Kitchen island lighting ideas to illuminate all your needs – from cooking to socialising

Kitchen island lighting ideas to illuminate all your needs – from cooking to socialising

Looking for kitchen island lighting ideas? Think first about how you’ll use this invaluable kitchen space. With open-plan kitchen extensions proving more popular than ever, the kitchen island has become an essential feature. And the right lighting is crucial to ensure a optimum use of this kitchen design element.

‘No other interior element can literally change the mood of a space at the touch of a button’ says Sally Storey, design director at John Cullen. ‘You can make a kitchen work almost 24/7 by the way you choose to light it. In daytime, it can be a hardworking, task-oriented space. Transferring to a softer, moodier scheme by early evening, and the perfect place to dine by late evening.’

What does kitchen island lighting need to do?

What purpose do you wish your kitchen island to serve? If you see it as more of a food preparation unit, you might prefer a stronger lighting presence. Do you see your kitchen island as more of a social space? Given almost all kitchen islands incorporate an element of seating to make them a social space, it might be best to consider the secondary lighting option to overhead lights, for adding ambience as and when needed.

In all examples, it helps to have localised accent lighting – such as pendants over the island – to add more focused light.

When lighting a kitchen island, you really want to highlight the area. An island is often a social hub and illuminating it correctly can make it all the more inviting. To decide on lighting options, consider the area’s uses, is it a practical space for working from home and evening meal prep that needs bright task lighting? Or is it at the centre of catch ups and coffees, for which you’ll need warm accent lighting?

‘The right lighting can transform your kitchen into a spectacular space’ explains Hayley Simmons, Head of Merchandising for Magnet. ‘The most important thing when putting together your kitchen lighting ideas is planning. It’s usually best to think about your lighting well before you begin choosing worktops and cabinets; the type of lighting you choose may inform your kitchen style.”

Need more design inspiration? Kitchen trends 2020 – the latest kitchen design trends

How many lights should my kitchen island have?

There are no hard and fast rules on the number of lights kitchens should have. Ultimately it all depends on the size of the kitchen island. As a general rule of thumb designers prefer odd numbers, there’s a thing thought to be the ‘power of three’, whereby things in threes are inherently more pleasing visually.

As a result choosing three pendants or task light options would add interest, rather than two which welcomes symmetry. But that’s not to say if you want two you would be wrong to have two, because there are those who prefer symmetry to balance a look. It’s ultimately a matter of preference.

Kitchen island lighting ideas

1. Make a statement with cluster lights

Image credit: Dewey Verwey

Make the island the star of your kitchen space with a really statement light fitting. Bottle-like hanging lights instantly command attention within this contemporary kitchen.

When choosing lighting of this magnitude, consider using softer bulbs or a dimmer functionality. This is to prevent the island feeling overwhelmed by light, so it doesn’t end up feeling too ‘floodlit’. You want a statement light to attraction attention…but not for all the wrong reasons.

With statement lighting you can help to make the scheme feel more like a living room, rather than a kitchen. Don’t be afraid to play with the design concept for your kitchen lighting, to make it feel more of a social space rather than just a room in which to cook and clean.

2. Keep the look simple with a single shade

walnut wood kitchen with yellow pendant light over kitchen island

Image credit: Eleri Griffiths

One single drum shade a kitchen island is sufficient to highlight this as a focal point of the kitchen. One dominant light placed centrally over the island is a great option for task lighting, provided there are alternative spotlights or downlights to illuminate the remaining surfaces for food preparation, etc.

By choosing a bold colour for a single suspended light helps to give the light more prominence. It’s a great way to tie in a dominate colour theme to pick out with kitchen textiles and any blinds and furnishings.

3. Go glam with a chandelier

blue kitchen with chandelier over island

Image credit: Richard Gadsby

Who says chandeliers are only for living room and bedrooms? Not us! The kitchen is a great place to push the boundaries with lighting concepts. An open-plan living room invites the notion of blending styles – diluting the idea of strict living room styles and strict kitchen styles for lighting.

A striking chandelier looks especially grand if you have high ceilings, making the most of that extra height over the island. Use spotlights to surround the chandelier to add further drama to the scheme when all the lights are switched on.

4. Add ambient light from the ground up

kitchen island lighting

Image credit: Magnet

Think about the whole island when considering lighting. This style of downlighting is purely to add ambience, a key role of lighting in any room.
‘If you want to really make a statement with your island, perhaps the boldest form of accent lighting is LED profile lighting,’ advises Hayley Simmons at Magnet. ‘Sitting below the worksurface, profile lighting brings bags of ambiance to a contemporary kitchen and is perfect for those that love to host and entertain.’

5. Reflect light with glass designs

country kitchen with chandelier

Image credit: Rachael Smith

Make the light go even further with an elegant glass fitting. It’s not just pendants that can grab attention when hung over a kitchen island, as this crystal drop lighting proves. The chandelier-style lighting fitting instantly adds an elegant edge to this neutral kitchen space. You can add an ultra glam light to a more rustic country kitchen and it still works.

Mixing the styles works, provided the finer details all work in harmony together – for example, here sleek chrome cabinet handles coordinate with the foundation of the light fitting.

6. Let your lighting define the style

Neutral kitchen with chrome industrial lighting

Image credit: Mel Yates

Your chosen lighting plays a key role in adding design flourish to the room. The kitchen can remain neutral in colour and yet the lighting can instantly determine a more refined style. Such as old-school chrome pendant lights help to inject a splash of industrial chic to this kitchen – enhanced by the exposed metal utensils rack and industrial-style wall clock. Matching key fixtures, fittings and accessories can help to marry an over-all decor.

‘Pendant lights are a particularly popular choice for task lighting as they have the ability to concentrate light above the island yet can also be used to create a stylish focal point’ agrees Hayley Simmons at Magnet. ‘There are almost infinite shade and bulb combinations for pendant lights, from exposed bulbs and brass fixtures for modern industrial kitchens, to period inspired antique pendants for country styles.

7. Coordinate colours to create a bold look

kitchen with blue splashback and matching lights

Image credit: Richard Gadsby

Colour in a kitchen goes a long way to add personality and flair. While most play it safely – and right so – with colours on cabinetry, the lighting is a relatively changeable way to incorporate colour.

Three contemporary dome lights are evenly spaced across the length of this generous kitchen island to ensure the colour stretches. A matching blue splashback and a decorative wallpaper in the same hue helps to take the colour further.

8. Let natural light dominate

grey kitchen with white ceiling and skylights

Image credit: Douglas Gibb

Think about how your lighting solution will affect the look, whatever time of the day. If you have the advantage of skylights to flood the space with natural light you might prefer to keep the lighting solution almost undetectable.

Here white drum shades provide a subtle stylish touch without grabbing too much attention. Obviously, after dark, the generous shades will provide plentiful light over the central island, which is essential give the sink placement.

9. Direct light upwards

white kitchen with metro tiles and wrought iron lights over the kitchen island

Image credit: Richard Gadsby

Using statement lighting that directs upwards helps to perfectly highlight the ceiling, creating the illusion of taller space.  ‘One of the biggest mistakes people make is to install just a grid of spotlights in the ceiling that don’t relate to the cabinets or the central island in any way,’ Sally explains. ‘It just creates a really bland space. For the best results, aim for general reflected light which could come from the front of cabinets or from uplighters on top of wall cupboards, that wash the ceiling with light.’

10. Incorporate lighting into an overhead pan rack

cream kitchen with lights over kitchen island

Image credit: Brent Darby

Suspending lighting over a kitchen island is a design focus due to the space being available. Absorbing that lighting into a multipurpose pan rack, all the better.

‘Spotlights work well in modern or minimalist kitchens and can really enhance a room’s features,’ explains Hayley Simmons at Magnet. ‘Smaller rooms and islands  also benefit from this lighting style as including spotlights in darker corners of the room can really open up the space. Also consider spotlights if you have high-shine worktops, as the light will bounce off the surface and make the room feel bigger and more illuminated.’

11. Shine a colour enhancing spotlight

cream kitchen with purple worktops

Image credit: Colin Poole

Think about how the light will bounce off the surfaces within your kitchen, especially the island worktop. Incorporating colour with lighting is a great way to unify a scheme. Here LED lights suspended within a panel over the kitchen island will help to reflect off the surface below – omitting a warming glow.

If choosing overhead spotlights consider having the option of a dimmable switch. ’It’s essential to get the temperature of LEDs right’ advises Sally. ‘LEDs have a reputation for being too cold. A lot of kitchen manufacturers go for a much higher number which give off a really cool white colour. This is fine for daylight, but you need something warmer for an evening environment.’

Does a kitchen island need pendant lights?

As our ideas below prove there are a number of lighting solutions to enhance your kitchen island, not just classic pendant lights. ‘Whilst pendants might be the most visually impressive option to light a kitchen island, again it pays to consider the activities the area is most used for, if they’re going to interfere with movement around the space, then they might not be the best option for you’ Hayley Simmons at Magnet.

As long as your chosen lighting solution is safe and suitable for the space. ‘Kitchens are multifunctional spaces, so whilst there are no specific rules or requirements in terms of IP rating for kitchen lighting as there are in bathrooms,’ Hayley goes on to say. ‘You will need your lighting to be as flexible and practical as possible.’

How to pick a light for a kitchen island

Having seen just a few of our ideas we hope it gives you food for thought when illuminating your kitchen space. The most important thing when designing a kitchen is to envision how you’ll use the space. Use the island as the hero of the kitchen and ensure you have secondary lighting in place to make it standout.

Further ideas: Kitchen lighting ideas – to deliver the right brightness levels as and where you need it

We hope you’re no longer left in the dark when it comes to lighting your kitchen island, and make it stand out for all the right reasons.

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