How to determine electrical box position, pendant height, pendant size, pendant design, and finish.
Whether you’re renovating, expanding, or creating a new kitchen space, very often an island or peninsula may be part of the plan. Well-planned recessed lighting may be throughout the space which is instrumental in lighting distribution and providing flexibility. Pendant lighting can also add function, style, and drama to a space, particularly when positioned over an island or peninsula. But how do you determine number of pendants, positioning, or even pendant size for your space? Here are some helpful hints…
How Many Pendants?
The size of your island and peninsula is a starting point in determining how many pendants is appropriate. Is the island or peninsula countertop surface long, slender, wide, or square? Generally, the longer your island or peninsula, the more pendants may be needed. The pendant size will also be an important factor in determining the quantity of pendants needed. For example, a pendant light, which is large or wide, may mean fewer pendants are required with more spread. Smaller or narrower pendants may mean more of them and can be installed closer together.
Determine your desired pendant style up front. Don’t focus on the finish “yet”. Ask yourself if you’d like a pendant style that is “down light dominate” with an open bottom and closed top and sides? Some people do not want light to be illuminating the ceiling, particularly if there are imperfections in the ceiling’s surface texture. Or do you want a pendant style that emits light upward and through its sides for more light distribution? Do you want the pendants more for function illuminating the countertop surface? Or will they be more as an accent piece in the design of your space? It is possible to find a pendant design, which satisfies the need for both function, and design.
What design vocabulary or architectural style are you striving for? For example, do you want the style of your space to be Contemporary, Mid-Century Modern, Edgy, French Country, Tuscan, or Craftsman? Lighting is often one of the dominant objects that the eye goes to when entering a room. What is the style of your cabinets, countertop surface, cabinet knobs and pulls? These are all considerations when searching for a pendant design.
Spacing For Ceiling Electrical Boxes
Some pendant designs have a single ceiling plate (canopy) with multiple pendant lights. In this case, typically only one electrical box will be needed and centering the electrical box over the island or peninsula should be relatively easy to measure out. Some pendant light designs have a square canopy and some have a round canopy and most all are designed to install over a standard electrical box.
If you are bringing power to this location for the first time or if you are relocating power or moving an electrical box, then you need to figure out a proper box installation location. This can be challenging. Should you just leave it up to your Contractor or Electrician? Perhaps not. Do this part yourself or enlist someone who is handy and is able to pay attention to details. Installing pendants, which are not lined up or spaced evenly, is non-reversible and may drive you crazy thereafter.
Consider Mocking Up In 3D
After deciding on a pendant design, you can usually download a dimensional drawing and print it out to actual scale. You may need to piece it together with tape. Or you can cut out and piece together cardboard as close to the size and shape of the pendant as possible. It doesn’t need to be neat…just close. You can then hang the pendant(s) in your space with string just to get an idea of spacing and location. There really isn’t a recipe for proper spacing as there are way too many pendant designs, sizes and types.
If you or “a friend” have Photoshop skills, then do this!....
Take an elevation view picture of the space. Make sure there is something in the picture you can measure as reference. Or you can make sure there is a ruler in the picture. This will enable you to position a variety of pendant options into the picture to scale, simulating the final installation. It’s a very helpful visualization tool!
|^ Photoshop Simulation|
|^ Actual Pendants Installed|
Measuring Out For The Ceiling Electrical Boxes
- Measure the countertop surface and mark the very center with painter’s tape (make an X). If you are installing a number of pendants along the center, then locate and mark the center at the ends as well. Then make a straight line down the center with the tape.
- Using string with a plumb attached to the end, tape or pin the top end of the string to the ceiling when the plumb point is directly over the center X on the countertop. Be patient. It takes some time stabilizing the plumb. If you do not have a plumb, then you can use a fishing line sinker or something similar. This will determine the exact center over your island or peninsula.
- From there, you can do the same to the left and right of center. Experiment with spacing. Say 12”, 18”, 24” or more.
- As an option, you can tape your 3D or paper pendant to the string to help with spacing. This will also help in determining just how many pendants are needed.
- The top of the string where you have attached it to the ceiling should be the center of your ceiling electrical box or boxes.
^ Shows a tape line down the center of the countertop with 2 pendant positions.
|^ Shows one pendant center point.|
|^ Electrical box locations located.|
|^ Experimenting with pendant paper models.|
There is a rule of thumb but it will vary depending on the pendant design and the intended function of the island or peninsula. The general rule is that the very bottom of the pendant should be anywhere from 30” to 35” off from the surface of the countertop. If the countertop is narrow and the space will be used primarily for food prep or eating meals, then you may want the pendants to be installed on the higher end. Consider head heights particularly within a narrow countertop surface.
A chain-hung pendant will most likely come with excess chain. This will allow you to remove chain links to get the desired height at the time of installation. Most Electricians will have a chain spreader hand tool. Some pendant designs will have varying rod lengths, which screw together. Some stem-hung pendants are made to order to any specific overall height (ceiling to bottom of lantern). In this case you will need to make sure your overall height is accurate when placing your order as most made to order items cannot be changed or returned.
Pendant Lens Selection
OK. So now you have determined pendant design, size, style, quantity, and locations. Now you need to select a lens and finish. Many pendant designs are offered in only a single option and this may become a factor is selecting design and size. Some have a single lens option but with 2-4 finish options. Some pendants are made to order and available in multiple lenses and finish options.
In selecting a lens, consider the following; color, transparency, light output, and style. Keep in mind that a clear, seeded, or frosted glass will emit the most light but will also expose the light bulb(s). An opaque or warm colored glass or mica will emit a warm dimmer light. When selecting a light bulb, consider a soft or warm branded lamp over the brighter daylight ones. Also consider whether it will need to be dimmable or not.
Pendant Finish SelectionSelecting a pendant finish may be your hardest decision. Once again, consider the style you are going for. Consider matching or complimenting your cabinet hardware, fixture hardware, appliance finish, and most importantly, your countertop style and color. Consider the contrast between lens and finish. Do you want the frame of the fixture to be highlighted? If so, you would want contrast between the lens and finish.
Do you want an even tone finish or a finish with variation in the finish whether texture or coloration. There are plated finishes such as satin nickel or antiqued brass or copper, durable powder coat painted finishes, and there are hand applied living finishes which may patina over time. Some finishes may be very current in popularity such as satin brass but consider longevity in style trends. You may want something more timeless.
We hope this article is somewhat helpful to you. As always, we are available to assist with your selections on our store website. Have a look at our lighting options.