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Pendant Lighting for Kitchen Islands: Ideas Guaranteed to Brighten and Update Your Kitchen

May 27, 2021
By the Vevano Home Team

It’s no secret that kitchen lighting needs to be fairly utilitarian. After all, you need the right level of light in the right places to do the detailed work that comes with making a beautiful meal and/or entertaining friends and family. But just because your kitchen light needs to be high-functioning doesn’t mean it can’t also be a beautiful, focal design point of your kitchen.

More and more attention is being paid to the kitchen as the heart of the home, which means it should feel welcoming and attractive, especially for households that enjoy entertaining family and friends. One way to add practical task light, plus visual interest, to your kitchen is to install pendant lighting over your kitchen island.

Pendant Lighting for Kitchen Island


The kitchen island is where a lot of life probably happens in your home: meal prep, casual family dinners, get-togethers with friends, afternoon homework sessions, school lunch assembly lines, and much, much more. While this area of your kitchen needs bright and reliable light, it also can serve as a key design element within your home if you get a little creative with your lighting choices. Pendant lights are stylish and functional, turning your kitchen island into a design superstar.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these pendant styles and what they can bring to your kitchen:

Linear Suspension

A linear suspension pendant lamp or linear chandelier works beautifully in a kitchen with enough space to effectively handle a light fixture with more presence. These fixtures often are dramatic, featuring either a multi-light arrangement or one long pendant. Most of the time, linear pendants are fairly modern in their aesthetic, but it’s not impossible to find versions that are more traditional in their look. A couple of good examples of this type of pendant include our Capitol 12.5-inch Four Light Linear Pendant in Black and Antique Brass or the Cono 14-inch Three Light Linear Pendant in Polished Chrome.

starburst linear pendant light
linear pendant light in antique brass
linear pendant in polished chrome

Track Pendants

This type of pendant generally features hanging lights that are attached to a track, which allows them to move position and provide versatile levels of task lighting over your kitchen island. While track lighting often gets a bad rap for not being super decorative, using track pendants can help boost the design factor by a few notches while also enjoying the versatility benefits of traditional track lighting. If you have existing track lighting in your kitchen, you may be able to switch out the fixture with pendant lights, you just have to make sure that the pendants you choose are compatible with the existing track. We can help you with that!

pendant lighting over kitchen lighting

Multi-Pendant Lighting

Much like linear suspension pendants, multi-pendant lighting options are best used in large spaces where a more involved lighting fixture can literally shine. You might also see this type of fixture referred to as a pendant chandelier—the Spiral 16.75-inch Wide Seven-Light Single Pendant using G9 Xenon Bulbs is a great example. A pendant like this that uses multiple bulbs can offer an even spread of light over an area that needs task lighting. Most fixtures featuring three or five bulbs, but you also can find versions that use more bulbs, like the ones featured here. In addition to providing adequate lighting, multi-pendant lights are also pretty dramatic design elements—the Mystic 24-inch Wide 16 Light Single Pendant using PCB Integrated LED Bulbs in Polished Chrome is another great example of this kind of island pendant light.

multi-pendant light in kitchen over table at night

You can achieve a similar effect by using several mini pendants, like the Coraline Six-inch One Light Mini Pendant, spread out above the surface area of your island. By doing so, you can control the number of bulbs you’ll need. If you go this route, it’s best to use an odd number of mini pendant lights over your kitchen island workspace. This will not only give you balance on either side of your lights, but will also help your collection of lights to form a focal point.

mystic single pendant in polished chrome
multi light pendant in polished chrome
integrated multi-light pendant

Drum Lighting

Drum pendant lights are useful not only for illuminating the kitchen island area, but also for creating a sense of warmth and charm within your kitchen. The drum itself may be fashioned from glass, fabric, or even stainless steel, and the fixture will be open at both the top and the bottom. The drum is a very popular style of kitchen pendant light, and you can find options to fit any design aesthetic, from ornate and traditional to minimalist and sleek.

Glass Pendant Lighting

Some pendant lights feature a glass enclosure around the bulb(s), which produces a soft, artistic and stylish lighting result. You can find glass pendants at a wide variety of price points, some featuring hand-blown glass, Murano glass, and various types of clear or colored glass. You’ll also see glass lighting in a variety of shapes, including round and square pendant lights. See the Branch 11-inch Wide One-Light Single Pendant using E26 Medium Incandescent Bulbs in Natural Aged Brass or the Stella 13.75-inch Wide One-Light Single Pendant using E26 Medium Incandescent Bulbs in Satin Nickel for design inspiration. A glass island pendant light is a great way to add an elegant touch to your kitchen design.

single glass pendant
single glass pendant

Adjustable Pendant Lighting

If you need your kitchen island lighting to be as versatile as possible, you can opt for pendant lights that feature a mechanism that allows you to change the angle or height of your lights. You might also see these called directional or spotlight pendant lights.

Star-Shaped Pendant Lighting

If you’re looking for a real conversation piece and design superstar (pun intended), the star-shaped hanging light can make a dramatic addition to any kitchen. They’re typically made of glass or crystal and are sure to be a point of interest within your kitchen décor. If you’re looking for this kind of striking visual, the Polaris 40 x 20-inch Sixteen Light Pendant in Polished Chrome can be a great option, invoking feelings of starbursts and fireworks displays.

star pendant

Globe Pendants

A globe pendant features a glass or fabric enclosure that fits entirely around the bulb, typically providing a softer level of kitchen island light. You can find globe pendants in several different styles, so they can complement just about any kitchen design scheme. The Vesper 11.75-inch Wide One-Light Single Pendant using E26 Medium Incandescent Bulbs in Satin Brass / Black is one such example of a globe pendant.

globe duo-tone kitchen pendant
vesper kitchen pendant

Ultra-Modern Pendants

Maybe your kitchen space is uber modern, with a sleek, industrial feel. The best pendant for this type of setting may be a hanging light that doesn’t resemble anything you’ve ever seen before. Spirals, twirls, discs, and unusual undulations in pendant lighting are visually striking and make for great conversation pieces. Versions like the Twisted 24.5-Inch Wide One-Light Single Pendant using PCB Integrated LED Bulbs in Matte White, the Perpetual 14.25-inch Single Pendant in Black Chrome, and the Union 4.75 x 39.5-inch Pendant in Multi-Plated are sure to be design winners.

modern pendant for kitchen
union pendant in multi-plated
perpetual ultra-modern pendant

Pendant Light vs Chandelier: What’s the Difference?

Pendant lights often are confused with chandeliers, but the two are a bit different. A traditional pendant light features one or more bulbs with one stem, wire or chain connection per bulb. In contrast, a chandelier features multiple bulbs all suspended from a single connection point. Both types of lighting can work together to create a stylish space, especially with an open concept setting where both are visible at the same time. Chandeliers typically are used for ambient light, while pendants lend themselves more naturally to focused task lighting.

single globe pendant in kitchen

How to Measure for Kitchen Island Pendant Lighting

As a general rule, a light fixture should hang at least 10 to 12 inches below the ceiling plane, if your kitchen features a standard eight-foot ceiling. For every foot taller your ceiling is, you should add approximately three inches of clearance so that your pendant light fixture doesn’t awkwardly hug the ceiling.

To determine the height of your pendant lights based on your ceiling height, start by measuring the distance from your floor to the hanging light installation site. Then multiply that measurement by both two and three. Doing so gives you a range of inches that can be appropriate for your pendant light height. For example, if your kitchen has a 10-foot ceiling, the range at which you’d want to hang your pendant light(s) would be 20 to 30 inches.

Measuring for Task Lighting

How you hang your pendant lighting over your kitchen island depends a good deal on the function you need your island lighting to serve. For example, if you want task lighting to illuminate the surface while you work, then you’ll need to be careful not to hang your pendants too high or they will lose their brightness.

If task lighting is your goal, a good rule of thumb is to make sure your lights are no more than 30 to 36 inches above your island countertop. This will also place your pendants within most people’s sightline, so a slim, non-obtrusive model will work well for this purpose.

two kitchen pendants hanging over kitchen table

If you need your kitchen pendant lights to be higher than this, you may need to supplement with additional forms of task lighting. Keep in mind that if you have family members who are taller than average, you’ll want to err on the side of caution when it comes to the height of your pendant lights. No one wants to constantly bump their head on too-low-hanging pendant lights!

Spacing Pendant Lights

If you’re using multiple mini pendant lights for your island lighting, you’ll want the distance between them to be roughly equal to the width or diameter of each island light. For example, if your lights measure 16 inches in diameter, you’ll want to leave 16 inches between each light.

For those of you who like to be extra precise, start by measuring the length and width of the kitchen island, dining table, etc., over which your pendant light(s) will hang. Subtract 12 inches from each measurement, which will help you ensure that you leave six inches of clearance around your pendant light(s).

track lighting in kitchen

If you want to know how many pendants will look balanced in your space, take your length measurement, minus 12, and divide by the diameter of the pendants you’d like to use. That will give you a guide as to how many pendant lights will look balanced and well-proportioned within your space.

Keep in mind that for kitchens in open-concept areas that blend a kitchen with a dining room and/or living area, you don’t want to use pendant lights of several different varieties. For example, you might choose minimalist pendant lights for your island lighting, while opting for a more dramatic chandelier for your dining room. The point is that with an open concept, you’ll be able to see all lighting fixtures at the same time, and you don’t want to choose so many different styles that your home ends up with a hodge-podge of pendants that look like they should be in a showroom.

A good rule of thumb is to feature no more than two different styles of pendant lighting within the same space. And when using pendant lights in more than one style, try to find one feature that can tie them together—for example, you might choose lights with the same finish so that they blend within your space.

Pick the Best Pendant Lighting for Your Kitchen Island Needs

Kitchen island lighting can make an amazing addition to your home. Whether you’re looking for pure functionality, or a blend of function and style, we’re confident there’s an island pendant light—or set of lights—that can meet your needs.

If you’re ready to talk with an expert on what kind of pendant lights are best for your home, our team stands ready to help. We hope you’ll take a look through the extensive range of options we offer for kitchen island lighting and call us today to help you get started on transforming the illumination and the wow factor of your kitchen.