Considered kitchen island lighting ideas ensures your kitchen layout works to pull potential – illuminating the heart of your kitchen design. When planning any kitchen lighting think about how you'll use the space.
With open-plan kitchen extensions proving more popular than ever, the kitchen island has become an essential feature. And the right lighting idea is crucial to ensure optimum use of this kitchen design element.
Kitchen island lighting ideas
What purpose do you wish your kitchen island idea 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.
‘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.’
1. Opt for adjustable rise and fall pendant lights
Getting the positioning of your island lighting right can be tricky, especially above an island that might double up as a work surface and a dining space. Rather than committing to lighting positioned at a fixed height, opt for adjustable pendants that can be raised or lowered as needed.
Rise and fall lights give greater flexibility, with their weighted pulley system that means the pendants are super-easy to re-position at a height to suit.
2. Make a grand gesture with statement chandeliers
Chose lights in proportion to the size and shape of your island or the area you want to illuminate. In high-ceilinged spaces, opt for an oversized light fitting or cluster of pendants that will fill the space better than a tiny single light.
A pair of vintage crystal chandeliers adds statement style hung above a large, central island. Position at staggered heights to add visual interest, high-enough above the island so that they won’t get in the way when working there.
3. Choose an island extractor with built-in lighting
Setting your hob into an island is a good option as it means sociable chefs can cook and chat at the same time. An over-island extractor or recirculating hood is crucial as it will suck away odours, grease and steam.
Choose a design that is at least as wide as the hob, otherwise all the vapours will escape at either side. And by choosing a hood that has built-in lighting, you’ll be able to illuminate the island area too.
4. Pick an easy-clean practical finish
Steam and grease can be a problem in a small kitchen, so choose a kitchen island lighting idea and fitting that is easy to clean and maintain. Opt for metal, glass and ceramic designs rather than fabric, ply or woven finishes which will get grubby quickly.
5. Illuminate kitchen prep space
For task lighting at islands where you’ll be working, choose a fitting that’s open at the bottom so that light is directed downwards. To avoid circles of harsh, bright light, consider lights with a diffuser at the bottom to soften the glare or use semi-opaque bulbs. Installing a dimmer will allow you to adjust your kitchen lighting levels.
6. Relax the mood with soft lighting
Think about what you’ll be doing at the island before you choose lighting. If you’ll be using the space for food prep, go for bright task lighting so you can see what you’re doing safely. If it’s more of a relaxed sitting and entertaining area, choose a more decorative fitting that will give a softer, more ambient light.
7. Find the right light level
In open-plan living spaces or kitchen-diners, hang island pendant lights at a height that won’t block the view across the kitchen. Allow a clearance of around 75-90cm above the work surface and the bottom of the pendant.
In spaces with a vaulted ceiling, like this, adjust the length of pendant flexes to allow for the angle of the ceiling, so that light fittings are positioned all at the same level.
8. Super-size lighting to suit the scale of your space
Too-small a pendant will look lost above a large island or longline peninsula. Consider a staggered lighting arrangement, or a row of three to make more impact. Alternatively go for one single oversized pendant to fill the space and make a statement. In a smaller space, with a medium-sized island, consider two mid-sized pendants that will better suit the scale of the space.
9. Choose stealthy lighting for a super-simple look
For ultra-discreet island lighting that won’t clash with kitchen or decor, opt for minimalist-style strip lighting. A suspension lamp like this one features rotating reflector bars that can be fully adjusted so you choose the direction you want light to flood, either upwards or downwards.
10. Create a subtle glow at seating areas
For islands that you’ll be sitting up at, such as a breakfast bar idea, position lighting at a height that won’t dazzle when you're seated. Reduce glare by opting for matt, non-reflective finishes or opaque shades that will diffuse the light and cast a soft glow, rather than harsh, bright light.
11. Line up the light fitting
The longer the island or area that you want to light, the more light fittings you’ll require. When hanging three pendants over an island, position the first one centrally and then space the other two equal distances apart from it, depending on the length of the island.
Or instead of hanging multiple pendants, why not consider one long-line pendant. Opt for one that measures no more than two thirds the length of the island and position it with its centre point lined up with the middle of the island.
12. Create quirky one-off lighting
Try an industrial-style installation to add wow above a central island. An arrangement of simple bare-bulb fittings looks stylish and grabs the attention using luxe brass fitments. Use black lighting flex or bright neon-coloured cable to suspend light fittings from a central fitting with hook, looping the cable so that the fittings hang at staggered heights.
13. Take a soft approach
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.
14. Be brave with alternative designs
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 in this modern Pluck Kitchen.
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.
15. Match lighting throughout
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.
16. Add ambient light from the ground up
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.'
17. Blend lights into the background
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.
18. Steal the limelight with jazzy designs
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.
19. Let the light shine through
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.
20. Make a statement with cluster lights
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.
21. Keep the look simple with a single shade
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.
22. Go glam with a chandelier
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.
23. Reflect fragments of light with glass designs
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.
24. Let your lighting define the style
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.
25. Create stately style
Choose pendant lighting that mirrors the style of your kitchen island, whether it’s a pair of oriental-style lanterns above an ornate, decorative island, or modern strip lighting above a sleek, streamlined piece.
Position a pair of pendant lights equally-distanced apart when hanging above an island. Find the centre point of your island to start and then position each one roughly 30cm away from the centre, so they are approximately 60cm apart.
26. Coordinate colours to create a bold look
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.
27. Let natural light dominate
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.
28. Direct light upwards
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.'
29. Incorporate lighting into an overhead pan rack
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.'
30. Shine a colour enhancing spotlight
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.’
What does kitchen island lighting need to do?
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.'
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.
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.
Additional words by Lisa Fazzani.
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Tamara was Ideal Home's Digital Editor before joining the Woman & Home team in 2022. She has spent the last 15 years working with the style teams at Country Homes & Interiors and Ideal Home, both now at Future PLC. It’s with these award wining interiors teams that she's honed her skills and passion for shopping, styling and writing. Tamara is always ahead of the curve when it comes to interiors trends – and is great at seeking out designer dupes on the high street.
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