A Guide to Kitchen Island Lighting: Hanging Pendant Lights

A Guide to Kitchen Island Lighting: Hanging Pendant Lights

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A guide to kitchen island lighting pendant lights

The kitchen is the heart of the home. It’s where all family members and guests gravitate towards, whether to prepare meals, eat, socialize or do homework. That’s why it’s important to give your clients proper kitchen island lighting so they’re able to complete these tasks in a comfortable and functional environment.

There are several criteria you need to keep in mind before choosing and installing kitchen island lighting: How many lights are appropriate for the island? How big should the pendant lights be? How far apart? How high off the counter?

In this post, we answer all these essential questions to help guide you in your lighting design journey. Keep in mind these are simply guidelines and don’t necessarily apply to all kitchen design projects. Each project and client is unique, so you can use this guide as a starting point and make changes according to your unique design.

A guide to kitchen island lighting

How many lights should be on a kitchen island?

Generally speaking, it’s best to follow the “rule of three,” which is a design guideline that says things arranged in odd numbers are more appealing and memorable than things arranged in even numbers. This “rule” can be applied to most kitchen islands, therefore three pendant lights are ideal.

However, the number of light fixtures above a kitchen island also depends on the size of the island itself. If your client has a fairly small island (5-6 feet), two pendant lights are sufficient. Even if their kitchen island is larger than 6 feet, you can still recommend two pendant lights - just make sure they are big enough to illuminate the entire surface area.

How big should pendant lights be?

In order to determine how big the pendant lights above the kitchen island should be, first determine the width of the island (if you’re designing a brand-new island, your kitchen design software will come in handy here, especially if it also has built-in lighting products). Then subtract 12 from that number. The result is the recommended maximum diameter (or width) of the pendant light in inches.

For example, if the width of the kitchen island is 27 inches, the calculation is 27”-12”=15”. Therefore, the width of the pendant light should not exceed 15 inches.

In terms of the minimum width, the one thing to keep in mind is not to go too small on a large island. If you choose fixtures that are small, they will look awkward and out of place. Better to go bigger, especially if you want them to act as statement pieces.

How far apart should kitchen island lights be placed?

Kitchen island lights should be placed at least 6” from the edge of the island (the ones on either end) and 30” to 32” apart from each other. This applies if you’re hanging three pendant lights. The diagram below offers a helpful visual guide.

Distance between kitchen pendant lights
Note: If you’re only using two pendant lights, just make sure they are at least 30” from the center of the kitchen island.

How high off the counter should pendant lights hang?


As seen in the diagram above, measure 30” to 32” from the countertop to the bottom of the pendant light. Most pendant lights are adjustable – just make sure there’s enough give, especially if your client has very high ceilings.

This is a general rule of thumb, but you should always ask how tall the homeowners are and adjust accordingly. You do not want them to constantly hit their heads while preparing food just because the “rule” says so. Do your best to accommodate the needs of the clients as they will be the ones using the space you are designing.

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