Determining the height of pendants over an island comes down to your personal preference. After all, what's perfect for one person might obstruct another's line of sight across the kitchen. However, designers have a height range that they typically use when hanging pendant lights above a kitchen island, and you can use their rule of thumb to get started.
General Kitchen Island Lighting Guide
A good guideline to follow for pendant light height over a bar or island is 30 to 36 inches between the counter and the bottom of the light fixture. You'll want to play around with the heights based on your line of sight, which is discussed more below. According to Better Homes & Gardens, if you want the pendant to hang pretty high, measure from the top of the fixture to the ceiling, aiming for at least 12 to 20 inches below an 8-foot ceiling.
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Plan to have at least 30 inches of space between the pendants and determine the number of pendants you'll need accordingly. Three pendants can hang with one over the center of the counter and the other two on the quarter lines. Two pendants can hang over a shorter island equidistant from the center.
Depending on the style of the pendant you choose, you may want to use soft-glow light bulbs or else install the pendant lights on a dimmer switch. You don't want to be hit with blinding light every time you look across your kitchen.
Consider What's Too Low
While following the general kitchen island lighting guide is a good place to start, one thing to keep in mind is that you don't want the lights to be too low. Yes, you definitely want to be able to see what you're doing while preparing food on your kitchen island, but you probably do more than just stare at the counter when in your kitchen.
Imagine all of the conversations that take place across that kitchen island, and then imagine pendant lights hanging in the way. Will this frustrate you? If it would, a good rule of thumb is to have the lights hang no lower than head height over an island in order to maintain a good line of sight across it. And because some families are taller or shorter, this height totally depends on your own measurements.
If you can live with looking around gorgeous pendant lights every once in a while, you may want to stick with the typical guidelines. If you're really not sure, you can buy party globes and hang them from string at various heights over your island in order to get a feel for what it's like to have potential visual obstacles in your kitchen.
Hanging Lights in Other Scenarios
The placement of pendant lights over the kitchen sink, counters or dining tables allows a little more leeway in terms of height. For the kitchen sink or counter, you might appreciate having a low-hanging light in order to brighten the task at hand. You can also hang a pendant light lower over a dining table since the line of sight won't be obstructed when everyone sits down. However, don't hang it so low that you'll risk bumping the light with your arms' normal range of motion, whether at the table or over the sink.