A variety of lighting is important to any space, but in a kitchen, the lighting above an island is crucial for performing detailed tasks. Incorporate layers of light to include general, accent, and task lighting. A kitchen with good general lighting also needs additional lights above the island, and this task lighting -- often in the form of pendants over the island -- will round out your kitchen lighting plan.
When deciding how many pendants to hang above an island, follow the Rule of Three. This rule states balance is created by repeating an element three times. Above an island, three pendant lights create a more balanced space than two or four, though the deciding factor in following The Rule of Three is always proportion. In a kitchen with a small island and oversize pendant lights, two pendants would provide enough illumination and three would overwhelm the space.
Choose pendants that complement the style of your kitchen without being exact matches to other fixtures in the room. Next, decide how far above the island the lights should hang. The size of the pendant, how much light it sheds onto the surface, and the height of members of your family will all affect how high to hang the lights. On average, a pendant light should be 30 inches above the countertop. For taller people, hang your pendant lights higher than 30 inches from the countertop to raise them above eye level, as pendant lights should never impede a person's view of someone or something on the other side of the island.
If your island has an incorporated cooktop, consider the heat coming off the cooktop and how the lights will affect the person who does the cooking. When in doubt, raise the pendants another 3-6 inches to reduce the heat the lights sustain as well as the affect they have on the cook.
In addition to height and proportion, consider adding dimmers to the lighting above your island. Dimmers allow flexibility, enabling you to change the mood for prep, dining, and cleanup. For example, having pendant lighting on a dimmer is multifunctional, creating good general light when needed or softer, more ambient light when lightbulbs are dimmed down.
When planning kitchen lighting, avoid making these three common mistakes:
1. Not having enough light.
As we all get older, we need more light to see properly. This can be as simple as increasing the wattage or adding more lights to work areas.
2. Not having the right kinds of light.
The right light will minimize glare, render color accurately, and create an inviting atmosphere.
3. Not having enough light controls.
This includes things such as window shadings to control natural light as well as dimmers for lightbulbs.
Overall, there is no exact science to kitchen island lighting since much of the decisions depend on you and your kitchen, but if you follow these general guidelines, you will be able to create a high-quality lighting plan in your kitchen.