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Pendant lights over a kitchen island: Options, spacing, height and more

Planning a full scale kitchen reno or just thinking about replacing your pendant lights over your kitchen island?

We’ve got everything you need to know in terms of how many lights based on the width of your island, how high off the counters they need to be and how far to space them–so stick around for your full guide on island pendant lighting!

We’ve also included our favorite choices and what we’re leaning towards for our up-coming kitchen renovation.

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Kitchen island pendant lighting: Everything to know

kitchen with center island and hanging lights

How many lights do I need for a 6 foot island?

Two pendant lights should be more than sufficient for a 6 foot island. You could also go with one light that has multiple lights off of it, as well.

Here’s the general rule of light spacing for a 6 foot island:

How many pendants do I need for an 8 foot island? What about a 10 foot island?

For an eight foot island, you need at least two pendant lights.

Depending on the size, you can also go with three smaller lights, too. It’s thought that odd groupings are more visually pleasing, but it’s truly a preference. Regardless of how many lights you go with, they need to be spaced out with the correct symmetry.

For a 10 foot island, it’s best to go with three pendant lights to balance out the length of your island. Follow the guidelines in the below graphic for placement help. If you’d like to select large pendants (at least 25″ in diameter) you may want to stick with two pendant lights.

To get the best idea of what your pendants will look like over an island use helium balloons for placement and size reference–it’s a great visual trick to help you decide!

kitchen with center island and hanging lights

For two lights

  • Find the center part of your island. Now move your tape measure over 14-15 inches on both sides. This is where your lights should be.
  • Make sure you have a minimum 6 inch clearance between the light circumference and edge of island

For three lights

  • Make sure you have a 6 inch clearance between the light and the edge of the island
  • Put a minimum of 2 feet (30 inches is best) between each light. The spacing between each light should be identical.
hanging lights diagram
hanging lights diagram

Shop kitchen island pendant lighting

Recommended pendant light height over an island

Your pendant lights need to be 30 to 36 inches from the base of the light to the countertop. You don’t want to go any lower than this, as you’ll find that you’re going to be bobbing your head up and down trying to make eye contact with your friends or family.

You also don’t want the pendants to be higher than this as your lights will look completely disconnected from your island and you want to create that cohesion between your pendant lights and your island.

Additionally, regardless of how tall your ceilings are, the base of your pendant light should be no higher than 72 inches from the floor.

Essentially, you want to make sure your pendant lights are not too far off the ground–you want to make a statement, not have them get lost in your tall ceiling.

The biggest thing you should concern yourself with is making sure pendants are not blocking sight lines–i.e. you don’t want to be dodging the pendant to have a conversation with someone while you’re standing up around your island.

Keep in mind, these numbers I’ve given are the recommended distances you should aim for–each kitchen has its own unique elements to work around, so nothing will ever be perfect.

Use these numbers as a guide and try to stick as close to them as possible. Remember to use the balloon method to test out how your pendants will look in the space!

kitchen with center island and hanging lights

How big should pendant lights be over a kitchen island?

When thinking about how big or wide your pendant light should be over your island, you’ll need to not only consider how long your island is, but how wide it is too.

For example, if your island is only 3 feet wide, you likely don’t want pendants that have a large diameter. On the other hand, if you have an island that is five feet wide, a larger pendant will work well in the space.

If you’re planning a kitchen remodel, don’t forget to browse my post on kitchen island dimensions and considerations.

Other things to consider when choosing pendant lights for a kitchen island

Take into account your ceiling height

Beyond making sure your pendant lighting is well suited for the width and length of your island, you want to consider your ceiling height when making your decision, too. In newer homes, this isn’t really going to be an issue, unless you have a cathedral ceiling.

But in older homes (like mine) where ceilings are only 8 feet, you need to make sure that the pendant you’re getting doesn’t hang down too far. Keep in mind that it needs to be about 72 inches from the floor and about 30 inches from the base of the pendant to the countertop.

You may have to fudge the numbers just a bit, to get the pendant you want, but don’t fudge them too much, or you’ll have to move your head around your light when you’re talking with people–a big no, no.

kitchen with center island and hanging lights

Decide on the focal point in your kitchen

Choosing large pendant lights that aren’t clear or see through often means they set the tone for the kitchen, as the eye is drawn to them immediately.

If you wanted the island and the lights to be your focus, great, but if you wanted your range hood to be the focus, you need to choose lights that make less of a statement.

Should the finish of my pendant lights match my cabinet hardware? What about my appliances or faucet?

There’s no hard and fast rules here, just do what you like! I’m a huge fan of mixing metals in my overall design aesthetic. I think it really helps things look unique and not so cookie cutter. Here’s what I recommend if you want to mix metals. Obviously keep all of your handles the same.

Then for lights, you can make them stand out–for example it can totally work to have chrome drawer knobs/pulls and faucet paired with gold pendants. The key though is to make sure the gold pendants tie in to the design nicely by replicating the tone somewhere else in the space.

It could be a light with similar gold tones over your breakfast nook, or you could tie them in with your barstools, etc. You do traditionally want to keep all of your plumbing fixtures the same, though. Think faucet, pot filler, etc. for a more cohesive look.

Our favorite choices for pendant lights over a kitchen island

Sources to lights shown are below graphics!

kitchen with center island and hanging lights
kitchen with center island and hanging lights

Shop pendant lights:

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5 Comments

  1. This is very helpful. I have a large island 43 x 120 with a vaulted ceiling with a large beam at the top of the ceiling. So I could only have one light. Would you recommend doing one pendant light. I did wire the beam to hang one if I want

    1. If you went with a large pendant that put out a good bit of light I would consider it, especially if you have ample recessed lighting.

  2. Hello Kelly,I have a kitchen island that is 10’in length by 5-6ft.I am looking at pendant lights that are 12″wide by 13″height. Should I go with one or two above the island?
    Thank you in advance for your time.
    ~Jill