A Breath of Fresh Air: Why We Designed Our Kitchen Island WITHOUT Pendant Lighting!

Wondering if a kitchen island WITHOUT pendant lighting is for you? Or will it look “weird”? See what we did + several of our client kitchens designed WITHOUT pendant lights too! 🙂

One of the most unorthodox moves we made in our kitchen renovation was (aside from our double islands, which all contractors assured me was “weird” but we all can see who’s laughing now and her name starts with a J) to do our kitchen island without pendant lighting.

If you’re not happy with any of the kitchen island lighting ideas you’ve seen out there, this post is for you!

Are pendant lights going out of style? And why did we decide to nix the famous “pendant lights above the kitchen island” phenomena?

Three reasons, my friend. Come and see.

Why We Designed Our Kitchen Island Without Pendant Lighting:

Reason #3: This Kitchen Has Shorter Ceilings!

Unlike newer homes or new builds, our 40-year-old home did not come with soaring ceilings. (Nor did it even come with 9′ ceilings, which I would still take in a heartbeat over the eight-footers!)

No, like many older homes, our home has 8′ ceilings and it’s impossible to raise them because—hello there!—we have a second floor up above.

So unless we want to lose a massive chunk of our upstairs bedrooms and bathrooms, we must live with our 8′ ceilings contentedly, and make the best of it.

white kitchen island without pendants
Shop Our Kitchen

Here in the kitchen, that affected our decision whether to do pendants in our kitchen—or not. If we’d had higher ceilings, I would have loved to get some massive, large-scale pendants in here for a more dramatic focal point…

…but that’s where there’s no cookie cutter solution to home design (especially in older homes!). Just because 80% of the kitchens we drool over on Pinterest have gorgeous kitchen pendants does NOT mean that we should automatically put them into our homes!

Be thoughtful about it. Consider your space.

In our case, we decided pendant lights would hinder rather than help us. Why? I’m so glad you asked, because that brings me to our next reason!

kitchen island lighting ideas

Reason #2: It’s a Cleaner Look!

Because we were ripping out a wall in our kitchen, we knew more of our downstairs would become visible. By that I mean, as you’re standing on one side of the kitchen looking through it, you see quite a bit of the rooms on either side.

Our kitchen is not a U-shape or L-shape kitchen. Your eye doesn’t just stop on a wall in our kitchen, because it’s more of a large-scale galley kitchen. Instead, your eye continues in our living room on one side, or—even busier visually—the side with our dining room and family room, along with a little peek into our bar area.

That fact about our particular home layout gave us yet another reason to do our kitchen without pendant lighting. The view from one end of the house to the other—through our kitchen—would be more cluttered visually with pendants over our islands.

Even when you’re standing within the kitchen—say, Matt at the sink and Jess at the stove—when we’d turn to talk to each other, the pendants would be in the way because of our low ceilings and inability to raise them as high as would be best, in my opinion. Sure, we could do smaller pendants or see-through glass pendants, but 1) I didn’t want to go small as that often doesn’t look right, and 2) I did not want see through glass pendants in this space. (Personal preference.)

white kitchen island without pendant lighting
5+ Ways We Made Our Kitchen Look Bigger!

You also might have noticed in the photo that when you’re standing in our living room, looking through the kitchen into our dining room and our family room, you can see the large woven pendant we have above our dining room table. Sure, we could still do pendants in the kitchen, but there’s something inside me that instinctively loves simplicity and says to just focus on one pendant, instead of having two, three, or four different pendants (and in different styles) to focus on.

In the end, we decided that—for us—putting in pendants would be visually distracting. Trust me, I’ve mocked up and photoshopped every possible pendant style and design into this kitchen , and even the ones I thought 1) would for sure work or 2) might maybe work…simply do not.

Less is more.

(It’s also nice to be standing on the other side of the kitchen and be able to look out the big window to the pool, without pendants in your way—keep in mind those low ceilings we’ve got!)

So if your kitchen is “between” rooms, and adding pendants would clutter the view visually, you might do well to consider having no pendant lights in your kitchen. (Do not fear! You won’t be alone! You’ll be in good company!)

island PENDANT LIGHTS

Reason #1: Pendant Lights Are Unnecessary for Our Lifestyle!

We remodeled this kitchen over six years ago. So we’ve had plenty of quality time to test it out.

And both Matt and I will tell you we’ve never felt that we needed pendant lights over the islands.

Most of the day, our kitchen has natural light coming in the windows, and that’s my absolute favorite way to work! (Maybe because I’m an HSP.) Natural light isn’t harsh on the eyes, and I find it so much more calming not to have artificial light when I don’t need it.

In the evening, when we might be prepping dinner or having people over, we have the overhead lights on and they’ve been great! We haven’t wished to turn them off for something like a softer pendant light (even though I wondered if I would!).

The thing is, a kitchen is—above all!—a workspace. (One of the highly used workspaces in many of our homes!) And a good workspace needs good lighting. For us, our overhead lights work perfectly for that, and when we’re done working in there and moved on to another part of our home or to our outdoor living spaces, we turn the lights in our kitchen off.

Easy breezy. (And saves on our electric bill.)

white quartz kitchen countertop on island with vegetables chopped on cutting board
Six years later and I’m still crushing on our white quartz countertops!

Sure, we all love the gorgeous large-scale pendants coming down over a kitchen island from 15-foot ceilings, but that’s probably not even what most of us really need in our kitchen.  We usually have other lighting that can be used—what we don’t have already existing is good storage, good counter space, a plethora of kitchen drawers, etc. 

Focus on those—focus on making your kitchen work like a dream, without it having to make it necessarily look like a dream. There’s no true beauty without true functionality!

A KITCHEN ISLAND WITHOUT PENDANT LIGHTING

Is It For You?

There are certainly times when a big dramatic pendant or two add the drama and focal point that really makes a space pop. (We’ve done pendants in our dining room as well as in our master bedroom.)

If your home has higher ceilings and doesn’t open up to other rooms where pendants will simply be visual clutter, then that’s wonderful! In our case, pendants over our kitchen island simply didn’t make sense…

…and we want those of you who find yourself in a unique space (where you’re not sure if pendants are a good choice or not) to feel free to not do pendants in your kitchen if you don’t need to! 🙂

Here are some examples of client kitchens we’ve designed without pendants as well, for your enjoyment and inspiration!

FREE: Grab our Design Mini-guide HERE!

Read our 5 Reasons Drawers are Better Than Cabinets!

Which is better for your space: dark or light Hardwood Floors?

How to work with your kitchen layout? We go over all that in “The Ideal Kitchen Layout!”

Why We Recommend Drawers Instead of Cabinets!
FREE: Grab our Design Mini-guide HERE!

If you’re still unsure about whether or not to do pendants in your kitchen—or any other design conundrums that have you feeling stuck right now—grab our Kitchen Design & Organization Guides (or consult with us)!

Next…

When we DO use pendants in client kitchens, here’s what we recommend! (You can see more categories in our Instant Shop!)

To see when we DO use pendants, check out our bedroom pendants and our favorite pendants under $150!

We also have a post about the styles of bathroom lights you should AVOID!

Other popular posts:

  1. Why we ripped out our new kitchen!
  2. 5 ways we made our kitchen look bigger.
  3. The genius reasons we chose to do all kitchen drawers instead of cabinets!
  4. Psssssst! Need immediate kitchen help and want to AVOID all the mistakes? Get our Kitchen Design & Organization Bundle HERE! 👈
  5. 3 bonus cabinet storage ideas every kitchen needs.
  6. 5 brilliant kitchen organization ideas that make life easier!
  7. To see all our kitchen posts, click HERE!

PS: Our complete list of every single home project is viewable HERE!

This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. Stephanie

    Even though I LOVE island pendants, I’ve been thinking of just doing a fixture over the dining table because of your Reason 2. it’s open concept and I have been thinking there would just be too many hanging objects and visually cluttered.

  2. Daniel

    This is wonderful. I am removing the huge rectangle pendant light from out island. We have an older home with a kitchen that has a lower ceiling and though it could look ok with island lights hanging over it, I find it too chunky. So I’m replacing it with a slim modern ceiling light. It will basically blend into the ceiling yet provide lots of lighting at night. I love the simple pendant over the table idea. Our current one is way too big for the space. I do love it but it’s not the right fit for the table space with a lower ceiling. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences about lighting. You gave me courage to move forward with my island lighting removal plan.

    1. Jess

      Yay!! So glad we help give you that confidence, Daniel! Thank you so much for sharing with us. Love it!😄💪🧠

      – Matt and Jess

  3. Nicole Hoveson

    We are in the SAME Boat…other than our low ceilings, we are also putting in a 72 inch window and my husband and I feel that it we put the pemdants there it would be in the way of our backyard view! I love what you did and thank you for the post!!! Beautiful!!

  4. Craig

    Your blog post about kitchen island was a true gift. Your words and expertise have inspired me . Thank you for sharing your passion with the world!

    1. Jess

      Thank you for the kind words, Craig!

      Matt and Jess

  5. Lee

    Thank you so much for posting this! We’re in the middle of a kitchen reno and I’ve been looking for photos (or advice) on how to light our eat-in kitchen which is immediately next to our island… I’m going to skip the island pendants and add the pendant/chandelier (or 2?) to the table… for exactly the reasons you listed here!

    1. Jess

      Love it! Thanks for sharing, Lee! 🙂

      – Jess & Matt

  6. Maya

    Yes! Found your post because we are in a similar situation with our 1940s 8 foot ceilings. I also have a windows that looks out to the pool. We also have a skylight above our island so any pendant light would have e to be placed awkwardly on one edge of the skylight. Thanks for giving me the confidence to move forward without pendant lighting!

    1. Jess

      I love it!! Thanks for sharing, Maya!! 🙌😄👏🏼

      – Jess

  7. Afton Jackson

    You did a really good job of showing off how much cleaner a kitchen can look without pendant lights. This kind of look definitely feels much better for our space compared to what I initially had in mind, and this might result in a very comfy eating space for all of us. I’ll take this idea into account and find a kitchen renovation expert that can help us use this idea.

    1. Jess

      Thanks Afton! Best of luck with your project!

  8. Chelsea

    Coming across this after being in the situation where we redid our 1940s home and sold into the pendant trend and now regretting it. Ugh. Wish we just did more recessed lights! Having to just use what we’ve got and find the least obtrusive pendants I can find that still fit my aesthetic. You made the right choice and I wish I found this sooner!

    1. Jess

      Hi Chelsea! Thank you and I wish you’d found it sooner too! I’m sure you’ll find something that will work–it’s all about working with what you have! 🙂 It might take some time but it’ll be worth it! 🙂

      – Jess

  9. darlene

    Im so glad I stumbled accross this! We are in the middle of a kitchen remodel and we also had taken a wall down so its completely open. I didn’t want the visual clutter of pendant lights so we opted to go with overhead lighting instead, and funny, I picked out a very similar light fixture for our dining room as you have!

    1. Jess

      Thanks Darlene! The remodel process can be difficult but SO worth it in the end–and years ahead! 🙂 Enjoy!

      Jess & Matt

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