The Ultimate Guide to Pendant Lighting

ultimate guide to pendant lighting

Maxim Hi-Bay Pendant Light

Whether you’re starting from scratch with a new home or you’re upgrading lights that are already installed, pendant lighting is one type of fixture that you ought to explore. From kitchens to dining areas, bedrooms to foyers, pendant lights have a penchant for fitting in no matter where you need a little illumination.

It’s that flexibility that has us head-over-heels for interior design’s favorite new trend: swapping out standard fixtures for pendants. That’s right, you can nix everything from table lamps to flush mount lights and replace them with the humble (and surprisingly handy) pendant light fixture.

Best of all: There are so many different types of pendant lights that you’re sure to find one to suit your interior design style. No matter how you want your home to look or live, we guarantee that these babies can help you get it right.

To learn more about one of the most versatile types of lighting available today, read on. Here’s everything you need to know about pendant lighting.

WHAT IS A PENDANT LIGHT?

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A pendant light is typically a single bulb or shade that’s suspended from the ceiling. The bulb might be bare—think: the recently revived Edison light bulb trend. More frequently, though, you’ll see pendant lighting covered by some sort of shade or casing made from metal, glass, wood or some other material.

You can hang a pendant light from any durable material. Common options include basic cords, wrought iron chains, rope or steel rods. The “hanging” characteristic is essential. If the fixture doesn’t dangle from the ceiling in some fashion, it’s not a pendant light.

what is a pendant light graphic

Some large pendant lights are often referred to as chandeliers. Traditionally, though, the two are quite different. While both are hung from the ceiling using cords, chains or rods, a pendant light usually has a single bulb or shade and a chandelier has multiple  bulbs or shades that branch off from the body of the fixture.

Nowadays, you can also find pendants that are already grouped together as a single lighting fixture. These are called multi-pendant suspensions.

You don’t need to get too caught up in the details, though. If it’s hanging from the ceiling and has a single light source, you can call it a pendant light without worrying that someone will correct you. If you see them hanging in groups of two or three, you’re golden.

WHY YOU SHOULD CONSIDER PENDANT LIGHTING

pendant divider

If you need a little light on the subject, a pendant light—or a group of pendant lights—might just be the fixture you’re searching for.

Like recessed lights and track lights, pendant lights are most often used to provide task-oriented lighting, though using multiples can create effective general light in an area, as well. Unlike these other two types of fixtures, though, pendant lights offer you more flexibility when it comes to design.

While can lights tend to disappear into the ceiling, pendant lights are statement-makers. Because they hang down into your field of vision, these fixtures are ones you and your guests will pay attention to. This makes them excellent options for highlighting a specific area or station, like a desk, dining table or breakfast bar.

They’re also handy for breaking up a large room into purpose-driven spaces. If your home features an open floor plan or a combined living area-kitchen-dining room, pendant lighting can divide the room visually without the need for walls or other physical barriers.

And, depending on a pendant light’s shade, it can also provide accent lighting. If that’s what your home currently needs, look for shades that direct the light up rather than down. You’ll find it creates a more muted, ambient lighting option.

Maxim Meridian Pendant Light

Maxim Meridian Pendant Light

HOW TO SHOP FOR A PENDANT LIGHT FIXTURE

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When there are so many different types of fixtures to choose from, it can be overwhelming! Not sure exactly where you should start? No worries. Here’s what you need to consider, step-by-step.

Purpose

All lighting fixtures should serve a purpose, whether it’s a lamp, a chandelier or a pendant light. When shopping for new light fixtures, think about your purpose first. Do you need bright lights so that you can chop vegetables on a kitchen island? Do you want soft lighting over a dining room table? Do you want to be able to read in a comfy chair while your family members are watching TV?

Whatever your purpose is, it will play into what sort of light makes sense for your home.

Size

There are tiny, task-oriented pendant lights called mini-pendants. Then, there are chandelier-sized pendants that are the width of a table. Because pendant lighting often comes in groups, there’s some flexibility when it comes to size. You could use one large pendant or multiple smaller ones.

As you shop, think about how visible or noticeable your fixtures will be, too. If you’d rather your pendants blend in with the rest of your decor, consider a lower-profile style or a smaller size light.

Shape

There are lots of tear-drop-, sphere- and column-shaped pendant lights available. In fact, those might be the ones you’re most used to seeing. However, pendant lighting comes in a variety of shapes, just like chandeliers, lanterns and flush-mount ceiling fixtures.

Style

Pendant lighting is all about individualism. There is a fixture to suit your personal style. You just have to find it.

Here are a few different types of home design styles along with pendant lighting fixtures that suit that style:

Contemporary

Conic Light 1 Mini Pendant by George Kovacs

(Conic Light 1 Mini Pendant by George Kovacs)

Traditional

Single Light Rialto Pendant by Seagull Lighting

(Single Light Rialto Pendant by Seagull Lighting)

Rustic

Cahoon Pendant by Kichler

(Cahoon Pendant by Kichler)

Industrial

Lennex 1 Light Mini Pendant by Feiss

(Lennex 1 Light Mini Pendant by Feiss)

HOW TO HANG A PENDANT LIGHT

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Once you’ve picked out the perfect pendant lighting, the only thing left to do is to hang—and enjoy, of course! Below is our primer packed with all the tips you need to install your new light fixture.

Hanging tips for pendant lighting

Since pendant lights are suspended from the ceiling, there are a few extra details you need to pay attention to in order to ensure that your fixtures of choice are the perfect fit for your home. Here are three essentials that you need to nail before you can enjoy your new lighting:

Hanging height

How long your cord, chain or rod is will depend on where you’re hanging your pendant light, what purpose it’s meant to serve and how much ceiling clearance you have. A standard hanging height for a dining table is 24 to 30 inches.

To test your hanging height, try tying a flashlight to a rope or cord. Ask a friend to stand on a ladder and hold it in place while you decide on the perfect length.

Maneuverability

Whether you’re standing or seated, you don’t want to be able to bump into your pendant lighting. You also don’t want it to obscure your view, especially in a dining area. Think about how people will be moving around and interacting with your fixture before you hang it.

Glare

Your new lighting shouldn’t make you squint. You also shouldn’t have to worry about accidentally looking at your pendant light the wrong way. Hanging height can affect glare, but you’ll also want to consider the type of light bulb and shade you purchase. A frosted bulb, for example, might solve a sticky lighting situation.

hanging tips light pendant graphic

Can you do it yourself?

If you’re replacing an existing light fixture, installing a pendant light is a fairly easy swap to make for a DIY-inclined homeowner. However, if you’re unfamiliar with electrical work and your lighting project requires running new wiring, we recommend hiring out the job to a professional or pairing up with a more experienced DIY-er.

Wait! Before you begin any lighting project…

Always turn your lighting source off at the wall and the circuit. Once you’ve turned off the electrical current at the breaker box, place a piece of tape over the switch so that no one can come along and turn it back on while you’re working on installing your fixture.

How to install a pendant light: the basics

Once you’ve turned off the power, use a screwdriver to remove the existing light. Take off the old mounting bracket and replace it with the bracket that came with your new fixture. Screw it in snugly.

Now, adjust the hanging height by extending the suspension cord or shortening it. Follow your manufacturer’s instructions to wire your new pendant light. Then, place the cover over the junction box and secure it.

Go ahead and attach the shade, screw in the light bulb and turn your power back on.

SMART IDEAS FOR WHERE TO HANG PENDANT LIGHTING

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Most homeowners and interior designers like to arrange pendant lights in groups of two or three. While that’s the norm, you can certainly hang them by themselves or in larger groups or lines of four, five or more pendants, depending on the area you’re lighting.

living room interior with silver pendant light

Often, you’ll see pendant lights illuminating a long kitchen island or bar. Some like to use them in place of sconces in hallways with high ceilings or in bathrooms. In a more contemporary home, you might see a group of pendant lights or one large fixture in a place where you’d tend to expect a chandelier. Entryways and dining rooms are excellent examples of this growing trend.

Looking for more unexpected places to hang pendant lights? Here are some of our favorite lighting design ideas:

  • Overlooking a reading nook in a small space or bedroom corner
  • In a line above a dining room table in place of a chandelier
  • Above work tables in a craft room, school room or workshop
  • Over nightstands that are too small for tabletop lamps
  • In a bathroom alongside sconces to provide both overhead lighting and side lighting
  • Along the gables of a finished attic
  • Spanning a hallway that’s too narrow for wall sconces
  • Lighting up a long front porch
  • In a cluster to highlight covered outdoor seating or dining areas

The array of design, bulb and installation options open to homeowners today makes pendant lighting appropriate for more situations and home environments than ever before. By swapping out a bulb, grouping a few pendants together or placing them on a dimmer switch, you can control the look and feel of your lighting down to the color of the glow each fixture produces.

Many of our customers are choosing to use pendant lighting in place of more traditional lighting options. We applaud their creativity! If you have questions about where to hang your pendant lights or if pendant lighting suits your unique situation, please don’t hesitate to contact the lighting experts at Hansen Wholesale.

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