Design Ideas for Hanging Pendant Lights over a Kitchen Island

by • February 11, 2013 • Home Lighting Ideas, Pedant LightsComments (14)24458

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.

Topeka Pendant Light - ArchitectDesignLighting.com     Antique Copper Pendant Light - ArchitectDesignLighting.com     Warehouse Bronze Pendant Light - ArchitectDesignLighting.com

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

  1. 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/

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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!

  5. 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

  6. Debbie says:

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

  7. 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.

  8. 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/.

  9. 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.

  10. 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/

  11. 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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