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The Light Stuff: Use pendants to put your home in the best light

Pendants are an attractive way to illuminate a home, if used properly. The American Lighting Association provides the following tips for selecting pendants for optimal design and functionality. Pendants must be placed at the proper height and in the appropriate quantity for the space being illuminated. The type of pendant to use depends on whether it’s the primary or secondary light source in the room.

When it comes to selecting which type of pendant you need, style isn’t the only criteria. The first decision should be whether the pendants will be the primary source of light. If an adequate layer of general illumination is already in the room, pendants can be selected purely for aesthetic purposes. If they will be the only light in the area, the placement and selection must be more deliberate. The two most common pendant lighting mistakes homeowners make are not placing them at the proper height and not installing enough.

The best advice is to visit your local lighting showroom for guidance. Sitting down with a trained lighting professional who can asses your needs will help to result in the best outcome for your lighting project. That being said, here are some guidelines to follow when selecting pendant lighting for your home:

What height should pendants be mounted at?

Our relationship to most pendants occurs when we are standing up. Therefore, each should be mounted so that the bottom of the shade is approximately 66 inches above the floor. At that height, it is possible to look across the room below the pendants while they are low enough to create a dramatic focal point. If the shade is not very deep and there is seating at the kitchen island or peninsula, it might be necessary to install the pendants a few inches lower, say 60 inches above the floor. This is because shallow shades allow us to easily see the bulb inside when we are looking across the room and can cause glare.

How many pendants do I need?

The general recommendation is for one pendant to be placed at every two feet of counter space. For instance, a six-foot island would require three pendants to adequately cover the area. In that example, one pendant would be mounted in the center and the other two would be placed roughly 20 inches on either side.

The size of the pendants can also impact the spacing. If thin, narrow pendants are selected, you might prefer the addition of one or two extra fixtures than you would have if a wider diameter was chosen. Odd quantities of pendants over a counter or island give a more balanced look than an even number. Always keep with the rule of thumb of suspending the middle fixture at the center-point with the others equidistant from the center. Spacing from 12 to 24 inches will depend on the size of each pendant.

Does it matter what the pendant is made of?

Actually, no. It’s all a matter of personal taste. Glass is currently the most common material used for pendants, followed by spun metal. White or off-white colored shades will complement any decorative or interior design theme. Glass styles are offered in a broad spectrum ranging from a neutral color palette that blends into the surroundings to the more vibrant, color-rich pendants that steal attention.

If the pendant will be providing the general lighting for the space, it is important to select a shade that is translucent but not so dark that it prevents light from emanating horizontally. Another important consideration is that the bulb outline should not be readily visible – especially if it’s a compact fluorescent. Today, we are seeing a split in preferences. Bronze is on one side and silver is on the other. While the rule is not hard and fast, bronzes are typically used in more traditional or transitional spaces, while chromes and nickels are perfect for contemporary settings. For the foreseeable future, both metal families will be popular, but there will be a growing demand for the shiny finishes instead of matte.

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