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Updated August 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Buying guide for best pendant lighting

Pendant lighting really is one of the most versatile, creative ways to light a home, and thanks to the many designs available, pendant lights are hardly boring. You’ll never need to raise a modern pendant light out of sight; they’re visually attractive, and if installed correctly, unobtrusive as well.

Home design is more complete and wholesome thanks to the existence of pendant lighting. But what’s the best way to utilize pendant lighting in your home? This buying guide goes through some popular design suggestions, along with plenty of tips and suggestions for using pendant lighting.

pendant lighting
Whether mission or modern, look for pendant lighting that complements the primary style of your home or room.

How to buy the best pendant lighting

Defining a pendant light

A pendant light is not a chandelier. A pendant light is suspended from the ceiling and has just one light bulb rather than several, and its light is usually aimed downward, providing direct illumination. Like a chandelier, pendant lighting makes a statement in the room.

Versions of pendant lighting have existed since ancient times. Thousands of years ago, oil lamps were suspended from the ceiling by woven cords, maximizing the area that could be illuminated by those tiny flames. Modern pendant lighting dates from the mid-1800s and really took off with the growth of electric lighting from the 1920s through today. While the art deco styles of the 1930s set the stage for pendant lighting design, mid-century modern designs took pendant lighting to a whole new level. It’s still informing the pendant lighting designs of today.

Why pendant lighting is versatile

Pendant light fixtures are lighter than chandeliers in most cases, using only a single support chain or cord. They’re also far slimmer. This means they can be installed in places within the home where a chandelier just can’t go.

Where pendant lighting works best

Pendant lighting usually provides direct light, unlike the ambient light that chandeliers provide. This makes it great for task lighting, illuminating spaces where visibility and a bright, open feeling are wanted, like narrow hallways.

Other good places for pendant lighting include:

  • Kitchen island: Pendant lighting provides directed task lighting for food prep or socializing. This spot is ideal for showcase lighting with brushed nickel finishes.
  • Entryways: The front and rear entries of a house are sometimes neglected when it comes to lighting. Pendant lighting brightens up these spots, welcoming visitors inside.
  • Home office: Pendant lighting can turn a makeshift office into a brightly lit, cheery space, and free up desk space by lifting the light over the desk, not on it.

Where to use caution with pendant lighting

  • Bathroom: Pendant lighting can be a stylish addition to a bathroom reno, but use only UL-rated lighting that can handle the higher humidity and moisture in a bathroom.
  • Dining table: Downward-directed pendant lighting can be more annoying than helpful in this spot, which should be designed as a place to relax and chat. Opt for indirect or soft lights here, or avoid pendants and go with an upward-illuminating chandelier. However, if the dining table doubles as a homework spot or home office, consider a dimmer switch to brighten the lighting for focused work.

Whimsical pendant shades fit best in relaxed design settings like playrooms or sun rooms.

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Key features of pendant lighting

UL listing

An Underwriters Laboratories (UL) listing is essential to make sure the lighting product you’re buying is safe to use in the home.

Non-hardwired lights

Non-hardwired lights are a great option for renters and those who aren’t ready to commit to a hardwired fixture. Pendant lights wired with wall plugs or powered by replaceable or rechargeable batteries are widely available.

Parts of a pendant light

Shade: Pendant lighting shades cover the light bulb and help direct light downward. There are hundreds of varieties of light shades in different shapes, materials, and colors. Many times, pendant light shades can be swapped with another style as long as the new shade fits.

Socket: Attached directly to the electrical wires, the socket holds the pendant’s light bulb.

Dimmer: A pendant light may include a dimmer on its cord or via an infrared remote control. Look for this feature on the packaging or product description.

Canopy: This decorative cover attaches to the ceiling to hide the mounting strap and electrical wiring that power the pendant light.

Cord: A pendant light has a single cord that insulates its wires.

Cord cover/chain: A pendant light is supported safely by a single chain or a rod through which the wiring cord is threaded.

Light bulb: A light bulb may be included with a pendant light kit, especially if the bulb is integral to the style or the function of the light. More often, however, bulbs are sold separately. Check the recommended bulb type before installing the light fixture.

pendant lighting
DID YOU KNOW?
Follow design rules: The “rule of three” is a lighting guideline that calls for three identical fixtures in a room to create a sense of balance.
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How to accessorize pendant lighting

Designer light bulb

Some pendant lighting, like farmhouse-style fixtures, looks fantastic with retro-styled Edison bulbs. You can also opt for color-changing features or any bulb style that works for your light and your lifestyle.

Smart bulb

If you’ve got a virtual assistant like Alexa or Echo, smart lighting is the way to go. You can easily set a timer for each smart bulb in the house, or simply ask the assistant to turn a light on or off.

Dimmer switch

Replace a traditional light switch with a dimmer to control the level of illumination of a pendant light.

Smart light switch

They take more time to install, but a smart light switch may be an even better and more versatile choice than a smart bulb.

Replacement shade

Choose a different color, shape, or size lampshade for a pendant light to radically change the look and feel of a room.

How much does pendant lighting cost?

Inexpensive

Decorative, low-illumination pendant lights, including plug-in models, can be found for as little as $10 to $59, a good price point for new home decorators to try out different styles.

Mid-range

DIYers can find a plethora of inspiring pendant lighting options in the $61 to $211 price range.

Expensive

Top-end pendant lights may be made with hand-wrought metal materials and cover a wide price range of $215 to $697. They sometimes skirt the line between pendant and chandelier.

Hire an electrician to install pendant lighting and related equipment like dimmer switches.

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Tips

  • Watch the wattage. Light bulbs should not exceed the recommended wattage listed on the pendant light fixture’s package or instruction manual.
  • Control light intensity. Install a dimmer switch along with the pendant lighting to increase or decrease illumination.
  • Battle dust buildup. Pendant light chains and shades attract more dust because of their position, so clean them at least twice a month.
  • Clean flickering bulbs. A flickering light bulb may be quickly fixed by removing the bulb, brushing the socket clean, and reinstalling.
  • Vacuum away dust. Use an extender vacuum attachment to clear dust and cobwebs from a pendant light’s chain.
  • Treat fabric shades with care. Most can be dusted with a static cling duster or a handheld vacuum. Don’t wipe them with a damp cloth.
  • Use a dry cloth first. To clean light bulbs, metal shades, and fabric or paper shades, turn off the light and wipe away dust with a dry microfiber cloth.
pendant lighting
Fabric pendant shades or drum-shaped shades are great transitional design elements.

FAQ

Q. How low should pendant lighting be installed over a table?

A. Lighting guides say that the best height for a pendant light is 28 to 36 inches above the surface it’s illuminating, like a table or countertop. This range allows for individual users’ heights and preferences, and it allows the height of the table or countertop to dictate the lighting position. In general, a pendant light should not be directly in front of your eyes — it should be higher than eye level while remaining low enough to provide ample lighting of the surface or area.

Q. How high should an entryway pendant light be placed?

A. The light should reach about seven feet from the floor so it provides plenty of illumination but won’t hit your visitors in the head when they walk in.

Q. How far apart should multiple pendant lights be?

A. If you’re using more than one pendant light, such as over a kitchen island, they should be spaced at least 24 inches away from each other. Don’t space them so far apart that there are shadows between each light — their light should overlap to illuminate the entire surface.

Q. How big should a pendant light be?

A. In home design, a rule of thumb for lamps, chandeliers, and pendants is the bigger a room is, the bigger the light should be.

A small galley kitchen can benefit from longer, larger pendant lighting. If you want a reading nook in the corner of a really big room, that can call for a smaller pendant light that sits just above the reader’s shoulder, providing light just for them while not affecting the overall lighting of the larger space.

To guide you in choosing the size of pendant lights and the wattage of the bulbs in them, for bright task lighting, aim for 15 watts per square foot. Ambient lighting needs far less wattage — as low as 2 watts per square foot. If you’re worried about the light being too bright, install a dimmer switch to choose your illumination level.

Q. Do I need extra support in the ceiling for a large pendant light?

A. While an electrician can help make the final determination on whether to use support, pendant lights weighing more than 35 pounds usually need an extra brace installed between ceiling joists.

Q. Can I place pendant lighting in a bedroom instead of bedside lamps?

A. Yes. Suspending pendant lights on either side of the bed frees up the surface of bedside tables. This opens more options for you, replacing stodgy, large bedside tables with smaller, modern designs, or just piling more books on top of the existing table so you never run out of things to read.

 

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