How To Choose The Best Pendant Lighting For Over Your Kitchen Island

How To Choose The Best Pendant Lighting For Over Your Kitchen Island

Choosing pendant lighting for over your kitchen island sounds like a relatively easy task - but is it?

After years of working with clients we have learned that most people underestimate the amount of time and thought that goes into picking the right pendant lighting for their kitchen.

Many of our clients set out to choose the best pendant lights for their kitchen island only to be quickly overwhelmed with all the options.

What style, what size, what finish? These are all common questions we hear as people begin the search for the perfect light.

Luckily, there are a few basic rules we like to use to help make the process of selecting the perfect pendant lighting a little bit easier.

How To Choose The Best Pendant Lighting For Over Your Kitchen Island

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What Are Pendant Lights

Pendant lights are a style of single light fixture that are hung from the ceiling. They can be suspended using any type of cord, chain, or rod.

Although they have a single point from which they hang, they can have multiple light bulbs within the fixture itself.

There are numerous sizes of pendant lights to fit just about any space.

They are a popular lighting choice over kitchen islands because they offer both functional lighting to the countertop and decorative appeal to the overall space.

Types Of Pendant Lights

There are a wide variety of different styles of pendant lights. There are cone, cylinder, urn, dome, lantern, drum, globe and more.

As I am sure you already guessed, the names of the style often refers to the shape of the pendant light itself.

Then there are the shades on the pendants, those can come in materials ranging from fabric to glass to metal and beyond.

Picking the right shape for your space can be easy - it really depends on your personal preference.

When selecting a style of light, remember that the material it is made of can make a difference.

It is good to consider that a solid material like a metal or a fabric will be more of a visual barrier in the space than a pendant that is an open lantern style or has clear glass shades.

If you want the space to feel more open and airy, selecting something that you can see through will help. If you want something bold and statement-making, going with a more solid shade can accomplish that look.

Should I Match The Finish On My Pendant Lights To My Other Kitchen Finishes?

Along with the style there are also numerous finishes available in pendant lights to match your preferred style - everything from chrome to matte black and everything in between.

If you are wondering whether or not to match the finish on your lighting to your faucet or cabinet hardware, you’re not alone.

Questions about matching finishes to pendant lights is a common one and the answer itself isn’t so simple.

In general, no -you do not need to match the finish of all other items in your kitchen. In fact, mixing metals can be a really nice way to balance out a space.

That said, to keep things looking cohesive, try to stick with no more than two metals in the space.

For instance, take a look at the image below. They chose nickel finishes for their cabinet hardware and faucet, and accented with black pendant lighting.

Similarly, if your cabinet knobs are gold and your kitchen faucet is black, you will probably want to have your light fixture be either a black or a gold, to make sure it ties in well with the rest of the space.

Choosing The Best Size Pendant Lights For Your Kitchen Island

Calculating the best size pendant lighting for your kitchen island can take a little bit of math.

First, take the your width of your island countertop in feet and add it to the length of your countertop in feet. That number in inches is the ideal size for your pendant lighting.

That means if your island is 3 feet deep and 6 feet long, you would add together 3+6 and get 9.

According to the calculation, 9 inches would be the general guideline for the size pendants you should purchase.

In the picture above you can see an example of what it would look like to have a 3 foot wide by 6 foot long island with 9 inch wide pendant lights.

The kitchen above is another example of following this same size principal.

This island itself is 14 feet long and 4 feet wide, so 14+4=18.

The three pendant lights shown above this large kitchen island are each 18 inches wide.

You can see how the proportions work out well with the size of the pendants and the size of the island.

Of course that leads us to our next question…

Should I Do Two Pendant Lights or Three Pendant Lights Over A Kitchen Island?

I believe the choice between two or three pendant lights over an island ultimately comes down to your own personal preference.

Of course, the amount of lights will also impact the size of the pendant lights you choose.

In general, for smaller islands - anything around the 2’ x 4’ or 3’ x 5’ size - I would automatically choose to go with two pendant lights over three in order to avoid them looking crowded. I would use the calculation above to find the best size for those two pendants.

When getting into medium-size islands - those that are 3’ x 7’ to 4’ x 10’ - I believe either two or three pendants could look great. In this case, I would aim for three pendant lights that match the above calculation. If I were to do two pendant lights on a medium size island, I would go for a larger size, potentially up to double the size of the original calculation. Meaning, if the island was 4’ x 10’, I would do three 14” pendant lights OR two pendant lights up to 28” each.

For large islands - anything over 4’ x 10 - I tend to choose three (or more) pendant lights. With that length of island having three lights makes it more likely that the light will be distributed evenly along the countertop keeping it functional and decorative. In my opinion, it also helps the space to feel more balanced visually.

It is good to keep in mind that no matter how many lights, or the size of pendants you choose, you need to plan at least 18” between each of the pendant lights, and 18” between the light and the edges of the island.

Height To Hang Pendant Lights Over A Kitchen Island

The typical rule of thumb for hanging pendant lights is to have the bottom of the light between 30”-36” above the top of the countertop.

This height allows the pendant lights to be functional in lighting the countertop and also decorative without blocking the view of those standing on either side of the island.

Of course this number can be fudged a little based on preference. For instance, if you feel the lights look a little too high at 30”, dropping them down to 28” could help make them feel more in proportion.

Similarly, if you are a tall family, you might find that you need the lights a little higher to avoid shining directly into your eyes when trying to look across the kitchen.

5”-10” Small Size Pendant Lighting For A Kitchen Island

10”-20” Medium Size Pendant Lighting For A Kitchen Island

20”-30” Large Size Pendant Lighting For A Kitchen Island


As you may have noticed, while there are general rules of thumb for the best size, number, and height to hang pendant lights - you are still in charge! Using these rules can help you narrow down your search for the best size and type of light for you. Just remember, each kitchen is different, and you should create a space that you love with pendant lights that fit your vision.

Now I want to hear from you - what is your favorite style of pendant light for a kitchen island? Do you prefer the look of two or three (or more?) pendant lights?