You will often hear pendant lighting referred to as the “Jewelry of the Kitchen.” When I am working with clients selecting lighting for their home they’re first concern is usually the look. It is human nature. We all want what we like, especially if we are going to see it, day in and day out. But then I step in and unfortunately share with them the sad truth that often in good design: Looks are not everything.
Now don’t get me wrong, you can always have both. But when you are choosing pendant lighting for your home it is more important that you first consider your lighting needs. What good is something beautiful if it doesn’t do the job you need it to? There are 4 lighting categories designers refer to but let’s not overcomplicate things here. When designing a kitchen I find my clients lighting needs will typically fall into one of these two types – Ambient or Task.
Ambient Lighting (often referred to as general lighting)
is gained from a fixture(s) or source that is used to light up a whole room. In most modern homes there isn’t the need for the pendant lights to handle this job. We now use recessed lighting to do the trick. But if you are in an older home without the benefit of recessed lights, or your space is lacking natural light from windows, choosing a pendant that would provide ambient light would be important. Or maybe, you use your island more for a gathering space than a work space and you want to create some atmosphere. In this situation an ambient light fixture would be perfect. In either instance you want to look for a fixture that uses several bulbs that are spaced apart to cast the light evenly in a wider direction. You may also want to hang the fixture a little higher so that the bulbs are not directly in your line of sight.
is the most typical need I find clients need the pendant light to fulfill. Most of us use our islands for work like food prep or have our sinks and sometimes cooktops built in to them. In this instance having a light specifically meant to illuminate that space makes sense. Task lighting is best gained by using a fixture that faces down and directs the light onto the area. If the bottom is open, you may want to hang the so the bottom of the fixture is a little lower, approximately 30 inches off the countertop so that you are not looking up directly at the bare bulb. (The sweet spot for any pendant is somewhere between 30 and 36 inches). If it has a diffuser you can hang the fixture a little higher but be sure not to go too high that you lose the strength of the light on the surface. And if you also use your island for seating placing your pendants on a dimmer would be nice for your guests, especially if you are using a very bright bulbs.
Once you have identified the type of light you need you, you will be able to narrow down some of your choices and focus on the style of light. I recommend visiting sites like Houzz, Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration. If you struggle with scale I would suggest going to your local lighting showroom with the measurements for your ceiling height and island or seek advice from a design professional. And be sure to follow my blog for more articles with tips on how to design your Happy Home