Ultimate GUIDE TO CHOOSE KITCHEN ISLAND LIGHTING in the right size, distance & More
What is the right size kitchen island lighting or pendants for your renovation? I’ve got a simple formula to nail kitchen island lighting every time.
THE SUPER SIMPLE RULE FOR PICKING THE RIGHT SIZE LIGHT FIXTURE
What size pendants do I need over my kitchen island? While it’s not as easy as the formula for the perfect chandelier with a little math and the graphic below, you can figure it out.
But there is one rule for pendant size and that is GO BIG or GO HOME!
Design Crime #1: Island Lighting is TOO SMALL
In 2021, the worst kitchen island lighting mistake you can make is purchasing those mini blown glass pendants. You know the ones I am talking about. They are standard to builder grade homes with island lighting, but let’s face it- they are outdated and too small.
So, before you add that perfect looking kitchen pendant to your cart, make sure you review these rules. I want your light fixture to look as beautiful in your house as it does online (or in store). Ensuring that it is the proper size has a lot to do with that.
TYPES OF LIGHTING
But first, consider what the purpose of the light will be and how it relates to the types of lighting. As you know, in each room, you need multiple light sources to appropriately light the space. There are 4 main types of lighting: ambient, accent, task, and daylight.
Let’s talk about each of them before you order the perfect fixture.
AMBIENT (OR GENERAL)
- Ambient lighting is the general lighting in the room. It provides the overhead lighting, usually by a chandelier, recess lighting or ceiling (can) lights. The ambient lighting can be the “mood lighting” if you put the fixture on a dimmer. It provides the general light for a room or entryway.
- Next we have accent lighting. Accent lighting is the decorative lighting in a room (or outside on the house). Examples of accent lights would be outdoor landscape feature lights, sconces on a dining room wall, lighting over a piece of artwork (i.e. art lamp). Table lamps are another source of accent lighting.
- How do you know if it is accent lighting? An accent light will typically provide a decorative touch to the space, can be useful, but isn’t the primary light source in a room.
- You should use accent lighting sparingly so that it has a larger impact.
- Task lighting has a specific purpose to help better light the space in which you are performing tasks. You will commonly hear designers refer to task lighting in a a kitchen, whether it be over the island or under cabinet lighting in the food prep area. Another common use for task lighting is in an office or studio, by a desk lamp or track lighting aimed towards an easel.
- Task lighting should be an additional feature to help the room’s function, but not the only light source.
- While you can’t add a “daylight” to a room, it is a really important factor to consider when choosing the number of light fixtures and their placement. Natural light can produce feelings of warms and openness in a room when it is diffused.
- However, it can also be harsh, glaring and produce heat if the room is facing into the sunlight and there are no window treatments to diffuse the light. A room that gets terrific daylight may not need as many task lights during the day.
- Alternatively, a room that doesn’t have any natural light can require additional lighting.
For your kitchen lighting, you will need:
- Ambient lighting: 4 recessed lights (don’t overdo it- your contractor will probably add more than you need. Remember, it’s not a runway, you just need to see generally). Use 2700K LED bulbs. Skip the blue lights, please.
- Accent lighting: sconces. These look great flanking the window over the sink or above upper cabinetry.
- Task lighting: under counter lights for prepping food and island pendant lights.
- Daylight: I hope you have some of it! A window or skylight can make a huge difference in how you feel, how the paint color and hardware look in the kitchen, and how large it feels.
HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT KITCHEN PENDANT WIDTH
Picking out a new light fixture is a great way to update a room or add personality to it. You want to make sure you choose the correct scale light so that it looks like a good fit for the room and your money isn’t wasted. Luckily, there is only one rule for choosing the right size kitchen pendant lights.
GO BIG. NOW GO BIGGER.
Surprised? Most of the pendant lights that come up in searches are 12″ to 13″. But you are going to need to go bigger than that. It sounds crazy, but with large kitchens and oversized islands, bigger truly is better here.
ISLAND PENDANT SIZE
Because kitchen island pendant lights are in the center of the room, they should be showstopping! You want to get the size and placement correct. This guide will help you out.
Let me forewarn you that this requires math. But I promise you can figure it out by reading the formula, looking at the helpful diagram below and jotting down the numbers on your own cheat sheet.
Measure the length of the Island.
- 80″ L
Determine the number of pendant lights and add up their width. (You need this much space in between pendants).
- 2 pendants at 15″ diameter each = 30″
Subtract the pendant diameter from the island length.
- 80″- 30″ = 50″
Add 1 to the number of pendants (to account for space on each end).
- 2 pendants + (1) = 3 pendants
Divide the number of pendants +1 (3 in this example) into the Length calculated (50″).
Example: 80″ L // 2 pendants at 15″ diameter each = 15″ // 80″-30″ = 50″ // 50″ divided by 3 = 16″ between pendants over the island, leaving 10″ on each side from the counter edge.
You will want to aim for 30″ between each the two pendants over the island and leave a good 10″ or to the edge of the counter.
A good rule of thumb is to hang large to medium-sized pendants 30″ to 32″″ off the countertop to the bottom of each fixture.
EXAMPLES OF BAD KITCHEN LIGHTING
Here this popular island pendant light trio is too large for that tiny island and too close together. However, if it were atop a larger island it would likely be too small because of how tight the grouping is.
Below, in this real estate web listing photo, there are 3 large pendants, but they are not low enough to the island nor are the spaced wide enough.
A better approach would be to have 2 wider pendants and drop them down to 40″ above the countertop.
In the photo below, the kitchen island pendants are far too small and close together. They do not span the right width or depth of the island either.
I would want to see wider pendants spaced apart further, and not glass, more substance to really make an impact .
EXAMPLES OF PROPERLY SIZED KITCHEN ISLAND LIGHTING
Here are some visual examples of well scaled, oversized and great placement of kitchen island lighting.
KITCHEN LIGHTING FAQ’S
Should I put pendant lights over island?
Yes! Large scale pendant lights are a great option for island lighting because they provide practical task lighting and aid in achieving your beautiful kitchen design. Because they are centered over the island, you can have a show stopping moment in the room without bumping your head.
How big should my pendant lights be over my island?
Bigger is better here. As a designer, I recommend the width be at least 12″ to 1″ inches wide for each pendant so that the scale is proportional to the island itself. Anything smaller than 12″ to 15″ will look miniature.
What height do I hang kitchen island lighting?
You should hang kitchen pendant lights 30 to 32 inches above the counter. Make sure to take the total measurement from the floor to the bottom of the pendant. The ideal height is 70 to 72 inches from the bottom of the pendant to the floor.
How close together should pendant lights be?
Pendant lights over a kitchen island should generally be 30 inches apart or double the width of each pendant light. If your pendant is 12 inches wide, you should leave 24 inches in between the lights.
How many pendant lights do I need for a 7 foot Island?
A 7 foot kitchen island should have 2 large pendant lights installed. Each pendant should be approximately 15″ wide for proper scale.
How many pendants do I need for a 8 foot island?
For an 8 foot island, 2 large 15″ wide pendants should be enough to light the space and be proper scale.
How many pendant lights do I need for a 10 foot Island?
You should install 3 island pendant lights over a 10 foot island that are approximately 15″ wide with 10″ on each end to the counter and 27.5 inches in between each pendant.
How many pendant lights do I need for a 12 foot Island?
You should install 3 island lights over a 12 foot island that are approximately 24″ wide. Center the pendants over the island spaced 25″ apart, leaving 10 inches on each end of the countertop.
What is the latest trend in kitchen lighting?
Larger kitchen island lights are replacing small mini pendants in a row that used to be popular. For recessed lighting, use fewer LED lights at a warm temperature of 2700K to create a natural glow to work in.
Is track lighting out of style?
Yes, track lighting is out of style. Instead use large pendants that are 15″ wide or larger to create a big impact in a space.
How To Clean Glass Pendant Lights
- Turn off the lights
- Use a microfiber cloth to gently wipe inside of pendant
- Starting at the top, gently wipe the chain/cord down to the outside of glass with soft cloth
- For regular maintenance, you can lightly vacuum lights with the brush attachment to keep dust free
WHERE CAN I BUY KITCHEN ISLAND PENDANT LIGHTING?
Luckily, there are a lot of great places to source kitchen island lights online for a great price that are big and beautiful. Here’s a list of my favorite stores to check as well as some of my favorite lights.
- Ballard Designs
- Serena & Lily
- Shades of Light
- Crate & Barrel
- Ballard Designs
FAVORITE KITCHEN ISLAND LIGHTING ROUNDUP
Here are a few of my favorite pendants for over your kitchen island. They are all large, interesting and can add personality to your next remodel.
This post contains affiliate links- meaning when you purchase through the link and I receive a small commission. It feeds my Starbucks addiction & for that I thank you! You can see my full disclosure policy here.
CONCLUSION ON HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST LIGHTS FOR YOUR KITCHEN ISLAND
- You should have multiples sources of recessed and task lighting in your kitchen
- Pendant should be large 12-15″+ wide and evenly spaced
- Larger islands and higher ceilings call for larger lights
- When in doubt, BIGGER IS BETTER ( You should be saying, “WOW this is too big” when you pull it out of the box)
- Install pendants approximately 32″H from the countertop surface
- Check the chain length and adjustability before ordering lights to make sure they will work in your kitchen
- Measure twice and mark the locations with the electrician before installation
- Don’t overdo it on the cans (recessed lighting) or it will look like a runway and be blinding while you cook/entertain
- Use dimmers!
25 thoughts on “HOW TO CHOOSE KITCHEN ISLAND LIGHTING”
All of these pictures seem to put form before function. None of the picture you shown provide task lighting for the islands. Maybe the provide ambiance, but then how to people cook. Two 60w (or even 100w) bulbs will not illuminate an 80″ workspace.
Hi, my island is 101′ L and 45’W with a 10 foot ceiling. Would 2 pendants that are large – 19.9’x23 be too big?
Hi, my island is 101′ L and 45’W with a 10 foot ceiling. Would 2 pendants that are large – 19.9’x23 be too big?
Hi! Our island is small 78″ x 34″ with 9′ ceiling. I’m looking at the Ballard carriage lights and can’t decide between the large (12″) and extra large (16″). Which do you think would fit best? Thanks!
I have an island that is 120L” x “45” W.
It’s a Big kitchen with Valulted ceilings approx 9 ft high from floor to ceiling where they’ll be hung and ciling goes up to 11.5 on the vault.
Can you tell me how many and what size you suggest?
166″ island is it cool to use 3 modern 24″ x 36″ modern lantern fixtures ?
How many pendants would I need for an island which is 90 inches by 59 if the pendants are 13 inch diameter? Any suggestions gratefully received. I ‘m not sure if 3 is too many or would 2 be better?
Advice please. Island will be 75”. Number and size of pendants please!
Would love your opinion… Building a house with a large island. It is a jumbo Cambria slab … 132 x 65″. I like the look of 2 pendants framing the vent hood from one side and fireplace on the other. One light that I like comes in 16″ or 22.”. Would 22 be too big? I “think” the ceilings are 10 feet.
I have a 108 inch rectangular island with a 32” downdraft oven in the middle. (So no vent hood needed). Would it look horrible if I hung a large circular unique chandelier directly over my oven instead of a linear one or pendants? We have 8 pot lights around the cooking island and another 5ft. bar to sit at.
Just purchased a new home and the kitchen is huge with that ceiling at 10’ tall – the island is
48”x 93”! I found lights that are 21 1/2” wide and 31” high ! I was going to put two over the island ! Are these way to big ? And if so what’s the largest I can use ?
I’m working with the three holes my builder installed over my island. I like the look of two large pendants, but I don’t know if the spacing is off because the end holes are 32” from the ends of my 10’ x 5’ island. The middle hole is above the 61.5” measure of my island, so there are 28” to 29 inches between each hole, which means that there is about 60 inches between fixtures if I install 2 pendants. Im not sure how to pick the right size. 30” pendants?
Pendant lights are some of the most versatile fixtures you can incorporate into your home décor, and they have the unique ability to redefine the look and feel of a room without the need for a costly remodeling project.
Hello! Our remodel begins In February. Our island will be 12 feet long. Our ceilings are not high. Only 8 feet. Island has a prep sink on the left end of island right end will have a butcher block area. I was thinking just 2 pendants because of our ceiling height. Would love any help!
We are starting a kitchen renovation and everything is ordered except lighting. The island is 111” long and 38” deep (though that includes the push in section for the barstools) so the actual granite top is closer to 25” deep. I prefer the look of 3 pendants vs. 2, but am not sure if that will be too crowded. Would love your thoughts. Many Thanks!
You can get away with two pendants, approx 10-12″ each- or try to find a single fixture that has 2 arms/lights. I prefer the one fixture with double lights on it that way it isn’t too wide, but it has some substance to it. Good Luck!
I just purchased a home with a small island and too many lights overhead. For a 56″ island would you go with 1 or 2 lights? What size?
We have about a 90″ island with 8ft ceilings. Had been looking at 18″ wide pendants (2) and figuring the height for each at a total of 22″. Just wondering how much wiggle room I have in the height so that it doesn’t disturb the sightlines.
You can get away with two 15″ pendants, maybe ever a little bit larger if you have high ceilings and an open space. If you have 8′ or 9′ ceilings and it’s not a large open kitchen, I would keep to 15″ or slightly less. Good Luck!
I have a 60 inch island that is 48 inches deep. I was thinking of two pendants 12 inches or so but maybe now I think one larger one. Thoughts appreciated.
to clarify there will be 3 stools across the front and 2 chairs on each side, so the island is not huge. Thank you
Hello I have a square island with seating on 3 sides. Would you recommend a linear fixture, 2 smaller fixtures or 1 big round fixture?
Yes, I would agree to spread them out more. Hanging them evenly would only leave 10″ in the middle two sections between the lights and that would be close.
The formula is a good starting point, but sometimes you have to eyeball it like you are suggesting here. Good luck!
I have a 124.5″ island. 3 pendants–12 w x 18.75 h. I read to leave 30ish inches between. However, to disperse light evenly, I was thinking 40″. Is that two much–one centered above island (62.25″) and the other two 40 inches on each side (22.25 & 102.25) still leaving 22″ on both ends of the island.