Guide to choosing a pendant light for your kitchen island
By Mike James
The kitchen island is the centrepiece of any large kitchen and not just because that’s where it is located in the room. As a dominant design feature, your eye is immediately drawn to the island, whether it’s been created as additional food preparation or storage space, or as a convivial space to come together for meals. But whatever the function of your kitchen island, it will need the right lighting solution to truly deliver.
A pendant light is the obvious all round choice for everyday tasks and more. But which one to choose? It’s true that pendant lights come in array of different styles and wonderful designs – just take a look at the many beautiful kitchen lighting ideas at Universal Lighting to get an idea of what’s available.
But before getting carried away by all those gorgeous lamps, perhaps it’s wise to step back and consider the lighting needs for your kitchen/diner in a bit more detail. Start with some basic questions: What other lights do you already have in place? How much natural light is there in the room? Is anything else suspended from the ceiling – a cooker hood, or pots and pans?
Identify the gaps in your lighting scheme and use the new pendant light to provide the required solution for all 4 types of lighting.
4 types of lighting
- Ambient lighting
To achieve a good level of general light in your kitchen, a pendant light can be the perfect answer. If the room is large, consider a light fitting with multiple bulbs, or a group or row of pendants spread across the island rather than a singular, single bulb pendant light. Depending on whether you will be using your kitchen island more for food prep work or for socialising, you may wish to choose a brighter or softer ambient light.
- Task lighting
For specific jobs where you need to see clearly, additional task lighting is essential. A pendant light with an open or translucent bottom will give you the necessary downward direction of the light with a high level of output. If the light emitted is too harsh for anything other than chopping vegetables or lighting up the pages of a recipe book, consider fitting a dimmer switch so you can adjust the light around the kitchen island according to your needs.
- Accent lighting
Accent lighting is used to highlight a particular feature in the room, such as a favourite painting on the wall, an architectural feature of the building or a beautiful material. Pendant lights can help showcase, say, the splendour of a sparkly quartz worktop, a lavishly set dinner table, an artfully arranged bowl of fruit or bouquet of flowers, or any other decorative objects placed on the kitchen island. The smaller the diameter of the pendant light, the narrower the light shaft.
- Decorative lighting
Finally, use decorative lighting as a feature all its own. Assuming all other lighting requirements have already been met, you are free to use stylish pendant lights as pure design features in their own right. Find a gorgeous pendant that emits a soft glow, or one that makes a dramatic statement. Don’t forget that sometimes it’s not the lamp itself but the shadows cast onto the ceiling that create the wow factor.
How high should you aim?
The height at which you position your pendant light over the kitchen island will hugely influence its impact and light output.
For optimum task lighting, it’s important not to hang the pendant too high – 80-90cm above the worktop is a good rule of thumb. Choose a slimline or see-through fixture if you feel that the lamp is obscuring your vision.
For ambient lighting, the lamp should be positioned higher. Bear in mind that you may be able to look up into the inside of the shade, so you may wish to choose one that has been colour coated or given an interesting finish on the inside. Alternatively, choose a long, narrow shade opening. A glass or other translucent pendant light will give a greater spread of light in all directions.
For decorative lighting, you can play fast and loose with your pendant light fixtures, positioning them for impact wherever you choose. Statement lamps with decorative chains will sit lower to allow for the impact of the chain – some can be hung as low as task light fitting.
Style and substance
Pendant lights come in an astonishing array of styles and designs, so with a bit of research you’re bound to find the perfect solution for your kitchen island. For a more coherent look, try to coordinate your pendant light with other light fittings in the room, particularly in an open plan scheme. If the space allows, choose a feature pendant or chandelier complemented by several smaller pendant lights.
In terms of style, it is up to you to match or contrast, however the general advice is to not mix and match too much – you don’t want your kitchen to look like the local lighting showroom! When combining different styles, try to find a common theme to tie them together – perhaps a similar colour or metal finish, or other materials in the room. You could match your pendant light to cabinet handles, kitchen tiles or soft furnishing colours to achieve a considered and intentional design scheme that will work in your kitchen/diner and beyond.