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black woven rattan pendant lights over kitchen island

Expert Tips: How to Choose the Right Pendant Lights for Over Your Kitchen Island

Trying to figure out what style of pendant light to hang above your kitchen island can unsettle even the most seasoned home decorator.

And then comes the size, the material, the amount of pendant lights to install in the space. It can feel more overwhelming than an influx of inlaws at Christmas!

In today’s post I’m going to show you an array of pendant light ideas for over your kitchen island, as well as talk you through how to choose the right lights for this important hub of the home.

Drop me a comment at the end of the post to let me know if these tips helped. And enjoy the inspo.

blue hamptons kitchen with glass and brass pendant lights over kitchen island

Firstly, Examine Your Kitchen Style

Your kitchen has a style. You might not know what style it is, but it has one. And the pendant lights you choose for over your kitchen island should reflect that style.

If you’re unsure what the style of your kitchen is, have a think about the colours and materials at play. Those colours and materials can then feature in the lights you choose.

Is the space a minimal all-white zone with chrome tapware and lots of marble? Is it a dark and moody zone with timber-grain cabinets and black tapware? Perhaps it’s more luxe, featuring brass tapware and high-gloss cabinets.

Make a note of some of the features you see in the kitchen. We’ll come back to this soon.

cluster of three rattan rounded pendant lights over dining table in coastal boho home

How Close Is the Dining Room to the Kitchen?

If your kitchen and dining zone is open plan, and the two rooms sit side-by-side with an uninterrupted view of each other, you need to ensure you don’t over-pendant the area.

As a general rule, when I’m designing spaces I don’t have a feature pendant over the kitchen counter and a feature pendant over a nearby dining table.

If you want the kitchen to be the zone you pendant, leave the dining room pendant-free. If you want a pendant over your dining table, you can have a pendant over the kitchen counter, but it needs to be quite minimal.

In this instance you’d be wise to install a simple strip light pendant over the kitchen counter, and let the dining table be the star of the show.

modern dark brown timber kitchen cabinets and black strip light over kitchen island

If the Kitchen is Already ‘Busy’, Keep Pendants Minimal

When I say ‘busy’, what I’m trying to assess is, how feature-packed is your kitchen in the way of design features?

The above kitchen is the perfect example to speak to. There’s a fair amount of timber-look cabinetry at play. There’s a concrete floor. There’s a paneled ceiling. And lastly, a splashback tile and shelving.

That’s why the pendant light here has been kept as strip lighting; so it blends into the background. Imagine three single pendant lights installed over the island; it would be way too visually busy.

Look at your own kitchen as assess if it needs a blend-in pendant, or can take something more dominant.

modern kitchen with black drum pendant lights over marble slab kitchen island

What is the Hero Element in the Kitchen?

Every room has a focal point. It’s the thing your eye goes to the moment you walk into the room. Now, not every kitchen has a big wow-factor element, but many do. And if yours does, the lights you choose will take cues from this main feature.

Take the above kitchen for example. The marble around the island is without a doubt a delicious design feature that takes centre stage. It is the focal point. And because we don’t want to detract from it, the pendant lights are simple ceiling-mounted ones.

If your kitchen doesn’t have a main focal point like this, then you know your pendant light can be that moment. It can be the design element that draws your eye without competition from any other feature in the kitchen.

sage green kitchen with marble countertops and brass hardware

How Many Pendant Lights Above a Kitchen Island?

We’ve arrived at the section that’s probably giving you the most grief; exactly how many pendant lights should you install above your kitchen island?

This comes down to the size of your island, first and foremost. It’s all about scale. You want the pendant sizing to work in relation to the length and width of the island beneath it.

In the next section I’ll delve more into the exact dimensions and how many you should have. But as a main rule, two or three pendants look best above a kitchen Island if you want to install multiple lights of the same style.

I’ve seen almost no examples where four or more pendant lights look good replicated along the length of a bench. And if you want a simpler strip light, you’ll obviously only install one of these. 

metricon black industrial kitchen with thick island bechtop and black cabinets

Kitchen Island Dimensions and Best Pendant Sizes

Below I’ll list out the width your pendant lights should be in relation to the length of your kitchen island. The size of the pendants will also help dictate how many you should install.

Follow these size rules and you can’t go wrong:

  • If your kitchen island is 1.5 metres (5 feet) in length, two small pendants at width 20cm (8 inches) would look the best.
  • If your kitchen island is two metres (6.5 feet) in length, two pendant lights at width 40cm (16 inches) each would work well. Or try three smaller pendants at 30cm (12 inches) each.
  • If your kitchen island is three metres (10 feet), two pendant lights at width 60cm (20 inches) each would work well. Or try three pendants at width 40cm (16 inches) each.

If you’re stuck, drop me a comment at the end of this post with your island measurements and I’ll help you out.

energy efficient home designs kitchen by metricon homes with terracotta pendants

Spacing Rules Pendant Lights Above Kitchen Islands

It’s not just size of the pendant lights you have to worry about, but placement too. In all of the examples above where I listed out measurements, I’m assuming you’re going to space them equal distance apart down the length of the island.

Not only do you want the pendants to be spaced equally apart, but you want space from your outer pendant lights to the edge of your island too. You’d never install a pendant light so it sits inline with the end of your island countertop.

As a rule, leave more gap from the outer pendant to the island edge, than in-between the pendants you’re installing.

cluster of two concrete pendant lights over kitchen island

Clustering Pendants Down One End of the Island

Above I detailed spacing pendant lights evenly along the run of your kitchen bench. But of course, that’s not the only way to install them.

Clustering two or three pendant lights down one end of the island is a great way to zone it. For example, you might want to designate one end of the island as your meals zone; a place for people to gather and eat or drink.

This approach is a more contemporary way to install pendant lights, and it can look quite impressive as long as the lights aren’t too large (smaller clusters are always better, as seen above).

black industrial pendant lights over island in traditional hamptons kitchen

What Height to Hang Pendant Lights Over the Kitchen Island

I have a whole post around what height to hang pendant lights in rooms if you need it. But when it comes to the kitchen, it’s all about ensuring the pendant is high enough in the space, but not so high that it feels detached from the island itself.

As a general rule, it’s wise to have the bottom of your kitchen pendant light sitting about 90cm – 100cm (approx 35 inches) from the top of your benchtop. If you need to go higher, you can, but I wouldn’t go lower.

Standard kitchen benchtops sit at 90cm in height. If the pendant is any lower than 90cm from the top of the island, you won’t be able to see around it when standing in your kitchen.

modern country kitchen with black industrial pendant lights over kitchen island

What Style and Colour Pendant Light to Choose

Remember at the start of this post when I told you to examine the colours and materials in your kitchen? Now is the time to put those learnings into practice, because you want the kitchen pendant lights you choose to speak to the other elements in the space.

three white pendant lights over island in coastal boho kitchen with timber styling

Take the above kitchen for example…

There’s a lot of white and cool blue/grey/green tones at play. It’s a serene space designed to evoke calm, and so the pendant lights are calm and minimal too. They’re not busy, or elaborate, or multi-coloured. One material and one colour.

Now, because there are timber handles on the cabinets, oak frames in artworks, and timber in the styling elements, you can see how a  wicker or rattan or oak pendant would work here too. But you’d want it to be a simple shape.

Take a look at your kitchen and decide the feel or mood it’s evoking (calm, chic, dramatic etc) and then choose a pendant light in a shape and material that has the same feeling. Also ensure it speaks to an element already in your kitchen (tap colour/material or handles on cabinets).

white and brown timber kitchen with black woven pendant lights

Lastly, Think About the Bulb and Brightness Required

Some kitchen pendant lights are purely decorative, because there’s ample light coming from other sources light downlights. And then some pendant lights over kitchen counters are all about function; you need the light to prep food.

Whether you want yours as decoration or for function will impact the style of pendant you choose, and the bulb you use. Pendants that are woven, for example, with gaps in the surface, are more decorative and will cast a beautiful light across the room. Same with glass.

On the flip side, pendants that are full enclosed and shine down on the kitchen island will give you more light to prep food under.

Also think about when people are sitting at your kitchen island. A woven design with an exposed edison bulb, for example, might shine too much in your eye when seated. So choose a design carefully.

hamptons style kitchen from metricon bayville display home

Have these tips on choosing the right pendant lights for over a kitchen island helped you lock in the right style for your place? As mentioned earlier, don’t hesitate to drop me a comment below with any pendant ideas questions you have and I can give you my opinion.

This post includes images and/or videos of Metricon display homes and events, reproduced with permission.  © Metricon Homes Pty Ltd 2021.


Chris Carroll

Outside of writing this blog, Chris is an interior designer, presenter and author. He’s also spent time on TV, on Channel 10’s Changing Rooms, as well presenting segments on Channel 7’s Sunrise and The Morning Show. If you’d like to book a design consult with Chris, you can find out more here

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3 Responses

  1. Hi Chris, we have an L shaped bench with breakfast bar that is 3.1m long x 900mm wide.
    We wish to install a 2.1m long pendant. It will be placed centred, length wise to the bench 3.1m bench, but I’d like to know if it the bar pendant should also sit in the centre of the bench width wise (at 450mm), OR more towards the breakfast bar? Would love your thoughts on this!

  2. Thank you needed this info as we are building. I have decided no pendants over our island bench as the ceiling has been lowered to 2.7m over the kitchen area, however the remainder of the room (the dining and family room) has a 5.8m void. I’m wanting to place a pendant/s over the dining table. Overall room size is 5m x 11m. I have purchased 2 very large pendants however unsure if I should use both or just one over the dining table? Any advice appreciated. Sue

  3. Thanks for this great information. We are in the process of building a new home and these hints/suggestions/ideas most certainly helps!

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I’m interior designer Chris Carroll, and at TLC Interiors we’re all about helping you create an amazing home without breaking the bank. It’s affordable designer style at its best, and we make the whole process easy and fun for clients & readers alike!

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