How To Properly Light Your Kitchen Island

Proper lighting over the kitchen island can be a tricky business. The kitchen island is one of the most used spaces in every home and has so many different purposes. From food prep to reading and spending family time, this versatile area must have functional, sufficient, and interesting lighting. In this guide, we will go through all the different steps you need to take to properly light your kitchen island.

Let’s try to simplify it.

Kitchen island three pendants

Chandeliers or pendants should be hung about 30-36 inches (76-91 cm) above the island so that they don’t obstruct anyone’s view. Add the width and length of your kitchen island in feet to determine the ideal diameter of your chandelier in inches. For multiple pendants, start about 12–15 inches (30–38 cm) from both sides of the island and space them evenly, keeping about 30 inches (76 cm) between the bulbs.

Chandeliers and pendants are the two best options for kitchen islands because they can provide both ambient and task lighting.

Whether you should choose a chandelier or pendants depends on the overall style and aesthetic of your kitchen, how you primarily use the kitchen island, and your personal preferences.

Let’s go through those.


Pendants are definitely my go-to choice for kitchen islands. They work really well with contemporary styles but can also be amazing with more traditional designs if you know how to choose them!

They do have one small downside though:

Most pendants do not provide enough ambient light as they emit focused beams, usually downwards.

If you use pendants over your kitchen island, you will probably need an ambient light source, such as recessed can lights.

How many pendants do I need over the island?

Depending on the size of your kitchen island, you will need a specific number of pendants for sufficient (and symmetric) lighting.

I made the following table that you can use to figure out exactly how many pendants you need!

Island length in feetIsland length in cmNumber of pendants

To determine this number follow these steps (imperial system):

  1. Measure the length of your kitchen counter in inches
  2. Subtract 25
  3. Divide by 30
  4. Add 1
  5. Round to the nearest integer (or decide for yourself)

For the metric system:

  1. Measure the length of your kitchen counter in cm
  2. Subtract 60
  3. Divide by 75
  4. Add 1
  5. Round to the nearest integer (or decide for yourself)

Now let me explain.

The first and last pendants should start at about 12–15 inches (30–38 cm) from the sides of the island.

Then, the pendants should be spaced evenly with about 30 inches (76 cm) between them. This is the bulb distance and not the end of the fixture.

So for example, if the length of your kitchen island is 85 inches (215 cm), you would subtract 25 inches (60 cm) to account for the two sides of the counter, which leaves you with 60 inches (155 cm).

Divide that by 30 (or 75 for the metric system) to account for the space between the pendants and add 1.

Voila! A 7-foot kitchen island needs 3 pendants!

Pro Tip: If you are using wide pendants, high lumens, and/or wide beam angle, go with one less pendant than the suggestions above.

Two wide pendants
Although this kitchen island can fit three pendants, two were ideal because the specific pendants are wide and bright.


Chandeliers can be an excellent choice for kitchen islands.

Most chandeliers lean towards the side of ambient lighting. This means that you can easily use the chandelier as the main source of light throughout the kitchen, as most chandeliers do not direct the light downwards.

If you go with this option, be sure to read my guide on choosing the right lumens for your kitchen. Most chandeliers underperform in task lighting, so you will have to calculate the ideal number of lumens for your kitchen.

Either that or avoid buying chandeliers that direct the light upwards.

Where should I place the chandelier?


In general, the bottom of the chandelier should be no lower than 7 feet (2.13 m) but this rule is flexible if you don’t need to walk underneath the fixture.

Chandeliers should be hung about 30–36 inches (76–91 cm) above the kitchen counter. This general rule is so that it doesn’t obstruct anyone’s view and to avoid any unfortunate head bumps.

Use the tallest person in the house as a reference!

Horizontal placement

On the horizontal plane, your chandelier should be placed symmetrically in the middle of the kitchen island.

If you are using two or more chandeliers, keep them evenly spaced out and try to not have any of them hang over the edge of the counter. This will cause unflattering shadows directly under the chandelier, and the person sitting there might not be too comfortable.

Chandelier over small kitchen island
This chandelier is perfect for ambient lighting since there’s no other light source. However, it’s slightly asymmetric relative to the kitchen island, which might be annoying to some!

Best chandelier size

The ideal size for your hanging chandelier depends on two factors:

  1. The size of your kitchen island
  2. The other available lighting fixtures

First off, there is a simple formula to determine the best diameter for your chandelier based on the size of the counter.

Simply add the width and the length of your kitchen island in feet, and the resulting number is the minimum required diameter for your chandelier in inches.

For example:

Let’s say you have a 7 x 10 foot kitchen island. Then, you would add 7 and 10, which is 17.

The minimum diameter of your chandelier should be 17 inches! Quite straightforward, no?

Unfortunately, the calculation for the metric system is not that simple, so you will have to follow the formula above and do the conversions yourself.

But how is the size affected by the other available fixtures?

Well, the point here is that you need to consider whether the chandelier will also function as the primary ambient lighting source.

Remember how we said that the above formula gives you the minimum required diameter? If you have no other fixtures for ambient light, such as recessed can lights, you can easily add 5 inches to the above number.

And in that case, make sure you carefully calculate the required lumens, so that you don’t end up under-lighting your kitchen!

LED Strips

Finally, LED strips around the kitchen island are used for accent lighting.

Pro Tip: Always use three layers of light. Ambient, task, and accent light are all important and, combined, they create a balanced but powerful lighting scheme that can cover your functional needs and also add drama to your space!

We saw how you can cover your ambient and task lighting needs over the kitchen island, and now we want to add some extra spark.

LED strip lights can help do precisely that!

LED strip under kitchen counter
Choose dimmable rgb LED strips to have total control over the mood!

You can put them either at chest level or at the bottom of the counter near the floor.

The second option is great if you want to avoid toe-stubbing, especially when they are connected to a motion sensor and automatically switch on at night.

And if you need help with this process, Abby Lawson has put out a helpful guide for installing LED strips. Same rules apply!

Wrapping up

Whether it’s your kitchen island, your bed, or your home office, you always need three layers of light: ambient, task, and accent.

Ambient light helps set the overall mood of the space and allows you to see at night. This is why you should aim to use as much natural light as possible during the day instead of your ambient light fixtures.

Chandeliers and recessed can lights are two great options.

Task lighting over the kitchen counter can be achieved with pendants. Use the table above to figure out how many pendants you need and then make sure to space them properly as we said.

Finally, use LED strips around the counter for accent lighting to make your lighting scheme more dramatic and interesting.

If you do all of these, you’ll have many versatile lighting options that will help make your kitchen island very functional!


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