Keys to Kitchen Island Lighting

A focal point, a place to perch, and a highly functional space, a kitchen island must accommodate a number of needs—which means selecting the right lighting for the area can be a challenge. To help guide us through the process, we asked Emily Anderson, Lead Interior Designer at Minneapolis, Minnesota-based Martha O’Hara Interiors, to share the key considerations for choosing island fixtures. Here, she sheds some light on the subject (sorry, we couldn’t resist!):

Feel free to have fun. “Pendants over a kitchen island really have two jobs: they are not only task lights, but decorative lights as well,” Anderson says. “The other lighting (generally recessed cans) in the kitchen will help with the overall lighting of the room, so you can have fun and be daring with your island lighting and focus a little more on style versus function.” Anderson says a pendant or lantern with a downward-facing shade/bulb is best, but stay away from lanterns with an open-topped glass bowl, which have a tendency to collect dust and can be hard to clean.

Make sure you have enough wattage. Having ample light for your island is a must. “If you are working with a kitchen with no recessed can lighting, make sure you are getting pendants with at least a 100-watt bulb in them,” Anderson advises. “You can always put them on a dimmer when you don’t need them for task use.”

Take nearby fixtures into account. “Having your lighting relate to each other is key in close quarters,” Anderson notes. “Find one element, finish, shape, or style and match them. If your pendants are more modern, the light over your breakfast nook should have a modern element to it as well. If your pendants have a mix of brass and black, then you could choose one of those finishes for your breakfast table light.”

It’s okay to mix metals—just not too much! While Anderson is fond of black with gold or black with brass, she is quick to remind that there are many other finishes in the kitchen thanks to appliances, plumbing, and cabinet hardware, so it’s a good idea to exercise some restraint. “Not everything has to match, but you also don’t want too many finishes in one room,” she says.

Mind your sight lines. Don’t make the mistake of accidentally covering up an eye-catching element. “Do you have a fabulous range hood you want to show off? Then don’t put a large, opaque pendant in the way,” Anderson advises. Instead, she recommends going with a more open option or glass so your hood can be the showcase piece in your kitchen.

Don’t think too small. “Nothing is worse than tiny pendants—and a lot of them—over an island,” Anderson says, cautioning that it’s a dated look and can feel messy or cluttered. “Less is more in this situation. Normally two or three lights over any kitchen island will do the trick!”

TSG Tip 174 from Emily Anderson of Martha O’Hara Interiors in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Credits for space featured above: Martha O’Hara Interiors, Interior Design | City Homes, Builder | Troy Thies, Photography.