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how to space pendant lights over an island

How To Space Pendant Lights Over An Island

Lighting is a very important part of any good kitchen design. And one of the areas you’ll probably want to pay special attention to is the island. Islands are a wonderful focal point in most kitchens and need to be well lit. This not only includes finding the right style and size lights but also spacing them properly. So how do you space pendant lights over an island? Evenly and with balance. Start from the center of your island and measure out. The spacing is based on not only the size of your island but also the lights your planning to hang. Both need to be well proportioned and positioned.

To space your kitchen island pendant lighting like we do, measure the length of your kitchen island and find the center. Then measure 4-6 inches from the edge of the countertop. This mark represents the edge of the outer pendants. You can go right up to the edge and even a little over sometimes, but I like to keep my pendants within the boundaries of the island. This ensures no one will bump their head when walking by or standing up.

Now that you have the center and outer edges marked, it’s time to position the pendants over the island. You’ll want to hang them in the space between the center and outer edges you just marked out. The basic rule of thumb I use for spacing in between pendant lights is, I want at least the same width apart as they are in diameter. For example, if your pendant lights are 24 inches round, then you’ll want at least 24 inches of space between them.

Ahead we’ll look at a bunch of other scenarios for spacing your pendant lights above a kitchen island.

How Far Apart Should Pendant Lights Be Spaced?

The first two things you need to determine is how many pendant lights you want to hang above your island and how big they are. Ideally, I like to keep my pendant lights about 4-6 inches from the edge of the countertop but you can go right up to the edge. I try not to go over because I don’t want anyone hitting the lights with their head as they walk by or stand up. I also don’t like how it looks when the pendant breaks the edge of the island.

No matter how many lights you hang, they should all be the same distance apart. Pendant lights should never be unevenly spaced.

Proper pendant light spacing also has a lot to do with how many lights you plan on hanging. Some people may hang 4 small pendants while others opt for 2, 3 or even a single large one.

Start by measuring the overall length of the island and marking the center. All your other measurements will be done from the center line and the edges.

As a general rule don’t go over the edge of the island with a pendant light. In some rare cases you may have to do it, I have plenty of times. But when possible try to keep the lights within the boundary of the island.

Here are some basic rules I use.

how to space a single pendant light over a kitchen island inforgraphic

One Pendant Light

If you’re using just one large light, then it would typically be placed in the center of the island. That’s what makes most sense and looks the best.

For smaller islands, this is a great solution. But we use single pendant lights on larger islands too. Although these are generally more of a chandelier look than a pendant.

Keep the pendant at least 4-6 inches from the edge of the countertop and at least 30-40 inches from the top of counter to bottom of light.

Typically spacing a single pendant over a kitchen island is easy because you just hang it over the middle. Unless the island is really small or the light is gigantic you shouldn’t have an issue with it sticking out over the edge of the counter.

how to space two pendant lights over a kitchen island inforgraphic

Two Pendants

When you’re using two pendant lights it gets a bit harder to space them. Always try to find a sense of balance. If you have a 6 foot island and want two lights, don’t choose pendants that are 36 inch wide. You’d be much better off with 2 or 3 12 inch lights that are evenly spaced.

Start from the center line of the island and then measure out. If you have a 6 foot island then you’ve got two 3 foot halves. Position your pendant in the center of each half. Adjust this if your lights are really larger. For example, if your pendants are 30 inches wide, you’ll want to keep at least 30 inches between them, which means they’ll be pushed more towards the edge of the island. This is fine as long as your positioning is even and balanced.

how to space three lights over an island inforgraphic

Three Pendants

When I’m positioning three pendants above a kitchen island I typically go with smaller pendants in the 8 – 12 inch range. Of course you can adjust this if your island is really large.

One pendant is placed in the center of the island and the remaining two are positioned outward from there. The same basic rule applies. Keep at least the width of the pendant in between each pendant. I also still like to keep about 4-6 inches of space from the outer pendants are the edge of the counter.

how to space four pendant lights over a kitchen island inforgraphic

Four Pendants

When you space four pendant lights above an island you’ll want to go even smaller. I generally use about a 4-8 inch pendant. Measure and find your center line. Then measure 4-6 inches from the edge of the counter. Then take the remaining space and slice it into 4 equal sections. Position a pendant in each.

The Rule Of Four

Another simple way to position two pendants over a kitchen island is to use the rule of four. I use it all the time. It’s easy to do and looks great.

First measure the length of your kitchen island countertop.

Next, divide that number by 4. The number you get is how many inches you measure in from the ends of the island to place the center of your pendants. For example, if my island counters are 80 inches long, so I divide that measurement by four: 80 ÷ 4 = 20. Then I center my pendants 20 inches in from each end of my kitchen island.

Keep in mind this doesn’t work if your pendants are really large because they could end up sticking out past the edge of the counter. But if your using the standard 6-12 inch pendant it works great and is really easy to figure out.

I really like this island pendant spacing because it creates more space in the middle of the pendants while still feeling even and well balanced.

This method works great if your island is centered on a custom range hood. We do this a lot in kitchen because everyone seems to be building custom hoods these days. By creating a larger space in between pendants the hood doesn’t get blocked.

As You Use More Lights They Get Smaller

You may be noticing that as you hang more pendant lights they tend to get smaller. This is because space starts to get tight as you add more lights. Try to stick to the basic rules. Use even spacing and keep the lights away from the edges.

When you want more pendants it’s important to do some basic math before you buy them. Take the total width of the island and divide. If you want 4 lights over a 6 foot island and plan on keeping them 4 inches from the edges that leaves a total of 64 inches to work with. Now, if you want spacing between the lights equal to the light’s diameter that leaves you with a maximum pendant size of about 9 inches. How did I figure that out?

It’s easy. The space between the lights counts as a light. So in the above example, having 64 inches to work with and 4 pendants to hang, what you have are 7 equal spaces to fill. 4 spaces will be filled with lights and 3 with nothing. Nothing being the gap between each light. Just divide the 64 inches by 7 and you get 9.14 inches.

Use this same basic math to find your ideal pendant size no matter how many you add. For smaller islands using just 2-3 lights it’s not as important. However, if your doing something elaborate with 10 lights you’ll need to do some careful figuring.

How High Should I Hang Kitchen Island Pendant Lights?

Spacing your pendant lights above the kitchen island is very important but so is how high you hang them. Too low and they’ll be in your face, too high and they’re not really pendants anymore.

The ideal height depends a lot on how large your pendant lights are. For a larger pendant that gives off more light, you can hang it a bit higher. Also, because it’s larger it’ll be easier to bump so higher is sometimes better.

However, a smaller pendant light can hang lower because these typically give off less light and are harder to hit.

The most common spacing between the top of the island and the bottom of the light is 30-40 inches. However this is a minimum rule of thumb number. If you have really high ceilings then it’s OK to hang them higher. I hang pendants at 48 inches all the time because we work in kitchens with 9-10 foot ceilings. For a standard 8 foot kitchen ceiling I’d try to keep it to the standard 30-40 inch range.

Another thing to consider is the height of the people in the home. If your really tall then you may want to adjust them a little. Ideally the lights would be higher than eye level so your not staring directly into them when you walk through the kitchen. Higher then eye level is best if you have the ceiling height.

Line Of Sight

It’s important to consider line of sight when picking the right height for your island pendants. You don’t want them directly in line with your eye when your standing or sitting down. This also plays into the height of your stools.

I almost always choose and hang my pendants last whenever I design a kitchen. This way I can adjust the height based on the stools or chairs we’re using and the height of the people in the house. It’s hard to get it right for everyone all the time but do your best.

When in doubt, hang the pendants higher rather than lower.

Keep in mind the height of the pendant itself and the chain/pole. For example, some pendant designs have a very small light and a long chain while others have a shorter chain and a fat light. I’ve used pendants in the pas that were 36″ inches high with a very short chain. With lights like this you don’t have as much play to adjust them because the chain is so short. However, if you’ve got a small light and a long chain there’s lots of room to work with.

Can You Use Pendants With Low Kitchen Ceilings?

It can get tricky if you have very low ceilings but I say yes.

8 foot is the typical minimum height you’ll find in homes built in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s. However these days new homes use 9 foot as the new standard and 10 foot as an upgrade. Many older homes built in the 70s and earlier have under 8 foot. Unless your kitchen has something very low I’d still use a pendant over the island.

Many people recommend using recessed lights or semi flush mount lights if your kitchen has low ceilings but I like pendants over an island.They draw attention and create a nice focal point.

To make pendant lights work in kitchens with low ceilings simply adjust the height measurements a bit and bring your pendants down a little lower. To do this, choose a pendant with a smaller light, not something that’s 24 inches thick. I’ve had great success with this.Many of the Modern style pendants are small anyway so there’s lots of variety to choose from.

You can also try a clear glass pendant that you can see through. It helps make the ceilings feel higher by not creating a mid point to scale against. I love hanging clear bulbs from a chain or pole as a pendant. It’s Modern, Industrial, Minimalist and very Cheap.

Real World Examples Of How To Properly Space Pendant Lights

Below we’ll take a look at some real world examples of how to properly space pendant lights above a kitchen island.

three lights over an island infographic how to space a single chandelier pendant light over a kitchen island inforgraphic how to space two pendant lights over a kitchen island inforgraphic how to position three pendant lights over a kitchen island inforgraphic how to hang a single pendant light over a kitchen island inforgraphic how to hang a single chandelier pendant light over an island inforgraphic how to hang a chandelier pendant light over a kitchen island inforgraphic how to space three pendant lights over a kitchen island inforgraphic how to space two large pendant lights over a kitchen island inforgraphic how to space three pendant lights over a kitchen island inforgraphic how to space three pendant lights over a kitchen island inforgraphic

Summary: How To Space Pendant Lights Over An Island

Lighting is a very important part of any good kitchen design. And one of the areas you’ll probably want to pay special attention to is the island. Islands are a wonderful focal point in most kitchens and need to be well lit. This not only includes finding the right style and size lights but also spacing them properly. So how do you space pendant lights over an island? Evenly and with balance. Start from the center of your island and measure out. The spacing is based on not only the size of your island but also the lights your planning to hang. Both need to be well proportioned and positioned.

To space your kitchen island pendant lighting like we do, measure the length of your kitchen island and find the center. Then measure 4-6 inches from the edge of the countertop. This mark represents the edge of the outer pendants. You can go right up to the edge and even a little over sometimes, but I like to keep my pendants within the boundaries of the island. This ensures no one will bump their head when walking by or standing up.

Now that you have the center and outer edges marked, it’s time to position the pendants over the island. You’ll want to hang them in the space between the center and outer edges you just marked out. The basic rule of thumb I use for spacing in between pendant lights is, I want at least the same width apart as they are in diameter. For example, if your pendant lights are 24 inches round, then you’ll want at least 24 inches of space between them.

If you have any questions or comments about spacing pendant lights E-mail any time.

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