Kitchen Pendant Lighting Q&A With Top Lighting Designer, Danielle Mastro
Lighting design is all about two things: practicality and aesthetic. Lighting Lighting Lighting’s resident lighting designer, Danielle Mastro, is the master of both. You’ve seen her eye for style throughout our carefully curated range of lights, and today she’s offering her practical design know-how to help you choose the perfect pendant lights for your kitchen. We can’t all have a lighting designer personally assess our home, but today Danielle can answer some of the most common questions clients ask her about pendant lighting for the kitchen. Her tips will equip you with all the tools you need to make lighting decisions by yourself and feel confident in the outcome.
1. I need a pendant to go over my kitchen island bench. What should I choose?
Whenever my clients seek advice about choosing pendants, not only for their kitchen, but any room in their home, the first thing I always ask is: ‘What is your ceiling height?’ Most people don’t know it off by heart so grab a tape measure or your plans to find the exact measurement. I’ll wait…
I know it may not seem like an important factor and selecting the prettiest pendant is more fun, but if you don’t consider balance and scale, you risk creating an architecturally unbalanced room. Ceiling heights can vary from room to room, so if you follow my suggestion of noting down all relevant measurements first, I can assure you of finding the perfect pendant for every space, every time.
Next, I want to know how my clients use the space. For many, the kitchen is the hub of the home and the kitchen island bench is utilised for many different purposes, from preparing food or eating breakfast in the morning to doing homework and after school studies. Everyone will be different, so take a moment to do a little needs analysis of how you and your family will use the space.
You can then categorise these activities into whether they require general, task or ambient lighting. Different styles of pendants will output light differently and you may need a combination of both. I’ve gone into more detail in a previous article which you can read here.
While I can’t tell you exactly which pendant to choose, if you consider these two factors, follow your own style, and check out our curated range of pendant light fittings, you’ll be on track to choosing a pendant that you love.
2. How do I know which size kitchen pendant lights to choose?
This question is easily answered if you’ve taken down all the measurements of your space, especially ceiling height. When considering kitchen pendant lighting over an island, think about the lowest point the pendant light will sit, which is usually just above eye level. The distance from here to the ceiling is what you have to work with, also known as the ‘hanging height’.
The pendant will need length in order to create fluidity and movement so I recommend a suspension length of at least double the pendant shade’s height.
I know it can be difficult to picture how a pendant will actually look, especially if you’re buying your lights online, so getting it into the physical space can help make the choice clear. As a visual person myself, I always encourage my clients to create a paper mock-up of the pendant light to scale, hold it up and see how it looks. Simple.
3. Do I need to hang three pendants over my kitchen bench?
A lot of my clients believe that pendant lights, especially over a kitchen island, can only be hung as a trio. Pinterest also seems to support this view but I’m here to tell you that this is definitely not always true.
Hanging three pendants isn’t wrong, but it depends on your space and the amount of light you need. I love experimenting with more creative arrangements that just might work better than three in some spaces.
For instance, hanging three pendants over a long, blank benchtop will give you even lighting across the entire island. For a shorter benchtop, you may only need two pendants to achieve the same even light distribution.
There may be a sink at one end of your bench or a seating area with bar stools, so a cluster of pendants at one end is a popular alternative choice in this case. This also allows you to mix shapes, sizes, colour and style of pendants to create your own feature. Ensure you have enough ceiling height and space around the cluster to offer variety in placement. There is nothing worse than cramming kitchen pendants lights all together.
If you have other lighting in the space, and pendants are purely decorative, I would say, be creative and test the limits of your imagination. Don’t turn to Pinterest and copy what’s already out there. Make the space your own.
4. How high should my pendants hang above the kitchen island or bench?
My rule of thumb for clients is that kitchen pendants should sit just above eye level, or no lower than 1.8m from the floor. Obviously the exact distance from the ceiling will vary, depending on its height, so the measurement from the floor up is always the best way to start and to give you an idea of how much you have to play with in terms of the size of the pendant.
5. How do I know what style of pendant will suit my kitchen?
I like to encourage my clients to honour the style of their home and try to complement the architecture of the build. When thinking about what style of pendant to use it’s great to start with these questions:
It could be a mixture of both with a modern extension added onto an existing dwelling. In this case, I love to recognise the period of the home but with a modern twist.
These days, the kitchen is generally part of an open plan space that merges with the living and dining area. If so, I think of these rooms as a whole and choose pendants that work with all areas of the space.
A more open space can allow for solid or more detailed pendant light fittings, whereas a cluttered space may mean the style of your pendants is paired back and simple.
Decide whether you want the pendants to be a feature or more subtle addition. If you have white cabinetry and want your pendants to stand out, choose a solid black fitting that will contrast or choose white pendants but in a unique design or texture so they blend in but also add a design layer to the room.
6. My ceiling is too low for pendants. What can I use instead?
Sometimes pendant light fittings just won’t work. In this case, I always direct my clients towards surface-mounted downlights. In a similar way to pendants, a canister style downlight will help achieve movement in the ceiling and create that little wow factor in the space. There are still plenty of options regarding colour and size, so you can still get creative with this pendant alternative.
7. How do I choose a pendant that provides enough light in my space?
Light output depends on a range of factors, but let’s start with the material and design of your pendant. A pendant light with a metal shade will direct light downwards, while a glass shade will diffuse light all around your space. Decide whether you need directional light or more of a lateral, ambient diffusion. Sometimes kitchen require a combination of both. As I mentioned earlier, once you’ve done a needs analysis, you’ll have a better idea of what type of light will fit your space.
I also find from working with my clients that kitchen pendants usually work in conjunction with other types of lighting in a space, such as downlights. This will also impact how much light and the type of light you require from your pendants. It’s important to consider all light sources and how they work holistically to provide sufficient light for the space.
8. Can I use an LED bulb in my pendants?
Yes! A thousand times, yes. I always recommend using LED bulbs in the kitchen, and every other room in the house, for that matter.
The kitchen is a highly used area of the home and, simply put, LED bulbs are energy efficient, cheaper and longer lasting. For clear glass pendants or fittings where the bulb can be seen, decorative LED bulbs are available in a range of styles, including filament, frosted and etched.
9. Should I use cool white or warm white light in my kitchen?
I always recommend using warm white light in the home, simply because it creates a soft ambience and makes the home feel warm and inviting. Cool white light tends to create a very stark and clinical feel that is not well suited to a residential space.
10. Do my pendants need to be dimmable?
There’s no rule stating you always need dimmable pendants, however the ability to dim gives you more control and flexibility so I always encourage my clients to include it if possible.
11. How do I keep my pendants clean in the kitchen?
My main tip for clients is to dust pendants regularly to avoid any dirt settling and leaving grime. This can build up especially quickly in the kitchen, so regular maintenance is a must. If further cleaning is required, warm soapy water or a damp cloth will do the job best (and please avoid using harsh chemicals on any of your pendants).
12. My electrician has only allowed for one point. Can I have more than one pendant?
From being in this industry for over 10 years, I can tell you that nearly anything is possible when it comes to lighting! If you have an existing point or have only allocated for one, it’s best to discuss with your electrician first to see whether there are any limitations within the design. If so, there is often a solution and they will know best how to advise you.
13. How do I figure all this out on my own?
Don’t fret, fellow lighting lover. If you are still overwhelmed by all the points we’ve discussed here, I’ve put together a simplified checklist of all the things to consider before making your choice. Download it, print it off, follow the steps, and you can’t go wrong. You can also look at some of our other articles on site for more information - check out How to choose the perfect pendant and Everything you need to know about kitchen pendants first.
DANIELLE’S CHECKLIST FOR CHOOSING A PENDANT● Measure your space. Grab a measuring tape and make sure you know the height of your ceiling, the size of the room, and the height and length of any surfaces you’re lighting (i.e. bench, desk, table).
● Consider what sort of light you need:
● Think about layout. How many pendants would you like, and how would you like them arranged? What size pendants will fit with this vision? Will you need one feature pendant or a number of smaller ones?
● Finally, it’s all about style. Is your home contemporary or classic? What is your existing colour palette? What materials sound good to you? Are there particular styles of pendant that you love or just don’t work for you?
For more detail, check out our full walkthrough at https://www.lightinglightinglighting.com.au/pages/pendant-lights