Kitchen island lighting ideas to illuminate all your needs – from cooking to socialising

The kitchen island deserves to shine bright
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  • Looking for kitchen island lighting ideas? Think first about how you’ll use this invaluable kitchen space. With open-plan kitchen extensions proving more popular than ever, the kitchen island has become an essential feature. And the right lighting is crucial to ensure a optimum use of this kitchen design element.

    ‘No other interior element can literally change the mood of a space at the touch of a button’ says Sally Storey, design director at John Cullen. ‘You can make a kitchen work almost 24/7 by the way you choose to light it. In daytime, it can be a hardworking, task-oriented space. Transferring to a softer, moodier scheme by early evening, and the perfect place to dine by late evening.’

    See all of our inspiration kitchen ideas to help plan your space

    What does kitchen island lighting need to do?

    What purpose do you wish your kitchen island to serve? If you see it as more of a food preparation unit, you might prefer a stronger lighting presence. Do you see your kitchen island as more of a social space? Given almost all kitchen islands incorporate an element of seating to make them a social space, it might be best to consider the secondary lighting option to overhead lights, for adding ambience as and when needed.

    In all examples, it helps to have localised accent lighting – such as pendants over the island – to add more focused light.

    When lighting a kitchen island, you really want to highlight the area. An island is often a social hub and illuminating it correctly can make it all the more inviting. To decide on lighting options, consider the area’s uses, is it a practical space for working from home and evening meal prep that needs bright task lighting? Or is it at the centre of catch ups and coffees, for which you’ll need warm accent lighting?

    ‘The right lighting can transform your kitchen into a spectacular space’ explains Hayley Simmons, Head of Merchandising for Magnet. ‘The most important thing when putting together your kitchen lighting ideas is planning. It’s usually best to think about your lighting well before you begin choosing worktops and cabinets; the type of lighting you choose may inform your kitchen style.”

    Kitchen island lighting ideas

    1. Take a soft approach

    navy kitchen

    Image credit: Rachael Smith

    If you’re looking to add light without the choice of lighting design dominating choose a simple, neutral coloured pendant for the job. A streamlined choice of pendant has no frills, ensuring the design doesn’t garner too much of the attention – leaving other design elements to shine. Here the three pendants over the island are an effortless clay-like material, neutral in colour but tonal enough to highlight the wooden touches running throughout this stylish kitchen.

    2. Be brave with alternative designs

    green kitchen

    Image credit: Malcolm Menzies/ Pluck Kitchens

    This stunning green kitchen features ceiling spots to create multi-directional lighting, for the more practical everyday tasks of cooking etc. However a fabulously futuristic pendant updates the traditional elements in the space. The attention grabbing Flos feature light is a bold choice to create a central point of focus. Because the practical light is taken care of, by way of the spotlights, this lighting choice over the island can serve purely to make a design statement.

    Need more design inspiration? Kitchen trends 2020 – the latest kitchen design trends

    3. Match lighting throughout


    Image credit: Lizzie Orme

    Lighting over the kitchen island will not be enough to light the whole kitchen, so there will be alternative lighting options in place. Take this opportunity to create a cohesive scheme by matching the lighting. These globe pendants are joined by matching globe wall lights to make the lighting scheme coordinated throughout the entire kitchen space. Take the uniformed look further by using the same material, such as the antique brass seen here, to match bar stools at the kitchen island, cupboard handles and even the toaster.

    4. Add ambient light from the ground up

    kitchen island lighting

    Image credit: Magnet

    Think about the whole island when considering lighting. This style of downlighting is purely to add ambience, a key role of lighting in any room.
    ‘If you want to really make a statement with your island, perhaps the boldest form of accent lighting is LED profile lighting,’ advises Hayley Simmons at Magnet. ‘Sitting below the worksurface, profile lighting brings bags of ambiance to a contemporary kitchen and is perfect for those that love to host and entertain.’

    5. Blend into the background

    white kitchen with glass roof extension and black kitchen island

    Image credit: Colin Poole

    White pendants against a white background can make the presence of lighting which is almost undetectable. This idea is ideal if you want to benefit from the lighting placement but don’t wish to make the design choice the hero.

    6. Steal the limelight with jazzy designs

    Grey kitchen with pink pendant lights and floor runner

    Image credit: Colin Poole

    To add the wow factor for a social kitchen space add jazzy pendants over the kitchen island. These magnificent globe lights feel like mini disco balls, as they reflect the surrounding space. They look fabulous even when not switched on, making them a welcome addition to the space both day and night. If using statement lights such as these it’s a good idea to pair more functional task lighting, perhaps spots, to illuminate the remaining surface of the kitchen.

    7. Let the light shine through

    grey kitchen with glass pendant lights over kitchen island

    Image credit: Mark Bolton

    Glass pendant shades are the perfect way to get more from your lighting. The nature of the glass material allows every drop of light to shine through the pendant – there are no restrictions on where fragments of light are transmitted. Meaning the lights are brighter, ideal to act as the main lights within the kitchen. Simple sculpted glass pendants with antique brass details adds an elegant touch to this sophisticated grey kitchen.

    8. Make a statement with cluster lights

    kitchen island with light clusters above

    Image credit: Dewey Verwey

    Make the island the star of your kitchen space with a really statement light fitting. Bottle-like hanging lights instantly command attention within this contemporary kitchen.

    When choosing lighting of this magnitude, consider using softer bulbs or a dimmer functionality. This is to prevent the island feeling overwhelmed by light, so it doesn’t end up feeling too ‘floodlit’. You want a statement light to attraction attention…but not for all the wrong reasons.

    With statement lighting you can help to make the scheme feel more like a living room, rather than a kitchen. Don’t be afraid to play with the design concept for your kitchen lighting, to make it feel more of a social space rather than just a room in which to cook and clean.

    9. Keep the look simple with a single shade

    walnut wood kitchen with yellow pendant light over kitchen island

    Image credit: Eleri Griffiths

    One single drum shade over a kitchen island is sufficient to highlight this as a focal point of the kitchen. One dominant light placed centrally above the island is a great option for task lighting, provided there are alternative spotlights or downlights to illuminate the remaining surfaces for food preparation, etc.

    By choosing a bold colour for a single suspended light helps to give the light more prominence. It’s a great way to tie in a dominate colour theme to pick out with kitchen textiles and any blinds and furnishings.

    10. Go glam with a chandelier

    blue kitchen with chandelier over island

    Image credit: Richard Gadsby

    Who says chandeliers are only for living rooms and bedrooms? Not us! The kitchen is a great place to push the boundaries with lighting concepts. An open-plan living room invites the notion of blending styles – diluting the idea of strict living room styles and strict kitchen styles for lighting.

    A striking chandelier looks especially grand if you have high ceilings, making the most of that extra height over the island. Use spotlights to surround the chandelier to add further drama to the scheme when all the lights are switched on.

    11. Reflect fragments of light with glass designs

    country kitchen with chandelier

    Image credit: Rachael Smith

    Make the light go even further with an elegant glass fitting. It’s not just pendants that can grab attention when hung over a kitchen island, as this crystal drop lighting proves. The chandelier-style light fitting instantly adds an elegant edge to this neutral kitchen space. You can add an ultra glam light to a more rustic country kitchen and it still works.

    Mixing the styles works wonders, provided the finer details all work in harmony together. For example, here sleek chrome cabinet handles coordinate with the foundation of the light fitting.

    12. Let your lighting define the style

    Neutral kitchen with chrome industrial lighting

    Image credit: Mel Yates

    Your chosen lighting plays a key role in adding design flourish to the room. The kitchen can remain neutral in colour and yet the lighting can instantly determine a more refined style. Such as old-school chrome pendant lights help to inject a splash of industrial chic to this kitchen – enhanced by the exposed metal utensils rack and industrial-style wall clock. Matching key fixtures, fittings and accessories can help to marry an over-all decor.

    ‘Pendant lights are a particularly popular choice for task lighting as they have the ability to concentrate light above the island yet can also be used to create a stylish focal point’ agrees Hayley Simmons at Magnet. ‘There are almost infinite shade and bulb combinations for pendant lights, from exposed bulbs and brass fixtures for modern industrial kitchens, to period inspired antique pendants for country styles.

    13. Coordinate colours to create a bold look

    kitchen with blue splashback and matching lights

    Image credit: Richard Gadsby

    Colour in a kitchen goes a long way to add personality and flair. While most play it safely – and right so – with colours on cabinetry, the lighting is a relatively changeable way to incorporate colour.

    Three contemporary dome lights are evenly spaced across the length of this generous kitchen island to ensure the colour stretches. A matching blue splashback and a decorative wallpaper in the same hue helps to take the colour further.

    14. Let natural light dominate

    grey kitchen with white ceiling and skylights

    Image credit: Douglas Gibb

    Think about how your lighting solution will affect the look, whatever time of the day. If you have the advantage of skylights to flood the space with natural light you might prefer to keep the lighting solution almost undetectable.

    Here white drum shades provide a subtle stylish touch without grabbing too much attention. Obviously, after dark, the generous shades will provide plentiful light over the central island, which is essential give the sink placement.

    15. Direct light upwards

    white kitchen with metro tiles and wrought iron lights over the kitchen island

    Image credit: Richard Gadsby

    Using statement lighting that directs upwards helps to perfectly highlight the ceiling, creating the illusion of taller space.  ‘One of the biggest mistakes people make is to install just a grid of spotlights in the ceiling that don’t relate to the cabinets or the central island in any way,’ Sally explains. ‘It just creates a really bland space. For the best results, aim for general reflected light which could come from the front of cabinets or from uplighters on top of wall cupboards, that wash the ceiling with light.’

    16. Incorporate lighting into an overhead pan rack

    cream kitchen with lights over kitchen island

    Image credit: Brent Darby

    Suspending lighting over a kitchen island is a design focus due to the space being available. Absorbing that lighting into a multipurpose pan rack, all the better.

    ‘Spotlights work well in modern or minimalist kitchens and can really enhance a room’s features,’ explains Hayley Simmons at Magnet. ‘Smaller rooms and islands  also benefit from this lighting style as including spotlights in darker corners of the room can really open up the space. Also consider spotlights if you have high-shine worktops, as the light will bounce off the surface and make the room feel bigger and more illuminated.’

    17. Shine a colour enhancing spotlight

    cream kitchen with purple worktops

    Image credit: Colin Poole

    Think about how the light will bounce off the surfaces within your kitchen, especially the island worktop. Incorporating colour with lighting is a great way to unify a scheme. Here LED lights suspended within a panel over the kitchen island will help to reflect off the surface below – omitting a warming glow.

    If choosing overhead spotlights consider having the option of a dimmable switch. ’It’s essential to get the temperature of LEDs right’ advises Sally. ‘LEDs have a reputation for being too cold. A lot of kitchen manufacturers go for a much higher number which give off a really cool white colour. This is fine for daylight, but you need something warmer for an evening environment.’

    How many lights should my kitchen island have?

    There are no hard and fast rules on the number of lights kitchens should have. Ultimately it all depends on the size of the kitchen island. As a general rule of thumb designers prefer odd numbers, there’s a thing thought to be the ‘power of three’, whereby things in threes are inherently more pleasing visually.

    As a result choosing three pendants or task light options would add interest, rather than two which welcomes symmetry. But that’s not to say if you want two you would be wrong to have two, because there are those who prefer symmetry to balance a look. It’s ultimately a matter of preference.

    Does a kitchen island need pendant lights?

    As our ideas below prove there are a number of lighting solutions to enhance your kitchen island, not just classic pendant lights. ‘Whilst pendants might be the most visually impressive option to light a kitchen island, again it pays to consider the activities the area is most used for, if they’re going to interfere with movement around the space, then they might not be the best option for you’ Hayley Simmons at Magnet.

    As long as your chosen lighting solution is safe and suitable for the space. ‘Kitchens are multifunctional spaces, so whilst there are no specific rules or requirements in terms of IP rating for kitchen lighting as there are in bathrooms,’ Hayley goes on to say. ‘You will need your lighting to be as flexible and practical as possible.’

    How to pick a light for a kitchen island

    Having seen just a few of our ideas we hope it gives you food for thought when illuminating your kitchen space. The most important thing when designing a kitchen is to envision how you’ll use the space. Use the island as the hero of the kitchen and ensure you have secondary lighting in place to make it standout.

    Further ideas: Kitchen lighting ideas – to deliver the right brightness levels as and where you need it

    We hope you’re no longer left in the dark when it comes to lighting your kitchen island, and make it stand out for all the right reasons.

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