Given the number of smaller, more focused tasks that regularly occur within the kitchen, overhead ambient lighting alone will not suffice. Task lighting is highly beneficial, particularly in preparation and cleaning zones, such as the sink area. If a pendant light is preferable to recessed lighting or a form of track lighting, the bottom of the light fixture should hang between 30 to 40 inches above the countertop. There are many variables to take into account when determining lighting placement, however.
Be Water Smart
With any sink or wet area, there is a risk of splashing. Most building codes specify the distance a light fixture must be from a water source. If the height of the ceiling above the counter and sink area is insignificant -- not uncommon when there is a bulkhead above -- a hanging pendant may look out of scale and misplaced.
It is also advisable to select a light fixture that is safe for wet zones. If you choose a pendant that is not water-safe, ensure the light's electrical elements are fully protected to minimize all potential risks.
The rule of thumb for placing hanging lights above tables and countertops is a range of 30 to 40 inches from the surface to be illuminated to the bottom of the fixture. When measuring the distance to hang the pendant, start at the countertop, not the bottom of the sink.
Sight lines may be less important over a sink placed directly below a window than they are for an island or prep sink, but the fact remains that the pendant should not be at eye level with any of the primary users of the sink. Even with a window view, the outdoor landscape should not be obstructed by the fixture.
If the light is hung in such a way that someone leaning over the sink may hit his head, that should also be taken into consideration when determining the final height.
Being able to see the bare bulb from beneath the fixture is generally undesirable. If a pendant is being hung closer to 40 inches above the counter, shorter users of the sink may see the bulb and feel its heat on their heads. Light-emitting-diode lamps produce significantly less heat than many other types of lighting, such as halogen.
To avoid bulb exposure, consider fixtures with a glass or acrylic base, which will also help to diffuse the light evenly and provide better task lighting.