Lighting is a wonderful way to incorporate both form and function into your living spaces while showcasing your own style as well as current trends. Pendants have become a staple of our lighting offerings, with sales of those fixtures increasing significantly over the last few years. Pendants are versatile, varied and very much en vogue. But what should you consider when picking the just-right pendants for your space?
Consider the Context
First, think about the area you want to light with pendants. What style is prevalent in that room? What look are you going for in the space? If mid-century modern is your vibe, you want to choose pendants which are sleek, mod and simple. If glam is your style, opt for crystals and shimmer. You want the fixtures to jibe with the style of the room where they will be installed.
Next, be sure they are capable of producing enough light for the space, whether they are task, ambient or accent lighting. (Read more about that here!)
Once you have a form and function in mind, you can start planning for your pendant purchase. (Say that ten times, fast!)
Shape & Size
The oft-quoted recommendation for fixture size is to add up the dimensions of the room in feet and use that number in inches as the target diameter for your fixture. This holds true for pendants as well – when they are hung alone.
Many of the pendants going out our doors lately are destined for the kitchen, specifically to light the island. Often they are used as a balancing focal point above the island. How many you use depends on several factors including the size of the pendants and the size of the island.
Generally, two or three pendants look best, depending on the size and shape of the island, but four can work if they are highlighting the corners of a large, square island.
When placing pendants across a counter or island, choose a style that is at least 10 inches smaller in diameter than the width of the surface beneath it. Measure approximately 12-15” in from either end of the surface, and then evenly space the lights within that span. If you want to squeeze in just one more, be sure the end pendants are placed no less than 6 inches from each end of the island so they don’t seem crowded.
Stepping out of the kitchen, shape and size is still important. A line of matching pendants down a hallway makes a bold statement and gives your home a classic look. Space them evenly and be sure any doors that open beneath the fixtures have plenty of room.
Recommended hanging heights vary widely based on the use and location of the fixture. Proper positioning can be considered two different ways. First, let’s look from the top, down: mount the pendant so the bottom of the light is about 30” above the surface of the table or countertop. The other method is from the bottom, up: hang your fixture so the bottom edge or rim of the pendant is between 60-66 inches from the floor. Many spaces feature soaring ceilings which must be considered. A general rule: if your ceilings are more than 8 feet high, add 3 inches to your hanging height for each additional foot of ceiling height.
Also, particularly with open floor plans, remember to consider the line of sight when hanging pendants around the kitchen island. You don’t want to obstruct the view of the adjacent room – airier, clear pendants might be a wise choice if that cannot be avoided.
How’s It Hanging?
Besides deciding where to hang your fixtures, there’s the matter of how. Stems and rods are quite common, and most come with several lengths of stem to allow for variation in ceiling height. If your ceilings are vaulted and angled, you’ll want to be certain your fixture works on a sloped ceiling.
Cord-hung pendants can offer a bit more flexibility as they are easier to adjust. A fixture with a retractable cord is the king of versatility, since it can be adjusted almost effortlessly. Such a fixture is ideal for a multi-use space: it can be pulled closer for task lighting when needed and back up to its usual height when less focused light is required.
Another option is to swag your pendant: mount the cord on one part of the ceiling or wall and then drape and mount the remaining cord and fixture from another part of the surface. This affords you a ton of versatility as well as a unique visual effect.
Embrace the Unexpected
There is life beyond the kitchen island when it comes to pendants. They can be the showstopper focal point of a room, particularly if you do something a little unexpected. Consider placing pendants:
- Where you’d usually find a downlight, like near your favorite reading chair
- Twin pendants flanking the bed – instead of lamps – on the bedside tables
- On either side of the bathroom mirror (great shadow-free lighting!)
- Installed above a luxurious soaker tub
- An asymmetric placement of a single pendant in a powder room
Another idea to consider is a multi-pendant fixture, where several pendants are suspended from one base plate. Many manufacturers offer a wide variety of semi-custom combinations, usually hanging from varied heights. These fixtures can add some wonderful visual interest to a room and offer tons of flexibility.
If you’re willing to mix and match, varying the hanging height of multiple smaller pendants can create vibrant visual interest.
If pendants are on your must-have list for your next project, you will have many from which to choose. Get creative and think outside the box and you’re sure to end up with a fun, functional and fashionable lighting schematic.
Keep these tips in mind and don’t be afraid to ask for help from the pros. Industry professionals (like our team) are happy to assist as you plan and pick the perfect pendants for your space.