Everything you need to know about hanging pendant lights over a kitchen island, according to experts

Plus how high to hang them and which styles to choose

Modern hwite kitchen, large lilac breakfast bar with high bar stools, low hanging pendant lights
(Image credit: Olive and Barr)

If your kitchen involves an island at the core of the design, it's likely that you've thought about how you're going to illuminate it. Pendant lights are the ultimate choice for an island – they make the centre of a room an eye-catching design feature and add ambient glow which is perfect for hosting, cooking and dining. 

Although you might have had pendant lights in your mind for a kitchen island, the details of how many you need and the ideal hanging height aren't as obvious. Kitchen lighting ideas aren't a one size fits all approach either - the styles you choose and positioning will all depend on the pendant lights you select and your particular space. 

We've spoken to kitchen design experts to guide you through everything you'll need to know about pendant lights. And, don't worry - they help simplify all of the intricate details.

Everything you need to know about kitchen island pendant lights 

Pendant lights are one of the most popular kitchen island lighting ideas. They create an eye-catching design feature to centre the island as a hub for friends and family to gather around, as well as providing essential illumination to cooking areas. 

And while you might have decided on this particular light fitting, knowing exactly where to hang them, how many you need and which styles to go for might be tricky. Even if you're calling in the professionals to do the electrical work, you'll want to guide them on the hanging height. 

How many pendant lights do you need?

Modern hwite kitchen, large lilac breakfast bar with high bar stools, low hanging pendant lights

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Parmiter)

 Much like shopping for bar stools, choosing the amount of pendant lights to sit over an island is a surprisingly complex task. Do you opt for less and instead have them spaced out? Or will more be better for practical purposes?

'Hanging pendants in groups of threes can be particularly effective over kitchen islands and dining tables,' confirms Charlie Bowles, director of Original BTC. 'This is because pendants are a great way of breaking up lines of kitchen cabinets and creating an impactful silhouette.' 

But if you have a smaller island, don't worry about sticking to the rule of three. Much like in the Olive and Barr kitchen below, a pair of pendants is just as effective. Mirroring this through a pair of stools will help the design to look more balanced. 

Tom Howley, creative design director at the eponymous kitchen brand also adds, 'Keep the pendants an equal distance apart from each other to promote a sense of symmetry. Also, keep each end pendant about 6 inches inside the edge of the island.'

How high should you hang pendant lights?

Shaker kitchen with large coral kitchen island and two large globe pendant lights above

(Image credit: Olive & Barr)

A few inches can make all the difference when it comes to your pendant lights hanging height. You want to ensure that no member of your family is going to accidentally hit their head when cooking or leaning over the island, so the ideal height might be difficult across the board. 

However, there is some general hanging height advice depending on the height of your ceilings. Tom Howley recommends that 'pendants should hang 12-20 inches below an 8-foot ceiling. For each additional foot of ceiling height, add 3 inches. For example, for a 9-foot ceiling, the pendant should hang 15-23 inches below.'

He also explains 'You don’t want pendant lighting to hang too low. You need to ensure adequate clearance above taps, or for clearance purposes if you use your island for dining. It’s also important if you use pendant lighting as task lighting to make sure it’s at a practical height so that you can use the space efficiently without banging into it.'

Think about your overall kitchen landscape when choosing the height for pendant lights too. What is the view like from each side of the island? Would the pendant lights obstruct the overall design from particular vantage points?

'If you have a stunning view from a window or you enjoy social gatherings in your kitchen, make sure pendant lighting doesn’t hang so low that it blocks any views,' Tom adds. 'You don’t want to spend your dinner party talking to an attractive lampshade!'

What style of pendant lights should you choose?

brass lights over an island with sink in white kitchen

(Image credit: Industville)

Deciding on the style of pendant lights is largely down to personal preference. Do you take inspiration from industrial style or are you more a fan of traditional design with lots of soft, layered materials? Consider your overall design and think about what you need from lighting. Do you want it to match the general aesthetic or act as a curveball in the design?

Natural light and the size of a room will also play into this decision. If you're wanting to make the most of lighting tricks to make a small kitchen look bigger then opting for a glass pendant shade will help to bounce light further across a room. Alternatively, a particularly large kitchen might need grounding with brass shades that make a statement in the middle of a design.   

You can also make a feature out of the wires. The hanging wire on a pendant light is half of the design, so by opting for a metal chain or even a coloured cord is an easy way to further personalise your kitchen scheme. 

Tom Howley also adds that you should 'consider dimmers and switches that allow you to brighten or dim the lights to create the right ambience for the occasion.' Mood lighting is key in a kitchen, especially when hosting, so these small tweaks will make a huge difference. 

Our favourite pendant lights

The finishing touches to your kitchen are just as important as the core cabinetry - start hanging your pendant lights and your design will feel complete. 

Holly Cockburn
Content Editor

After starting out her journey at Future as a Features Editor on Top Ten Reviews, Holly is now a Content Editor at Ideal Home, writing about the best interior ideas and news. At Top Ten Reviews, she focussed on TikTok viral cleaning hacks as well as how to take care of investment purchases such as lawn mowers, washing machines and vacuum cleaners. Prior to this, Holly was apart of the editorial team at Howdens which sparked her interest in interior design, and more specifically, kitchens (Shaker is her favourite!).