How High to Hang Lights Above Kitchen Island Counters

When designing our own kitchen, choosing the correct height for the pendant lights above the kitchen island was so important.  The height of the lights above the island countertop has such a big effect on the overall feel of the kitchen and design aesthetic.  

The pendant lights should be hung at a length that is not only visually appealing but functional for people using the kitchen or sitting at the island. In this article, I will cover the ideal height for pendant lighting over an island, along with a few other considerations.

I will also be covering the measurements of my specific kitchen, along with providing pictures of our actual home for reference.  

When designing a custom home, it is so helpful to see real kitchens with real measurements.  My hope for you in sharing our home is that you will find inspiration and information that will help in designing your own dream kitchen.

How High Above Kitchen Islands Lights Should Be

As a general rule of thumb, light fixtures should be hung between 31-36 inches above the countertop of the kitchen island. 

To be more specific, this measurement is from the top of the countertop to the bottom of the light fixture or light pendant.

For our specific home, we hung our kitchen island lighting on the higher end of that range.  It works with our ceiling height (10 feet) and the size of the light fixtures we purchased.

how high to hang lights over kitchen island countertops

Given that the standard height of a kitchen counter top is 36 inches above the floor, that would make the bottom of the light fixture around 67-72 inches from the floor.  This would leave plenty of space to be able to see across the kitchen island, without a light fixture obscuring your view.

No one wants to have to look around a light fixture to talk to someone.  Additionally, they wouldn’t want to look directly into a light bulb.  So, hanging it in the range of 31 inches to 36 inches above the kitchen island countertop will provide adequate space.

Considerations When Choosing the Right Pendant Height for Your Space

There are a couple things to consider when you are deciding what the right height between the island countertop and the bottom of the pendant above it.

Ceiling Height

The first consideration is the height of your ceiling.  If you have a ceiling height of 10 feet or above, you can stick to a higher number in that range.

For example, we have 10 foot high ceilings in our kitchen.  The bottom of our light fixture is 36 inches from the top of the countertop.  We went with a higher number in the recommended range because we had the ample space to do it.  

The pendants don’t feel too high. In fact, it opens our kitchen up much more.  Hanging the pendants lower might make the kitchen feel more cramped and crowded.

how high to hang pendants above kitchen island countertop

If you have particularly low ceilings, like say around 8 feet tall, a good rule of thumb is to use a flush or semi-flush mount light fixture.  This setup would provide enough light and it would be functional as far as sight lines go.  

You would still be able to see across the kitchen without an obstructed view.  A light fixture that is higher up will draw the eyes up and make the ceiling appear taller as well.

If you do end up hanging pendants on a low ceiling, consider purchasing a glass pendant that you can see through.  That way, you can at least see through it partially and the kitchen will feel more open.

How Many Pendants to Put Above a Kitchen Island

Large kitchen islands are much more prevalent in new construction homes now.  So, it’s important to decide not just how high to hang the pendants above the larger island, but how many kitchen pendants are needed.

The island in our kitchen is 10 feet wide.  The original floor plan of our home had 3 pendants above the island.  However, I reduced that number to 2 pendants.  This was for a couple of reasons.

The first reason is that I wanted the line of sight to be unobstructed when looking into the kitchen directly on.  I wanted to showcase our vent hood. I decided that 3 pendants would be too busy, especially since I went with a fairly large pendant.  If there was another pendant directly in the middle, it would be too busy.

The second reason is because there was plenty of light sources already with the 5 recessed lights we already had in the kitchen.  We didn’t need another light source in there, in addition to the abundant natural light and recessed light.

However, three pendant lights could potentially be a great option for your kitchen.  This would look great with slightly smaller pendants, glass or see-through pendants, or on an extra large island. 

How to Evenly Space Pendants Over a Kitchen Island

You will want your pendants to be well balanced and centered.  Here is how to find the right spacing for your kitchen island pendants.

2 Pendants Over the Kitchen Island

Divide the distance between the two pendants by two.  This is the distance from the edge of the island to the center of the pendant.

I know, that sounds a little confusing, but here’s another way to figure that out.  Measure the whole size of the island, in length.  

Let’s say your island is 10 feet wide, or 120 inches. Divide 120 inches by 4.  That equals 30 inches.

So, the distance from the edge of the counter to the center of the pendant should be 30 inches.  There will be 60 inches of space between the two pendants.  Then, another 30 inches on the other side of the pendant to the edge of the countertop.

This is my personal preference for the number of pendants over a kitchen island.  Since our vent hood is centered between the two lights, the two pendants frame the vent hood.  I think it compliments the rest of the kitchen well.

4 bar stools at 10 foot wide island

3 Pendants Over a Kitchen Island

Essentially the same formula as above will be used to calculate how to evenly space 3 pendants over a kitchen island, however, you are just adding an extra one in the middle.

First, find the total width of the island, in inches.

Divide that number by 4.  This is the distance from the edge of the countertop to the center of the pendants.  It will also be the distance between all 3 of the pendants.

If you purchased wide pendants or particularly larger pendants and still want 3 of them above your island, you might need to space them out a little more. All of this will depend on the size of the fixture you purchase, in relation to the width of the island.

This option would make the pendants over the island a focal point of your kitchen.  If you do so, you might want to consider small pendants, glass pendants, or see-through ones, like metal lantern pendants.  That way, they will seem lighter and more airy.  Large and/or dark pendants might be too visually demanding.

1 Pendant Over a Kitchen Island

In some cases, only 1 pendant is needed over smaller kitchen islands.  If you have a particularly smaller island, one pendant would look great centered over the island.  In this case, you will measure the whole length of your island size.  Divide that number by 2.  This is the distance from the end of the island to the center of the pendant.

Choosing the right pendant light height is so important, as it affects the overall feel of your kitchen. Additionally, choosing the right size pendant and how many to install can also affect the look of the kitchen.  Hopefully you found a few helpful tidbits in this article that will help you on our home design journey!

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