How to light your kitchen island

You’ve chosen the perfect kitchen island for your home. It’ll be a great place to prepare meals, have dinner as a family or entertain friends. There are just a couple more questions: how best to light it? What are the technical requirements? What about style considerations? In this month’s blog post, we tackle a topic that’s often overlooked: lighting your kitchen island.

Technical specifications

Technical specifications will ultimately guide the placement and style of your lighting. In this section, we’ll examine some frequently asked questions regarding how to light your kitchen island safely and effectively.

How high should I hang my lights?

In Australia, the technical rule AS/NZS 3000 stipulates that hanging lights must be adequately protected against any reasonably expected damage, including the operation of fans or movement of air. In practice, that means that a good rule of thumb is to hang your pendant no lower than 1.8 metres above the floor, while also avoiding ceiling fans or draughty windows.

Another good rule of thumb is to ensure at least 80 centimetres of space between the bottom of the light fixture and the kitchen island itself. This will prevent nasty bumps to the head or the need to duck when standing at or walking past the island.

How bright should my kitchen island lighting be?

The answer to this depends on what you plan to use your kitchen island for. Typically, decorative pendants provide minimal ambient light rather than focused lighting suitable for tasks. That’s great for dining with your family or friends, but not ideal if you also plan to use the bench space for preparing meals. Always aim to tailor the brightness of your lighting to your needs. You may need to supplement decorative pendants with brighter task lighting, such as downlights or track lights.

When it comes to illuminating a kitchen bench space, it’s good to consider the Colour Rendering Index (CRI) of the globes. The CRI is a measure of how well a light source (e.g. your kitchen island pendant) reveals the true colours of an object. A lower CRI can make food appear muddy and unappetising – so if you think you’re Australia’s next Masterchef, you’ll probably want a fixture with a higher CRI.

How far apart should my lights be spaced?

If you’re hanging multiple individual pendant lights above your kitchen island, try to keep at least 80 centimetres between them. Any closer and it might look too busy and the light may be too focused. Of course, track or cluster lighting will be different. These fixtures are made to be spaced closer together; they are usually smaller and work well together in groups.

How should the size of my kitchen island affect my choice of fixture?

The size of your kitchen island will influence how many fixtures should be used. A short island (less than six feet or about two metres in length) can only accommodate one or two or perhaps a cluster. A longer island, meanwhile, won’t be overwhelmed by a row of three or more pendants.

If your kitchen island is on the larger side, try not to install too few lights or hang them too far apart from each other. If you want to make a statement, it’s better to go bigger.

It’s clear, even from this short list of frequently asked questions, that technical specifications inform style. Let’s now turn our attention to the style side of the equation.

Style considerations

Adhering to technical specifications is important to keep you and your family safe and to light a space effectively. Style, on the other hand, is about personal preferences.

Many of us don’t have much experience thinking about our own style! The best way to understand what you want from your kitchen island lighting is to ask yourself the right questions. Here are some examples:

  • What style is your home?
  • How much of a statement do you want to make with your lighting?
  • What colours or materials are used most often in your kitchen?
  • How much of a focal point do you want your kitchen to be?
  • How do you intend to use the island? How often will it be used for the intended purpose? 
  • Do you want dimming on the light? Not all lights are dimmable.
  • How reflective is the surface of the island? A glossy surface will reflect more light.

Thinking about questions like these will put you well on your way to understanding how many lights you’ll need above your kitchen island, their size and how they look.

Talking about style is one thing. But sometimes there’s simply no substitute to looking at images for inspiration.

kitchen pendants with bailey 200 pendants

Seen here in a sleek modern kitchen by Arden Homes, our Bailey 200 pendants provide a splash of retro design feel while staying subtle and naturally directing the eyes to the kitchen island.

bayville kitchen with thomas goodman replica pendants metricon homes

Our Thomas Goodman Replica pendants in a Metricon Homes Bayville 49 display are a masterclass in kitchen island lighting. The fixtures perfectly complement the modern colonial style kitchen and, despite serving as strong statement fixtures, they are adequately spaced and hung high enough so they don’t distract the eyes or threaten the head.

Boutique seville kitchen with luxor pendants

Our Luxor pendants bring a touch of class and elegance to this Attwell Estate display home by Boutique Homes. An arrangement like this is well-suited to eating breakfast, chopping vegetables or regaling dinner guests with a glass of wine in hand.

When it comes to your home, every choice and every question matters. The advice in this blog is intended to inspire you and help you to understand options based on your home, your tastes and your budget. We’re excited about helping you express your unique style to ensure you’re delighted with your kitchen island lighting. 

As always, the best advice is to talk to a trusted expert. We will be able to assist you to make your kitchen island really shine.