How to choose kitchen pendants

Which kitchen pendants should I choose is one of the questions that I am most often asked.  I think that the issue that people have is that there are so many on the market to choose from and a wide range of styles.  Then there is the question of how many pendants they should have.  Too often, this is a choice that is made at the end of the kitchen selections process but this decision, together with other styling touches, should really be part of the initial kitchen plan.  I have some ideas here to show you how to choose kitchen pendants.

How to choose kitchen pendants

How to decide on the colour for kitchen pendants

You firstly need to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I want the pendants to stand out and make a statement?
  • Would I like them to be seen as part of the overall kitchen design?
  • Should the pendants just disappear into the background or make a colour statement?
  • Do I have any other strong colour or metal statements in the kitchen?

In the image below, it is clear that the owner wanted the pendants to very much be a part of the kitchen design.  I think they work beautifully with the look and the colour scheme but they are certainly one of the first things that you notice.  Clearly the gorgeous marble splashback was the initial inspiration for the colour scheme and then the stools and the black accent on the island bench complement this.  For me, this is all brought together with the choice of pendants as these balance the upper and lower colour accents.

How to choose kitchen pendants
Image: Beacon Lighting – Porter 1 Light Pendant in Charcoal

The pendants in the kitchen below are certainly statement pendants – aren't they gorgeous?  However as they are white and blend into the colour of the kitchen joinery, they are less obvious in the overall look.  The pendants are light and airy, as is the general feel of the open plan area and the rattan finish ties in beautifully with the bar stools.

How to choose kitchen pendants
Image: Satara – Anna Kitchen and bar stools

As there are elements of gold in the kitchen cabinetry and a golden coloured timber in the kitchen below, it makes sense to link the pendants to this element of the design.

How to choose kitchen pendants
Image: Studio McGee

Simple glass kitchen pendants are the least obvious and are a good choice if you don't want to make a big statement.  Notice however the beautiful detailing in the pendant rope that ties in with other elements in the kitchen design.  These are the finishing touches that set this room apart.

How to choose kitchen pendants
Image: Tessa Neustadt for Amber Interiors

How many kitchen pendants should I use?

  • Firstly, measure the length of your island bench.
  • Then consider which parts of the bench that you need to have as a feature.  It isn't always necessarily the entire length.  With some long island benches you will find that part of it is designated to entertaining and eating, while another section is the task area.  You may want to light them differently.  Some island benches will have cabinetry on both sides with a section just for seating – you may want just one statement pendant for the seating area.
  • Look at how your island bench relates to the cupboards behind.  Is it all symmetrical or does the island extend past the wall behind?
  • Is the kitchen streamlined or is the design more complex?  This can have an impact on how many pendants you choose to have.  Two statement pendants will be better than three or four if the kitchen design is busy.  Remember that in any area of your home that has lots of features, you shouldn't bring in yet another one as this can overload the room.
  • Once you have considered this in your design, look at the style of the pendant that you like.  Which sizes do they come in?  Do you want them the length of the island or just a section of it?

My rule of thumb is that the size and the amount of the pendants should relate to the space available.  If in doubt, my preference is usually to opt for two larger pendants over three smaller ones.  It does depend on the style though and the size of the pendant – remember the second image in this post?

How to choose kitchen pendants
Image: Beacon Lighting – Lenore Pendant in Steel

The image above shows the pendant lights just over the seating area.  I am a fan of asymmetrical styling and therefore this appeals to me.

How to choose kitchen pendants
Image: Studio McGee

I think two pendants look better than three in the kitchen above.  This kitchen is quite detailed with a separate range hood and lots of cabinetry and three pendants would be overwhelming.

How to choose kitchen pendants
Image: Beacon Lighting – Rivet LED Pendant

The alternative of course is to have just one long pendant that covers the entire island bench.  You really need to consider the style of the kitchen here as this tends to look more contemporary.  The pendant in the kitchen above suits the Art Deco feel of the kitchen beautifully.  It is streamlined and doesn't overwhelm the design of the kitchen.

How to choose kitchen pendants
Image: Dulux Australia, Stylist : Julia Green, Photographer: Armelle Habib

The pendants in the kitchen above are placed interestingly – one over the task area and the same style over the seating zone of the island bench.  This colour scheme is part of the Reset palette from the Dulux 2021 colour forecast.

Do I even need kitchen pendants?

This is a very valid question.  There has certainly been a move away from pendants over the island bench as people feel that they can detract from the look of the kitchen.  This is purely an individual aesthetic choice as I believe that pendants can look great but that there are occasions when the design can look better without them.

The practical reason for eliminating pendants is that often a set of good quality LED downlights placed over the kitchen island will offer better lighting than a pendant.  So you need to consider whether you are installing the pendants purely for an aesthetic or practical reason.  Ask yourself whether your island bench is for entertaining and eating at or whether you will be preparing food here which you need good quality light for.

As with any area of the home, always consider the mood that you would like to create.

If you choose not to have pendants over the island bench, you can of course use them over an adjoining dining table.  This way, the pendants still become part of the overall look.

How to choose kitchen pendants
Image: Beacon Lighting – Salerno Pendant

In the room below the statement pendants have been used over the dining table, while the island bench has downlights.  I think this works beautifully as the statement pendants over the island here would have detracted from the beauty of the kitchen.

How to choose kitchen pendants
Image: Gyprock Australia

There are very few instances where I believe you can have kitchen pendants over the island bench and an adjoining dining space.  You really need to consider where the focal points are in the room.  The designer's motto is always assess a room and take something away.  In this instance it would be the second set of pendants!

A round-up of some practical tips

  1. A large pendant will offer better lighting for the bench than a smaller pendant which will direct the light in one spot.
  2. Pendants should be hung approximately 75-85 cm over the island bench.
  3. Kitchen pendants should always be hung away from the long edge of the island.  The rule of thumb is about 30cm from each edge.  Then look at the space available, find the centre mark and work out the placement  of the pendants from here.
  4. As with furniture placement, I like to use newspaper to mark out the space in a room.  This is a really useful tip if you are buying a new chair or sofa to determine the exact space that it will take up.  The same applies to pendants.  If your benchtop is installed then you can lay out paper on the bench to get an idea of how the placement will work.  If not you can mark out the size of the island on the floor and do the same thing.

How to choose kitchen pendants

Remember to always consider your choice of kitchen pendant at the beginning of the kitchen design process so that it works with all of the elements.  If you are updating your kitchen then bear in mind all of the colour elements before making your choice.  I have a related post on kitchen styling that you will find useful to read Kitchen Styling – My 5 top tips

I would love to hear your comments or questions below.  I also have a Free Resource Library which has e-books and comprehensive checklists for your next new build, renovation or decorating project.  You can download everything for free here.

5 thoughts on “How to choose kitchen pendants

  1. Yen says:

    Hi Samantha
    Do you reckon a simple long linear black pendant over island will be a good choice for black & white kitchen (Black for bottom, white for top & light coloured benchtop with silver appliances)? Bench will be 2.8m with sink on one side.
    Appreciate any suggestions you might have, thank you ?

    • Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Yen this is a very simple and contemporary look which I think will be very effective with your colour scheme. Hope you love the end result. Samantha

  2. Marguerite says:

    Hi Samantha, I bought three concrete dome shaped pendant lights same size but different natural colours; peach, brown and a black concrete (delicate natural colours). Could I put them at three heights, a cluster or perhaps in a line? A pretty Barcelona tile under kitchen island, the island is teracotta.

    • Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Marguerite as the pendants are the same size, I would probably opt to put them even in a line and make the colour difference stand out. With clusters I prefer different shapes together. Hope this helps Samantha

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