Design Ideas for Hanging Pendant Lights over a Kitchen Island

by • February 11, 2013 • Home Lighting Ideas, Pendant LightsComments (30)58176

Three pendant lights over a kitchen island

These three glass pendant lights add style to a traditional kitchen.

A kitchen island often serves as the heart of the home, and pendant lights over the kitchen island add extra illumination to this important spot. Once you’ve decided to hang pendant lights over your kitchen island, how do you make sure they look their best? Here are some stylish design tips for kitchen island pendant lights.

How many pendant lights should you hang over a kitchen island?

This depends entirely on the size of the island. At the small end of the scale, a modest kitchen island may measure 24″ by 36″, while an expansive kitchen may have an island up to 10′ in length! The size of the pendants is also a factor. Three 12″ diameter pendant shades might look crowded, but three 6″ diameter mini pendants would look perfect.

 


If your island is at least 48″ long, we recommend two or more pendants. This will provide even light along the whole length of the island. For islands over six feet, three pendants should fill the space and look fantastic. Don’t be afraid to choose one long fixture, however, or to hang a dramatic cluster of many mini pendant lights. Four to six small pendant lights placed close together across an island make a dramatic design feature. If your island is square-shaped, four pendant lights over the corners will spread light evenly over the surface.

How far apart should you hang pendant lights over a kitchen island?

How to space pendant lights over a kitchen island.

Spacing pendant lights over a kitchen island.

There are many approaches to spacing pendant lights above a kitchen island. Obviously, if you’re hanging one pendant above the island, it’s simplest to place it directly above the island’s center point. You have more options when hanging two, three, or even more pendant lights.

Our favorite method for spacing pendant lights goes like this. First, decide how many lights you plan to hang above your kitchen island. Then divide the island into that many equal sections. For example, if you’re going to hang two pendants above the island, divide the island in half. For three pendants, divide it into thirds. Then center each fixture above its section. We’ve included a diagram for the visual learners.

Naturally, you can use unconventional spacing for your pendants if this appeals to your sense of style. You might cluster them asymmetrically toward one side of the island or create a circle of light over a square island. Just remember, the more unusual you get, the more attention your lights will attract. Decide if you’re trying to make a statement, or if you’d like a more subtle effect.

We also suggest that you make sure there’s 12″-18″ clearance from either end of the island. This will help tall people avoid hitting their heads on the light fixtures.

How high should you hang kitchen island pendant lights?

The consensus among designers is that pendant lights should hang 30″ to 40″ above the island surface. Keep in mind that kitchen islands are usually 36″-42″ high. The pendants should hang high enough that they don’t obstruct views across the kitchen, pose a hazard for tall people, or shine directly in your eyes when you’re working or sitting at the island. They should be low enough, however, that they cast bright, direct light onto the island workspace.

Should pendant lights all hang at the same height? That depends on the look you’re going for. Usually, pendant lights hang in a straight line across a kitchen island, all an equal distance from the ceiling. Staggering the heights, so some hang lower and some hang higher, draws attention to the fixtures. This is a dramatic effect, especially with many small pendants.

Other tips for pendant lights above kitchen islands

Consider installing a dimmer switch on kitchen island pendants, especially if kids sometimes use the island for homework. They need brighter light, while you might prefer a gentler glow when eating at island bar seating. Retractable hanging lights are another great option for multitasking islands. Lower them or raise them as needed.

Whether you choose large pendants or small ones, industrial shades or art glass styles, contractor installation or DIY, the way you design your kitchen pendant lighting will transform the space. Check out more island pendant light ideas on our Pinterest board or shop Pendant Lighting Online.

Kitchen Pendant Lights at Architectdesignlighting.com

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30 Responses to Design Ideas for Hanging Pendant Lights over a Kitchen Island

  1. J says:

    I have a 7 1/2 foot ceiling, and would like pendant lighting over 4×7′ kitchen island. My issue is with this ceiling height will the pendants look odd/short? The island is 36″ high, and I would want the pendents 36″ above the island countertop (so I’m not looking directly into the hanging pendent. This only leaves only 18 inches of space. Is this doable? If not, what other options are there to light the island (there is recessed lighting throughout the remainder of the kitchen).

    Thanks,

    J

  2. Tom says:

    I have an “L” shape island- long side 82″ and short side 69″. Depth of island is 38″ for both sides. Am using 2 -6 1/2 ” lantern pendants with Edison bulb on the long side with 1 of the same pendants on shorter side. A forth of the same will hang in the corner “intersection” of the “L” resulting in the long side having 3 lights and the short side having 2 lights. Will 4 be enough for this size island and what distance do I space them from each other?

    • Iris Wu Iris Wu says:

      Tom, wonderful question and I will try my best to explain clearly. 4 pendant lights is the ideal amount of lights you will want for your island. Here is an example of a L-shaped island with 4 pendant lights: http://www.houzz.com/photos/7016843/Texas-Ranch-traditional-kitchen-houston. To space them out, I would start with the long part of the island (the section with three pendant lights) and divide it into 3 equal sections. Then place each of the three pendant at the midpoint of the three section (like in the diagram in the “How far apart should you hang pendant lights over a kitchen island?” section in the blog post.). Once you have your spacing, you then need to decide how deep you want to hang them. You can hang them at the center of your 38″ depth (so 19″), or if you have a sink or bar stools on one side, you might want to consider hanging them closer that side. Keep in mind don’t hang it too close to a side or you might bump your head into the fixtures (we recommend at least 12-18″ clearance from the side). The image in the example link shows the pendant lighting closer to the sink side in order to provide more task lighting for the sink/food prepping area. Once that is decided, your 4th light should line up with the “corner” light and you will have your depth. To space the 4th light, take the small section (31″ by 38″) and find the midpoint of 31″ and that’s how far your 4th light should be from your “corner” light.

      If you have any more questions or if the advice was a tad bit confusing, feel free to email me at social@acrchitectdesignlighting.com. Send me a picture so I can better visualize your kitchen! Or, if you want to share with someone your completed kitchen look, I always love seeing design ideas so also feel free to shoot me a picture of the complete look.

  3. Susan says:

    Hi Claire, We have a 3 sided counter that is two levels with one for the sink and countertop and then bar height with 5 stools. Two sections are 64 inches each, and the third section is 44 inches for a little over 14 feet on the outer edge. It is prewired for 5 pendants with 2 on each longer section and one on the shorter section. We would like 8 inch glass industrial style pendants, but I worry that 5 is too many. Any advice? The ceilings are 10 feet and the kitchen family room is very open. Thanks!

  4. Carrie says:

    Hello, this is so useful..nice that you continue to check in! With a 9×5 island…sink centered on one 9′ side, stools on other 9′ side and stools on one 1/2 of one 5′ side…planning 3 glass globe 12″ pendants. Would you center them along midline of island (not asking spacing across the 9’…you’ve answered! Asking about spacing across the 5′ direction. Is one slab of course, but technically one side is 2′ of counter including sink and other side has 12″ overhang for stools. Wondering if pendants should push toward sink or toward stools or be at 30″ on center. There will be 4″ led recessed lights but probably row closer to section behind sink (42″ to cooktop etc) and then 1′ or so beyond stools on other side. But could shift that. Thanks! Hope makes sense.

    • Iris Wu Iris Wu says:

      Hello Carrie! Thank you for your excellent question. You can definitely hang your pendants over at 30″, that is the most popular choice and you can never go wrong with it! If you want to use unconventional spacing, I think pushing the pendants towards the sink is more ideal. Since the sink is a main-working area, you will want to have more direct light over that area. This will also give the seating area dim lighting to create a more relaxed and intimate feel when eating meals. Your recessed lighting will give the seating area more light if you need it for additional tasks like kids doing their homework. However, it will be based on your preference in style. Try it out first by holding up your pendant lights over the area you want and see if you like the unconventional style!

      I would love to hear what decision you make in the end and hopefully I get to preview your final result! Feel free to send me photos as sales@architectdesignlighting.com or any additional questions. Good luck on your project!

  5. Melody says:

    I have an island 110″ long and 26-27″ wide, with a sink in the middle. On each end of the island there is a 10″ overhang so that you pull up a stool and set on the ends of the island. My ceilings are 8’9″ high.
    1. Would 2 or 3 clear glass pendants 15″Hx11″W work best?
    2. Do you include the 10″ overhangs when figuring the spacing?
    3. Whichever you think is better, 2 or 3, where would you hang them? Spacing?
    4. How high would you hang them?
    5. These pendants are 40 watts each and additionally I have recessed lighting, will this work?
    I hope that I haven’t asked too much of you. Thank you so very much for your advice/help. Love your blog, you give great advice. Can’t wait to hear from you!!!

    • Lindsey P. Lindsey P. says:

      Hi Melody! Thank you for all your great questions. It does all come down to your personal preference in the end, but here’s a few of my opinion.

      1. Since you have a pretty lengthy island, you should have no problem hanging three of your 15″H x 11″W pendants. But with your long island, you can explore other options such as hanging a dramatic cluster of mini pendant lights or one long fixture.
      2. You will want to include the 10″ overhang when figuring the spacing so there is ample space for people to sit there without hitting their head on the light fixture when standing up. We recommend at least 12″-18″
      3. This is where it really depends on your style. If you hang three of the clear glass pendants you mentioned, one of the most popular styles is dividing the kitchen island into three equal sections, and then placing the fixture at the center of each section. However, if you are using the pendants lamps for aesthetics rather than functionality, you don’t have to hang your pendants uniformly. As long as you follow the safety rules, you can get creative with how you want to hang your pendants such as clustering them over the seating or sink area or hanging them asymmetrically. Since you have recessed lighting, which will provide ample general lighting for the room, the pendant lights do not have to be used for functionality.
      4. The general rule of thumb for how high you should hang your pendant lighting is 30″-40″ above the countertop. They should be hung high enough so they do not obstruct views across the kitchen and clear the head of the tallest member in the family. However, they also need to be low enough to cast a bright, direct light onto the kitchen work or dining space.
      5. Your recessed lighting will provide most of the general illumination for the room. 40 watts may be acceptable depending on your goals with your pendant lighting. If you intend to use the pendant lamps for specific tasks over the kitchen island (for example, eating meals or doing homework), you will want to use brighter lighting. If you want your pendant lamps to set a mood, then a 40 watt incandescent bulb will work just fine. You can always install a dimmer switch on your pendant light fixtures to switch between task and mood lighting.

      I hope I have answered all your questions. Feel free to comment with more! Also, I would love to see your completed project! Send us photos to sales@architectdesignlighting.com.

  6. Marie says:

    We have a 10’9″ island with a 42″ step up bar that his 24″ wide in the middle and love the Maxim Lighting Hi-Bay 1 Light Pendant in Bronze 25002CLBZ which is 9″ wide and 18″ high. Would 4 pendants be too many to hang? We also have recessed lighting.

    • Lindsey P. Lindsey P. says:

      Hi Marie,

      Thank you for your comment! Step up bars are my favorite, they look fabulous with pendant lighting suspended over the dining space. The recessed lighting you have will take care of most of your kitchen’s general illumination. While I haven’t worked with the particular fixture you mentioned, but in my opinion 3 fixtures will be more than sufficient. You have plenty of room for 4 pendants, so at this point it’s really up to your personal preference. We have a few pendants similar to this (not shown online) that can be special ordered. Contact customer service if you’re interested in receiving a price quote and photos: sales@architectdesignlighting.com **Request SKU’s: SL8-36406-11 and SL8-36406-24.

  7. Nazia says:

    Hi, I have a U-shaped kitchen with a low bar on one side that has an off centered sink. I have can lights above the bar but I’m also wanting to place pendant lights more for the looks. The low bar however curves inward and I’m confused on how many pendant lights would be ideal … Should I just keep them on the straight side or extend them up to the curve. Also do they need to be centered on the bar or more towards the seating side? I’m planning on small pendants 4-6″ diameter fixture. There’s cabinet on one side of the bar, so subtracting the depth of the cabinet(13″) I have 9.5′ straight bar… And if I include the area to the center of the curve, I have 10.5′
    I would like to share pictures to help you understand better. How can I do that?

    • Lindsey P. Lindsey P. says:

      Hi Nazia,

      Thanks for your comment! I have to say, I’m having a little trouble visualizing what your kitchen looks like – even with your thorough description. We would love to help you with your project – at your convenience, please send any photos to sales@architectdesignlighting.com ; including your description will be very helpful for our team!

  8. Ernie says:

    Hi Lindsey,
    Your advice would be greatly appreciated! We are installing a 144″ island and are planning 5 pendants. The width of the island will be 36″. We are putting pot lights in the room as well. How deep into the island would you place a pendant? We are thinking of putting them 10 to 12″ deep into the island, i.e. not centered on the island and not hanging directly over the sink, instead they would hang in a line above just beyond where people might have their plates. Would that work?
    Thank you,
    Ernesta

    • Lindsey P. Lindsey P. says:

      Without knowing the size and lamping of the pendants, it’s hard for me to give a definitive answer. That being said, the pot lights (AKA recessed/can lighting) you’re installing will provide most of the general lighting that the room needs. In regards to the placement I think you’re right on. 12″ deep will give your guests more than enough room to enjoy their meals without having a light directly overhead. Please send photos – I would love to see your project upon completion! Additionally, if you would like personal shopping assistance I recommend calling our in-house lighting specialist with any questions on specifics @ 1-888-320-0628. Thank you!

  9. Lindsey P. Lindsey P. says:

    Sorry for the delay, hopefully this can still help you or others out there who are looking for pendants. Many people are using reclaimed wood for a rustic industrial look. Something like this comes to mind first: http://homediypeople.com/tag/rustic-lighting/

  10. Melanie says:

    Any ideas on a creative rustic base to hang 3 pendants on over our kitchen island. Replacing fluorescent light so there is only one junction box. Hoping to use that one box and attach a rustic looking base to ceiling so we can run wires under the base to the one junction box and then hang pendants from base.

  11. fiona says:

    Hi Claire, I have a 96″ island over which I will hang three 8″ Hudson Valley Haverhill pendants. I am trying to decide the spacing of the pendants. I could either divide the island into 3 equal parts and center a pendant in each part or hang one pendant in the center of the island (like you suggest). I could also divide the island into 2 halves, centering the other 2 pendants on each of these halves. I think I would like the first better as the pendants are spaced better but my contractor strongly suggested I do the second option. What do you think? Thank you!

    • Lindsey P. Lindsey P. says:

      While I’m not familiar with the lights you chose, for the best overall balance – I’d section your island into three equal parts and hang each pendant in the middle of that section. Contractors opinions can sometimes be influenced by where their junction boxes can be easily placed or for the convenience of the conduit they need to run vs. a true design aesthetic. Thanks for asking!

  12. Ann says:

    we are redoing our kitchen which is 10 x 12. We have taken down the walls so it is an open space. We are putting in an island that is 48 by 36. I am considering pendants that are either er 5″ or 6′” wide. I like the idea of 3 but have been told that is too many and should do 2. There 5 cans that are being installed.-should I do 2 or 3 pendants
    Thanks

    • Lindsey P. Lindsey says:

      With the additional ambient lighting offered by the can lights, my sense is that 2 pendants lights would best fit the space and provide adequate illumination on the 3’ x 4’ work space. Thanks for asking!

  13. Sharee says:

    Hi Claire

    We have an 87″ by 35″ kitchen bench. The lights are recessed 11″ in from each end. I would like to use 3 pendent lights, and was wondering if 15″ shades will be too big? There is 32″ between each globe. This would put the edges of each shade only 16″ apart. Is this too close and would I be better to go for a smaller shade?

    Kind regards

    Sharee

    • Lindsey P. Lindsey P. says:

      Sharee – Without being able to see your entire kitchen area it is hard for me to render an opinion but based on the information you provided I tend to think 15” shades might be a little big. I’d tend to favor either a 12” or 13” shade and ArchitectDesignLighting.com can provide either of these sizes in 25 different finishes of your choosing. Feel free to give our project managers a call if you’re still struggling with this one: 1-888-320-0628

  14. Debbie says:

    I forgot to mention that the lights are being used for decoration only. We have ample recessed lighting in the kitchen.

  15. Debbie says:

    Thanks Claire. That’s exactly the look I was thinking of. The industrial pendants that you see in the white kitchen in polished nickel. From one manufacturer, one size is 8 inches in diameter and the other is 10.5. They go up from there, but those would be too big. What do you think about the 2 options? Is the 8 inch version too small. The pendants in your photo look a little bigger.

  16. Claire Vannette Claire Vannette says:

    Hi, Debbie! I assume there’s also can lighting in the kitchen, so the island won’t look dark if pendants aren’t illuminating every square inch. I don’t think 8″ pendants would necessarily get lost above a very long island. It would depend on how visually interesting the shades are. For example, these pendants above a long kitchen island are relatively small, but the gleaming chrome catches the eye: http://pinterest.com/pin/417708934159112795/. Here’s one with small pendants that are more subtle: http://pinterest.com/pin/91972017361054409/.

  17. Debbie says:

    Claire, I am trying to see if (2) 8 inch pendants are enough for our narrow 30 inch x 80″ island? I could go a little larger. I have a very tall husband and short 8 foot ceilings. I think 3 pendants would be too much given the ceiling height and having my husband be able to have a conversation across the island. I wanted to give him space in between the 2 pendants wo/ interference. Any toughts that you have would be greatly appreciated. I could go to a pendant that is 10-11 inches, but it may be too wide. I just don’t want the 8 inch pendants to look lost in my kitchen.

  18. Claire Vannette Claire Vannette says:

    Shawn, I would probably keep them on-center. Here are some examples of islands with an off-center sink, and I think they look great with the usual pendant light arrangement:

    http://pinterest.com/pin/417708934158627691/

    http://pinterest.com/pin/417708934158627726/

    http://pinterest.com/pin/417708934159044774/

  19. Shawn says:

    Claire, we have an 8ft x 4ft. wide island in our kitchen. The working side of the island has a sink off center on the left side of the island. The back side of the island has 3 tall bar stools. I am trying to decide how to position 3 pendant lights over this island. Would you center them across the depth of the island, or bias them towards the seating side of the island. The width is a no brainer. We have plenty of can lights in the kitchen for task lighting. These Pendants are more for visual appeal.

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