Kitchen island lighting ideas to add ambience to a cooking space

Whether cooking, eating or socialising lighting makes your island shine bright

Modern hwite kitchen, large lilac breakfast bar with high bar stools, low hanging pendant lights
(Image credit: Future PLC/Douglas Gibb)

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 ideas 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 lighting experts 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

Kitchen with black panelled island, white metro tiles, wooden bar stools and metal pendant lighting

(Image credit: Future PLC/Chris Snook)

Getting the positioning of your island pendant 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. Add a softer texture

wooden kitchen island with white top, black stools and hanging pendant lights

(Image credit: Future PLC / Douglas Gibb)

If you want a kitchen to feel homely and welcoming, bring in softer textures via window dressings and lampshades. 

Pendant kitchen island lighting ideas are a fantastic opportunity for adding texture - consider rattan lampshades or soft linen shades. Tie the tone of the material or wood into the rest of your kitchen or island design for a more put-together look. 

3. Make a grand gesture with statement chandeliers

kitchen island lighting ideas with pair of chandeliers

(Image credit: Future PLC/Jo Henderson)

Choose lights in proportion to the size and shape of your island or the area you want to illuminate a traditional kitchen idea. 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 add 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.

4. Choose an island extractor with built-in lighting

kitchen island lighting ideas with extractor light

(Image credit: Future PLC/Chris Snook)

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 make this double up as your kitchen island lighting ideas, too.

5. Pick an easy-clean practical finish

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

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Parmiter)

Steam and grease can be a problem in a small kitchen, so choose kitchen island lighting ideas that are easy to clean and maintain. Opt for metal, glass and ceramic designs rather than fabric, ply or woven finishes which will get grubby quickly.

6. Illuminate kitchen prep space

kitchen island lighting ideas with copper pendant lights

(Image credit: Pooky)

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 kitchen island lighting ideas 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.

7. Relax the mood with soft lighting


(Image credit: Holloways of Ludlow)

Think about what you’ll be doing at the island before you choose your kitchen island lighting ideas. 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.

8. Find the right light level

kitchen island lighting ideas with three black pendant lights

(Image credit: Future PLC/Mark Bolton)

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.

9. Super-size lighting to suit the scale of your space

kitchen island lighting ideas with three blue pendant lights

(Image credit: Neptune)

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.

10. Create a subtle glow at seating areas

kitchen island lighting ideas with frosted glass pendant lights

(Image credit: Fritz Fryer)

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

kitchen island lighting ideas with long bar light pendant Wren

(Image credit: Wren Kitchens)

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

kitchen with blue kitchen cabinets with statement hanging lights

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Gile)

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

navy kitchen with wooden herringbone flooring, artwork and an island

(Image credit: Future PLC/Rachael Smith)

If you're looking to add kitchen island lighting ideas without the 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. Match lighting throughout

navy kitchen with wooden herringbone flooring, artwork and an island

(Image credit: Future PLC/Rachael Smith)

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.

15. Add ambient light from the ground up

kitchen island lighting

(Image credit: Magnet)

Think about the whole island when considering kitchen island lighting ideas. 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 ambience to a contemporary kitchen and is perfect for those that love to host and entertain.'

16. Blend lights into the background

white kitchen with glass roof extension and black kitchen island

(Image credit: Future PLC/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.

17. Let the light shine through

Garden Trading Hoxton Domed Pendant Light

(Image credit: Garden Trading)

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.


What does kitchen island lighting need to do?

When it comes to kitchen island lighting ideas, 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.

Which pendant light style are you going to go for?


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. 

With contributions from