How To's

How To Light A Kitchen Island

The kitchen island is one of the hardest-working and most versatile spots in a home, employed for food prep, cooking, and family time. The design you choose for over the kitchen island not only adds a visual element to your kitchen, but provides a key layer to the functionality of the space. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about lighting a kitchen island.

What should you keep in mind when you’re coming up with a lighting plan for your kitchen island?

You want to select lighting that will complement the range of functions performed here, from chopping vegetables to reading recipes, to entertaining and family time. An optimal lighting plan provides the ability to control brightness for these various tasks while enhancing the overall design and providing visual cues about the central importance of this space in the kitchen. Also, make sure you have dimmers so you can adjust the mood.

Image via @nimadesigninteriors

What lighting works best for illuminating kitchen islands?

Pendants fit the bill for task and decorative needs, but people often go too small with them. Consider using two of these rather than one, and also think about a larger size to achieve a more upscale style. Clusters of smaller pendants—arranged in either a traditional line or clustered at various hanging heights—can create an impressive display perfectly scaled for the island. WAC’s Genesis 12 Light Mirrored Canopy Pendant is great for this application and introduces a piece of art in your kitchen.

Pendants are clearly popular here, but what other design options should people consider?

For longer and deeper counters, you can try one or more large and linear chandeliers, such as the Vix 5 Light LED Linear Pendant Light from Cerno. Another approach is to use a cluster of pendant lights, either pre-configured as a multi-light or hung separately.

What about recessed lighting?

If you don’t want anything hanging over your island, recessed lighting works perfectly. It offers a more concealed light source, while maintaining the appropriate illumination for all tasks. A good recommendation is the Tesla High Output recessed down lights in 2- or 3.5-inch sizes.

However, it’s good to think of your lighting plan three-dimensionally, and ways to layer it. Recessed lighting will provide continuous illumination across the kitchen while helping to highlight any decorative fixtures over the island. If the pendants are shiny, complementing them with recessed lighting will help show off the design.

READ MORE » There’s more than one way to light a kitchen island. Find design inspiration in our gallery: Kitchen Island Lighting Ideas

What about LEDs for kitchen island lighting?

We’re partial to LEDs, and with the technology providing directional illumination and higher lumen output decorative chandeliers and pendants can now be utilized over the kitchen island for task lighting.

Image via @studio__nato

What is the proper height to hang kitchen island lighting and where do you position it?

The rule of thumb is to suspend a hanging light 28 to 34 inches above the island. As for positioning, centering the lighting is most common and offers even light distribution. If it’s not centered you have to be sure you have adequate lighting on the surface from other luminaires.

Any advice on picking the right bulbs, in terms of wattage, brightness, warmth versus coolness, and so on?

LED luminaires are the most effective as they keep wattage at a minimum while delivering the high lumen output needed for task lighting. As a point of comparison, 50 incandescent watts is comparable to around 800 lumens of unshielded light from LEDs.

For a typical kitchen, you would go with a warmer color temperature such as 2700K-3500K, as this will create a more welcoming feel. If you have warm wood tones in your kitchen, go lower; for cooler colors, pick a bulb that’s higher in that range.

Equal parts decorative and functional, kitchen island lighting is a key design element of any kitchen. Choosing the right fixture(s) will make your kitchen ready for any task, any meal and any guest.


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Sharon Choe

Sharon Choe

As a Merchandise Manager for YLiving by day, Sharon is driven to bring quality high-design products to her customers. By night, she’s an adventurous diner and avid home cook, who runs an underground supper club in San Francisco. Her long list of vices include French porcelain, cured meats, beautiful chairs, kitchen knives and planning weddings.

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