How to Choose Pendant Lighting for Your Kitchen
Updated: Nov 29, 2022
Having the right lighting in a room significantly impacts how the space works and feels. And that really applies in the kitchen, which these days serve as a workspace and a gathering place.
Choosing the perfect kitchen pendants is an important decision, and while there are a few rules to keep in mind, there is no one ‘right’ answer. Your suspension lighting should reflect your goals, your kitchen style, and your personal aesthetic.
Let’s explore each of these, so you can feel comfortable choosing just the right pendant lighting for your kitchen island and your style.
Do the Pendants Take Center Stage or Not?
We’ll start with this important decision – do you want the pendants to be a focal point, or would you prefer to put the emphasis elsewhere?
Every kitchen – and every room – is an accumulation of visual details, taking your eye from point A to B to C and so on. With a strong element incorporated into a design, the eye will stop for a while, which is how you can think of a focal point.
That concept easily translates into pendant selection because you choose between a design that blocks the view or one that allows the eye to continue. Consider a kitchen light fixture with a strong metal shade in a bold color – you could not see past it easily. But if a fixture has a glass shade, you’ll be able to see beyond it.
Which one is best? The answer: the kitchen pendant that meets your goal of either stopping the eye or allowing it to continue to another feature. How about a few examples to illustrate?
In this smaller kitchen, we wanted to encourage the line of sight so the kitchen would feel larger, and glass pendants did just that.
In this modern farmhouse kitchen, there was no concern about making the room feel small. But we wanted to emphasize the chevron backsplash, so another style of glass pendant is beautiful and functional. But does not take attention away from the room’s most interesting feature.
By contrast, these black and gold pendants draw the eye and get a lot of attention before letting it move on to notice the wood hood in the back and the many other black elements in the kitchen.
Even more of an attention seeker, this pair of huge wood pendants in a white kitchen are the most noticeable feature, and everything else fades into the background. If you have pendants you love enough to give them all the attention, why not go for it?
Don’t think that glass is your only option for pendants that allow the eye to keep moving.
In this California kitchen, the first feature you see is the black island, and then you discover the pendants above.
Their open metal cage keeps them from arresting the visual flow. So you can also see the black window frame behind them or the view from the floor-to-ceiling window in the back of the room when you approach the island from another direction.
Choosing the Best Size Pendants for Your Kitchen Island
Once you have determined the goal for your pendants, you’ll need to consider the size of your island and your kitchen when selecting fixtures and know how many of them you will need.
When you have a smaller island, naturally, you will use fewer pendants and likely choose a smaller design. For example, if your island fits two counter stools, a pendant width of 8-9 inches will work well.
For a regular size island – about 80 inches wide with room for up to four stools – two medium-size or three smaller pendants work well, as in this example from a kitchen renovation I completed in France:
If you have a larger island, adjust accordingly. For this massive island – it’s almost 190 inches wide and 55 inches deep – I was able to choose an oversized pendant, and four of them will fit perfectly.
They create a good balance in the room because the kitchen is large, too, as you probably guessed.
You’ll see in this drawing that you also want to consider spacing the pendants from each other and the edge of the island. To get them the right height, let the bottom float about 32 inches above the countertop.
Pendant Trends and Your Style
There are so many fun options when it comes to pendants that narrowing down the choices might be the hardest part of selecting yours. One of today’s popular trends is small, round glass pendants with a wine goblet look.
Glass is an excellent choice for any space where you don’t want the pendant to be the focal point. And it can work well in smaller or larger kitchens.
Hanging multiples is a more popular style now than a single wide pendant with multiple lights. There is a trend toward beachy or coastal style, especially where I am in California, so I’m seeing a lot of rattan pendants.
Of course, the farmhouse look is still popular, and rustic pendants in black metal work well with this style. Gold and brass are trending metals for more traditional pendants.
In addition to all-glass globe pendants, those that combine a black or gold top with a transparent or white bottom bring a nice twist to this minimalist option. It’s always interesting to bring color to your kitchen, and colorful pendants are a great way to do this. For example, if your kitchen is navy, a light blue pendant will really shine.
Now that you know about the latest trends in pendants remember when I mentioned that your personal aesthetic was important? Depending on how comfortable you are with making your pendant lighting stand out, you can choose fixtures that blend in or those that demand attention.
If you prefer not to take a big risk with pendants, a medium-sized, simple fixture matches your kitchen's color. White on white or glass with anything – can be a great complement to the space. If you are ready for something more extravagant, go larger or brighter.
These large, modern pendants above double islands in this show house are real showstoppers.
Their metal cages draw the eye, but because they are not solid, your eye continues and lands on the black hood, which is also visually framed by the four pendants. It’s a dream from a one-point perspective, and I just love it! Now, what will you choose?
Let’s be individual. Let’s be bold. And of course, let’s be beautiful.