Tips on How to Choose & Space Pendant Lights Above a Kitchen Island

One question that always comes up in kitchen design is how many pendant lights to hang above a kitchen island and how high to hang them and how to determine the spacing between them.  Yes, yes I know, that’s really three questions. Here’s the deal… there’s not a one size fits all answer, primarily because not all kitchens are the same nor are their islands. There are however,  a few basic guidelines you can use to help you find the best options for you.

 If you have a smaller island, centering just a couple pendants equidistant apart above the island is usually best. For long, sprawling islands, three or more pendants may be required to adequately illuminate the space. The rest of the measurements really depend on the size of the pendants, the size of the island and how many pendants you plan to use.

As for their positioning, it’s usually best to hang them approximately 30-36 inches above your island. I find this measurement to be about the only hard rule for pendant lights. The diameter of the pendant and the height of the ceiling play a role in determining where the bottom of the light ends up. You just have to step back and eyeball it. It’s up to you to decide the final height based on your personal preference. After you have determined the height to hang your pendants over an island, you need to determine what size pendant light to use, how many to use, and how far to space them. As a general rule of thumb, measure the width of the island and subtract by 12 to determine the maximum width your lighting should be.

 

How high to hang pendant lights above an island

Photo Credit to Circa Lighting

 

The ideal distance between each island pendant light will depend on the length of your island. Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to leave at least 30 inches of space between each pendant to keep the lights from looking cluttered. You can shorten this amount for smaller kitchen islands or lengthen it to accommodate larger spaces as needed. The edge of the pendants shouldn’t be any closer than 6 inches from the edge of the island and no more than 18 inches.

 

 

How far apart to space pendant lights above an island

Photo credit to Circa Lighting

 

For spacing pendant lights over an island, first find the center point of the island. A smaller island, say 4 or 5 feet, will only require two pendants. You’ll want to find the center point on the island and then space the lights 30-36 inches apart with the widest part of the pendant being 30 inches from the other pendant. If you have a larger island that requires three pendants, you want to hang the first pendant directly over the midline of the island and then hang the other two at least 30 inches apart. Remember though, don’t get closer than 6 inches to the edge.

 

Hanging lights above a smaller island

 

One trick I employ, is to mock up my pendants using either balloons or styrofoam balls on strings. Im super visual, so I find this method both helpful and reassuring. It’s no fun at all drilling holes in the ceiling in the wrong place. So, better safe than sorry.

 

How to decide height of pendant lights over a kitchen island

My final tip is to make sure to consider your sight lines both into and out of the kitchen. Before determining the final height make sure to adjust the pendants to insure you’re not obstructing any sight lines.

Remember, we’re here to help when you need us.

 

Lots of love,

Valerie

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Comments

Hi Rob, Is there drywall/sheetrock or plaster on top of the steel beam? If so might it be possible for your electrician to install what we call a pancake box? This is a thinner than typical electrical box. If not you could offset some pendants. You’ll need to be very careful with the style you choose. In my opinion not all styles would look right offset. You might also want to use only an odd number of lights. I intentionally offset pendants in one of our projects. We never had that project professionally photographed but you can find it on our website in the Before and After section. It’s the 9th frame. Good luck with your project. Send me a picture when you’re finished with it.

valerie // November 27, 2022

We have an island with a steel beam above it dead centre that we obviously can’t attach the pendants to. Would you recommend offsetting some either side of the beam or do people not do that? Island is 2.5 metres by 1.1 metres

Rob // November 26, 2022

Without seeing your kitchen plans and island as it relates to the other visual site lines in the kitchen, I would have no way of knowing. Trust your designer and if you still have doubts ask if he or she might be able to provide you with scaled renderings of the proposed plan. Good luck and enjoy that giant island.

valerie // November 13, 2022

Our island is very large, 11 ft x 4 1/2 ft. with a 66″ x 70″ hood behind it with a 12 ft’ ceiling. My designer is suggesting only 2 large oversized pendants. She is recommending 2 large 18″ or 22″ globe pendants. Would this properly fit the space?

Jan // November 12, 2022

Not at all. They’l be fine.

valerie // November 5, 2022

Hi there,
Our island is 78” length and 38 inches wide.
I found two pendants I really like that are 16” diameter. Would these be too large for the space?

Trisha AndersOn // November 4, 2022

Hi. As a rule of thumb consider somewhere between 30″ to 36″ above the counter height.

valerie // August 9, 2022

Hi! Do you feel that 37.5” is too far apart for two pendants to be? This is the space between the edges of each pendant. The island is 8.5 ft x 5 ft. The pendants are 16.5” domes. The electrician placed the light fixture 2ft from edge of island so the pendant edge will be approx 16” from island edge. I hope this makes sense! We are worried the pendants are too far apart. I do not think a third pendant would fit though. Thanks!!

Bre // July 23, 2022

I really need your help with lighting over a 84 x 41 island. I am looking at using 3 pendants (24×15). It that too large? The same style in the smaller version is 21×10. Are these too small. If not how many should I use? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Karen Ambeau // June 20, 2022

Hi Melanie, Without seeing a photo of your space, I don’t think I can make a recommendation.

valerie // April 21, 2022

I have an island that is 4’ by 5’ and sits in the kitchen vertically open to the living living room. Is it best to hang the two pendant lights over the 4’ width or vertically over the 5’ length where you see the pendants vertically from the living room versus horizontally. Also, do they need to be centered with the beams or does that not matter? Thanks.

Melanie // April 21, 2022

Generally I would center it over the entire island front to back. However it does depend on the overall sight line of other elements in the space. If there is an interesting or beautiful focal point that would be disturbed by hanging the pendants centered, then consider a different position. Another factor is when your ceiling joist wont allow for it, so then you install as close to center as possible. Hope this helps.

valerie // April 11, 2022

If I have an 8′ x 4′ island with a counter that overhangs one side by 12″ for seating (so that measurement is 8′ x 5′), do I center pendants over cabinet portion or over total counter area (there’s a cooktop on one side)

Pam Lusby // April 11, 2022

Hi Nancy,

If you’re thinking about using two 18″ then I would say they would be too big. A single dome over an island would look weird in my opinion. I think you would be better off using two of the 9.75″ size. If you would like us to do a scale CAD drawing for you let us know by emailing me through our connect button on our website.

valerie // April 11, 2022

Hello,
I really need your help with lighting over a 70 x 48 island. I really like a dome light at Crate and Barrel. It is black with a white interior however the larger of the two is 18” diameter and height. It that too large? The same style in the smaller version is 9.75 wide 11.25 height. Are these too small. If not how many should I use?
If I am completely wrong in these choices please let me know. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Sincerely, Nancy Good

Nancy Good // April 10, 2022

Hi Catherine, I think three will be fine. I just sketched it out to scale and it looks good. I drew the outside pendants placed 10″ in from the countertop edge which puts them about 35 inches apart from each other. Do yourself a favor and mock up the island dimensions yourself along with three 11.5″ wide “pendants” and lay it all out together. Alternatively you can hire a designer with CAD skills to create a rendering for you. Please email us if you’l like our help with this.

valerie // April 10, 2022

I have no idea what I’m doing. 😬 Please help. Blueprints show 3 pendants for a 8.5 x 5 kitchen island. I finally found pendants I love but they are 11.5” wide. Is that too wide to have 3 of them? If that’s to crowded, what the ideal pendant width for my size island in a 9’ ceiling? Thank you!

Catherine // April 10, 2022

Linda, I don’t think these will be too big at all. I understand feeling nervous about this purchase, but you’ll be fine. If your budget allows hire someone to do a rendering with the lights installed, that’ll give you comfort.

valerie // March 23, 2022

Hi. I just purchased 3 12″ globe pendant lights for my island that is 116″ long by 54″ wide. Will these be too big? They look awfully big sitting on the counter. I’m putting them in a new home that’s being built, so I can’t really try your ball and string idea. Would an 8″ light be too small? My ceilings are 9′ high

Linda // March 22, 2022

Hi Diane. How tall are your ceilings? Can you send us a picture please?

valerie // November 8, 2021

Please help! My island is 9 ft. I had purchased 3 glass pendants. A pendant measures 21.5 inches tall and 12 inches wide. What spacing numbers should have been used? My husband and the electrician hung them. I think they are too high. Diane

Diane Palmer // November 5, 2021

Hello Beth. In my opinion leaving only 12″ in between would be a big mistake. The spacing in between matters in some part based on the diameter of the pendant, but I can’t see a scenario where one would ever leave only 12″. Regarding clear globes, you’ll be fine as long as you select the right wattage and color temperature of light bulb.

valerie // October 20, 2021

Thank you for the information! I’m currently selecting pendants above my island. The light store told me to leave a space of 12” between the pendant lights, and didn’t say anything about lights hanging 6 inches from the ends of the island. I am also looking at clear glass globe pendants but concerned that the light may be too bright and will be reaching for our sunglasses. What are your thoughts? Anyway I really like the Glass globe pendants in the picture above. Can I ask for the manufacture and the name of the light so I can Google?

Beth Rhee // October 17, 2021

Thank you for the information! I’m currently selecting pendants above my island. The light store told me to leave a space of 12” between the pendant lights, and didn’t say anything about lights hanging 6 inches from the ends of the island. I am also looking at clear glass globe pendants but concerned that the light may be too bright and will be reaching for our sunglasses. What are your thoughts? Anyway I really like the Glass globe pendants in the picture above. Can I ask for the manufacture and the name of the light so I can Google?

Beth Rhee // October 17, 2021

These tips are very helpful to choose the right light fixture size for your kitchen. Thank you so much.

Tom Hillman // March 1, 2021

Very helpful. The visuals are great. My kitchen island is 118 inches long. I was debating between 2 large pendants or 3 medium. I am going with the 3. Hoping the placement I provided the contractor works.

Wendy Gronich // December 14, 2020

[…] There are no hard rules to pendant lighting, but there are some helpful hints we can share.  We have a whole blog post about pendant light heights and spacing for best results that you can check out https://designdirections.com/tips-on-how-to-choose-space-pendant-lights-above-a-kitchen-island/ […]

The New "It" Light – Pendant Lights Take Center Stage – Design Directions // November 13, 2020

Hi Hana, I apologize for the delay in responding to your inquiry. Our contact page was down for a while. We can order those lights for you if you like. The are $765 each.

valerie // November 3, 2020

Can you tell me where to buy those lights in your first picture, the cylindrical one with what looks likes glass or crystal?

Hana Santos // October 10, 2020

Im sorry I site was loading slowly. I do appreciate your visiting us though. We did make some tweaks after seeing your message. Please let me know if it helped.

valerie // June 6, 2020

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