swag light design features:

Swag Cords

The swag cords suspend the light fixture from the ceiling. Swag cords come in different colors and can be plain or patterned. They may also feature tassels, embroidery, grommets, or other ornamental details. The length of the cords can range from a few inches to several feet long. Varying cord lengths allow you to position the hanging lights at different heights.

Light Fixture Shades

Swag lamps come with assorted lampshade styles. Drum, bell, faceted, and fabric shades all create different lighting effects. The number of lights also ranges from single to multiple. Shade materials like fabric, glass, acrylic, metal, wicker, and mica impact the ambiance.


From decorative trims to intricate metalwork, the details give swag lights visual interest. Ornamental touches include fringe, beads, medallions, finials, and hardware in finishes like antique bronze, brushed nickel, oil-rubbed bronze, and more. The ornamentation can coordinate with other fixtures in the room.

Light Bulbs

Swag lamps take various common light bulb types. Traditional incandescent bulbs create a warm, intimate glow. Brighter halogen lights illuminate larger spaces. LED bulbs save energy and last longer. The lighting level and color temperature depend on the specific bulbs used. Most swags take standard medium base bulbs.

Ceiling Mounting

The ceiling mount secures the swag light to the ceiling and can be minimal or decorative. Plug-in swags use basic circular mounts. Hardwired swag mounts may incorporate ornamental backplates or canopy covers. The finish matches the other metal trim pieces.

Swag Light Uses

Thanks to their versatile design, swag lights work well in nearly any room in your home.


Welcome guests with a stylish swag light in the entryway. A multi-swag fixture fills the vertical space and sets the tone for the home’s decor.


Hang single or multiple swags over the kitchen sink or island for task lighting. Swags are perfect for shining light directly where you need it.

Dining Rooms

Define the dining space with a dramatic drum or crystal swag light over the table. Opt for dimmable bulbs to set the mood for meals.


Add soft, ambient lighting with a fabric swag next to the bed for a cozy glow. Use a plug-in style for easy installation and flexibility.

Living Rooms

Informal spaces like living rooms benefit from the casual elegance of swags. Try a set of matching swags spaced throughout the seating area.

Home Offices

A swag lamp focused over a desk or reading nook provides targeted illumination for home office tasks.

Gathering Areas

Hang swag lighting in spaces where people congregate, like lounges, game rooms, or reading corners.

Swag Light Size Guide

Choosing the right size swag light involves considering your room size and ceiling height. Larger rooms look best with big, bold swags, while smaller spaces only need a petite fixture. Use the following general size guide for picking a properly scaled swag:

Room Size

Room Size (sq. ft.) Recommended Swag Size
100 or less 12″-18″ wide
100-250 18″-24″ wide
250-400 24″-36″ wide
400 or more 36″+ wide

Ceiling Height

Ceiling Height Recommended Swag Length
8 feet 12-18″ long
9 feet 18-24″ long
10-12 feet 24-36″ long
12+ feet 36″+ long

How to Install a Swag Light

Installing a swag light is a relatively simple DIY project. Follow these steps:

Plug-In Swag

1. Choose a wall outlet location central to where you want the swag hung. Ensure it is not blocked by furniture.

2. Mark the ceiling attachment location. Make sure the cord will reach the outlet.

3. Use masking tape to temporarily attach the ceiling cup. Check the height and location look correct.

4. Screw the ceiling attachment cup into place with the included hardware.

5. Feed the swag cords through the ceiling attachment and insert the lightbulb.

6. Plug the swag power cord into the wall outlet and turn on the light to test.

7. Arrange the swag cords as desired and install the fabric cord covers.

Hardwired Swag

1. Turn off power to the wiring junction box location.

2. Attach the mounting bracket securely to the junction box.

3. Connect the swag wires to the junction box wires with wire nuts. Follow the wiring diagram.

4. Mount the canopy to the bracket and reattach the swag cords.

5. Turn power back on and test the light. Arrange cords and install cord covers.

Swag Light Safety Tips

Observe these safety guidelines when using swag lamps:

– Do not overload plugs or circuits. Swag lights should be on their own dedicated circuit.

– Do not run cords under rugs, furniture, or where they can be damaged.

– Use the specified wattage light bulbs to avoid overheating.

– Check that hardwired connections are correct and enclosed in the junction box.

– Do not hang swags where they can be easily pulled down or interfere with walkways.

– Avoid hanging heavy multi-swag fixtures directly over seating areas in case of falling.

– Do not allow cords or lights to make contact with combustible window treatments.

– Cord covers, fabric shades, and trim should be kept away from all light bulbs and heating elements.


With their versatile design and decorative style, swag lights add elegance and interest to any living space. They provide flexible placement and focused lighting where you need it. Swag lamps come in an array of designs from sparkling crystal to classic drum shapes with ornate or minimal details. Consider the size of your room and ceiling height when picking a swag fixture. Install them properly and observe safety tips for worry-free use. Add some swag and transform the look and light of your home with these dramatic dangling lights.