Let's Talk Pendant Lights

Pendant lights, pendant lights, pendant lights! I looooove lighting and layering lighting. It’s another aspect of design that I get to balance, and it’s a huge factor in the overall outcome of a space.

Just like texture, pattern and color in a space, lighting also needs to be layered. That’s why there are so many kinds of lights on the market! Pendants are usually used not only as task lighting, but often as a focal feature. It can ground a space visually for a certain purpose or can simply be the “jewellery” which helps tie a space together.

So what are the rules to using pendant lights? That is a loaded question. There are definitely “rules” but just like some languages, there are 100 rules and over 1000 exceptions. Here are some GENERAL tips on using pendant lights.

When using over an island:

Depending on the size of the island and the size of the light, you may want to opt for two or three. If the light is small and the island is big, opt for three. If the light is big and the island is big, opt for two. I personally love bigger lights but that is simply a preference.

Spacing: I always like to do 18-24” in from each side of the island. If the island is long, I usually go in 24.” If the island is small, I may opt for 18”. NOTE: If your lights are big, if they’re too close together, they tend to look like eyeballs! If the lights are small and you only have two on a big island, they tend to disappear.

Height: This one is tricky because it really depends on who is living in that space. If there are tall people using the space, the average hanging height might be in line with their visual line which means that they will have a blaring light in their sight line. Typically, though, I like to have the bottom of the light between 32”-36” above the countertop.

Size: SIZE MATTERS! This is not an area where you want the scale of something to draw your eye. We can add drama by design in this instance. If the light is too big for your ceiling height, It will read as just that. It won’t be able to do its job functionally and stylistically. The same goes if the light is too small.

Purpose: Pendant lights have a purpose of lighting a space and drawing your eye to what you want to highlight. In the case of an island, a countertop can be a major focal feature. Not only are they beautiful, but they are expensive. Most people also use those spaces to do most of their prep work, and when it’s not being used that way, a display of flowers, fruit, etc. live there. So Pendant lights in this case are illuminating the area for a task as well as to highlight what is under it.

Jewellery: Another purpose of pendant lights over an island is to be a piece of “jewellery.” Consider the cabinetry, backsplash, and countertop as an outfit. The knobs, pulls and pendant lights are the jewelry. Jewelry is often overlooked but it can really make or break an outfit! Perhaps if your outfit is neutral, it might be the place to add a pop of color. If you don’t love color, maybe the function of the light is to tie other elements of the kitchen together. For instance, metal on a pendant can tie in all the hardware or the faucet finish.

Pendant lights used in a foyer have a different purpose. Often, like a chandelier, it might be the only light illuminating that area. It wouldn’t be wise to have a pendant with one bulb in this instance. If a space is dependent on that light to illuminate the entire area, opt for one with multiple bulbs.

Finally, when using pendants in a foyer, they undoubtedly need to be hung higher than an average tall person! Bonking your head on ANYTHING is awful. No one wants to feel attacked by an inanimate object.

These are GENERAL uses and rules to pendant lights. They’re not often used as a jumping off point like a carpet, or pattern in a pillow however, there might be 100 rules but there are 1000 exceptions to the rule. Knowing rules is important. Knowing how and where to break them is key though.

Here are a few pendant lights on the market that have caught my eye and here is how I would use them in the kitchen.

Here are some links to these stunning pendants :






Aidan Cusson

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