How Bright? For ambient lighting with incandescent bulbs, aim for 2 watts per square foot—that’s 200 watts for a 10-by-10-foot room. Up the output by as much as 50 percent in rooms painted in saturated colors or that have dark-stained trim. For task lighting, say over the desk in your kid’s room, the rule of thumb is 15 watts per square foot. Don’t be afraid of too much light; you can always install a dimmer.
Pull down on this pulley-style pendant’s handle when you need more light to, say, chop veggies, then give it a gentle push to move it back up. A counterweight holds the fixture still at any height.
Suspended from ceilings by rods or chains, pendants bring light down to the places we need it, and they do so with attention-grabbing grace we can’t help admire, even after the electricity is turned off.
Pro Tip: “When hanging two or more pendants over a counter or table, space them so that eash one’s pool of light overlaps with its neighbor to prevent any dim spots.” —Steven L. Klein, Lighting Designer, Milwaukee
Chain/Rod: Shade must hang at least six inches from ceiling to be considered a pendant.
Alabaster has been used to make decorative objects since biblical times. Because of variations in the natural material, light shining through these translucent, hand-cut squares takes on a warm, lively glow. elklighting.com
Hang up to six mini pendants from this 6-foot track for easy-to- adjust task lighting. Each 4½-inch-diameter glass shade hides a 50-watt halogen bulb.
The bulb Thomas Edison patented in 1880 was a massive improvement on existing bulbs, which burned for just a few hours. While modern Edison-style bulbs are not all that different from his original, today they come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and filament designs.
Socket: Powers bulb. Porcelain sockets stand up better to heat than metal ones.
KICHLERSize: 4 3⁄4”W x 7 3⁄4”HHighlights: Brushed-nickel hardware and a sleek shade suggest a sophisticated take on the classic jar light.Cost: $68 Lamps Plus; Tesler 4W LED ST14 bulb, $7.99; Lamps Plus
BARN LIGHT ELECTRICSize: 5 1⁄4”W x 9”HHighlights: A copper-finished socket adds flair to a basic black wire cage.Cost: $138 Barn Light Electric; Nostalgic 1910 Era 60W bulb, $17 Barn Light Electric
Canopy: Hefty solid brass. Casting allows for intricate designs.
Bottom line: This pendant’s light weight makes it easy to install—and easy on the wallet.
Track and transformer, about $419; each pendant, about $126; Progress Lighting
A close inspection of two nickle-plated pendants with metal dome-style shades reveals the factors that influence their price. Decorative detail is just the beginning
The emerald-green shade and polished brass fittings echo the classic desk lamp of the early 20th century. westinghouselighting.com
Where can you use them? To light up a workspace, such as a kitchen-island prep zone or a desk in a home office. They can also cast a warm glow in a dining room or an entryway.
Inside this pendant’s painted shade is a GU24 socket for pin-type CFLs. These bulbs are 77 percent more efficient than incandescents with the same light output. Because this fixture can’t accept old-school screw-in bulbs, it meets California’s strict energy code.
Open or closed shade? Closed shades, such as schoolhouse-style opaque globes, soften light and hide the bulb. Shades that are open on the bottom create bright spots beneath them; ones with open tops, such as drum shades, also bounce light off the ceiling.
RAILROADWARESize: 4 3⁄8”W x 5 1⁄4”HHighlights: The shade of this up cycled airport runway beacon has light-diffusing ringed glass.Cost: $175, 120V/6W 500L LED included; Railroadware
MERCURY ROWSize: 7”W x 13”HHighlights: This warm-gold number would suit mid-century or contemporary decor.Cost: $100; AllModern. Globe Electric 60W radio tube bulb, $3.97; The Home Depot
RAILROADWARESize: 3 5⁄8”W x 4”HHighlights: A recessed LED turns an old insulator into chic task lighting.Cost: $175, 120V/6W 500L LED bulb included; Railroadware
Bottom line: Heavy brass castings give this fixture an authentic vintage look.
This five-bulb Colonial Revival–style fixture, with its array of tulip shades, provides extra light in an entryway or dining room. Each socket can handle up to a 100-watt bulb for five times the lumens of a typical one-bulb pendant.
WEST ELMSize: 8”W x 7 ½”HHighlights: The nickel fixture contrasts nicely with the angular smoked-glass shade.Cost: $79; West Elm. Globe Electric Chromeo 40W bulb, $4.97; The Home Depot
Delicate ridges create the impression of a silk shade, but with the solidity—and cleanability—of porcelain. Available in 5-inch or 7-inch diameter. jdg.com
Fixtures with color-coded wires make installation a snap. Shut off the power, and connect like with like: the neutral white wire to the white one coming out of the outlet box, for instance. But if the pendant’s wires are the same color, you’ll have to roll each one between your fingers to tell the difference. The neutral wire is ribbed and the hot one is smooth. Read the labels at left for a safe-wiring how-to.
How-to To stand in for reading lamps, mount pendants 50 inches above the floor.
A sleek glass cube casts a diffused glow and brings a contemporary feeling to a space. At only 3 inches, it can be used in groups of two or three without cluttering up your kitchen. translitesonoma.com
Turn a ho-hum recessed light into a pendant using a corded adaptor that screws into the existing socket. A decorative canopy hides the adapter and the recessed can.
Don’t unscrew your glass shade—spritz it in place with chandelier spray. Just be sure to turn off the fixture and cover the area below it with newspaper to catch the dirty drips. Buy the spray at the hardware store or make your own: Pour 1 tablespoon of automatic dishwasher detergent, ¼ cup of rubbing alcohol, and 1/3 cup of vinegar into a 32-ounce spray bottle, then fill with water.
Rod: Decorative cast-brass knuckles cover the joints where the thick brass tubes screw together.
Burnished-copper pendants illuminate key work zones in the kitchen: the prep sink and butcher block.
An alternative to conventional sconces, these pendants with mosaic-tile shades project a flattering light.
If you want to bring a touch of exotic whimsy to your kitchen, do it with this oil-lamp-style pendant in multilayered blown glass. translitesonoma.com
How-to For sit-down kitchen desks, leave about 30 inches between the bottom of the shade and the counter. Leave 36 inches for stand-up stations.
If you’re looking to add a splash of color or instantly transform the decor of your kitchen, pendant lights are just the ticket. Easy to put up (and just as easy to take down if your tastes change), they’re an affordable way to update the look of a room. Suspended in multiples above an island, or singly in a breakfast nook, pendants can function as task lighting for food prep or mood lighting at mealtime.
What do they cost? A 4-inch, colored-glass “mini” pendant from the home center starts at $25; larger hand-wrought metal fixtures and ones with blown-glass shades can go for $500 and much, much more.
How-to To eliminate shadows under chin, eyes, and cheeks, mount the pendants near eye level, about 18 inches from the center of the sink.
A pendant’s purpose is often defined by what its shade is made of. Glass ones, whether colorful mouth-blown Murano flutes or industrial-style ribbed globes, as well as most fabric-covered drums throw off ambient light. Shades fashioned from enameled or hand-hammered metal, for instance, confine light in a downward path.
Flickering: A creepy crawly could be the culprit. Drawn to light and heat, bugs can get wedged between the bulb base and socket, interfering with electricity flow. Shut off the power, unscrew the bulb, and blow out the socket with a can of compressed air.
Fast Burnout: If a bulb’s wattage exceeds the fixture’s maximum (see the label on the socket), heat buildup in the shade can shorten the bulb’s life. This is a particular problem in pendants with enclosed shades.
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Decorative ovals etched into this porcelain shade create playful patterns of light, giving an otherwise understated fixture a touch of mod flair. jdg.com
Finish: Nickel plated, then hand rubbed and antiqued for a matte finish.
Shade: Made of cast brass. It’s held in place with external thumbscrews.
How-to For small islands, center just one pendant 30 to 36 inches above the counter. For large islands, evenly space multiple lights, leaving about 18 inches in from the ends so that you won’t bump your head.
Pro advice: “An outlet supported only by drywall can hold a 35-pound light. For a heavier pendant—up to 200 pounds—install a fan brace to span the distance between the nearest joists.” —Brian S. Bergeron, master electrician, North Reading, Mass.
SHADES OF LIGHTSize: 6”W x 9 ½”HHighlights: A smooth crackle-glass shade helps this fixture’s teardrop shape really glisten.Cost: $79; Shades of Light. 40W gold marble globe bulb, $8; Shades of Light
FRANKLIN IRON WORKSSize: 5 1⁄4”W x 10”HHighlights: Seeded glass, oil-rubbed bronze metalwork, and a steel chain give this one a lantern look.Cost: $180, 60W Edison bulb included; Lamps Plus
The original—and still popular—hanging electric light fixture. Hand-painted glass and an antiqued brass finish complete the period look. schoolhouseelectric.com
Rod: Thin tubes have visible seams where they screw together. Hinged at the top to work with sloped ceilings.
Shade: Made of thin, pressed metal. It’s held up by a washer threaded on the socket.
A punched-metal hanging lantern throws off a diffuse, mood-setting light in this dining area.
Finish: Nickel plated, then hand rubbed and lacquered for a satin finish.
Pendants on either side of this bed save space, eliminating the need for nightstands and table lamps.
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Pendant Wiggle: Shut off the power, and drop the canopy by loosening the fitting that holds it against the ceiling. Tighten the nipple against the mounting strap, then tighten the fasteners holding the strap to the outlet box. Refit the canopy.
By today’s standards, Edison’s incandescents are no longer very efficient, though luckily technology is keeping the style alive. LED bulbs that mimic the appearance of tungsten filaments are becoming even more widely available, letting you get the look while saving on your electric bill.
SHADES OF LIGHTSize: 8”W x 11”HHighlights: A thick glass shade partially wrapped in rope and a dark-bronze socket have rustic appeal.Cost: $110; Shades of Light. LED 1W Edison bulb, $22; Shades of Light
POSSINI EURO DESIGNSize: 11”W x 8”HHighlights: A high gloss makes this ample, amber-tinted glass shade especially eye-catching.Cost: $160, 60W Edison bulb included; Lamps Plus
How-to If the ceiling is higher than 14 feet, the pendant’s shade should hang at the midpoint between floor and ceiling. For 8-foot-high ceilings, the shade should be no closer than 6 inches from the ceiling and a minimum of 7 feet above the floor. Always center the fixture with the front door.
The polished nickel finish and angular details of this single-pole pendant give it a distinctive early-20th-century appearance. rejuvenation.com
Vintage-look Edison bulbs are a style statement with serious staying power, so it’s no surprise that light fixtures designed to showcase these bulbs are just as popular.
BARN LIGHT ELECTRICSize: 2 1⁄4”W x 4”HHighlights: The Jadite socket and fabric cord upgrade a bare bulb.Cost: $140; Barn Light Electric. Globe Electric Crystalina 40W bulb, $9.97; The Home Depot
Simpler than a chandelier with its multiple outstretched arms, a pendant is little more than a bulb hidden under a shade swinging on the end of a cord. Yet there’s a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and styles, ranging from 4-inch-diameter mini cylinders to massive 30-inch domes. Some wash light over a big area, giving your foyer or stair landing a welcoming glow. Others focus bright beams onto one strategic spot: a sink or cutting board on a kitchen island, a family photo on the living room credenza.
POTTERY BARNSize: 8 ½”W x 7 ½”HHighlights: The thick sisal cord and bronze hardware add heft.Cost: $111; Pottery Barn. Bulb similar to shown: Feit Electric 4.5W LED, $9.46; The Home Depot
The fitting on this decorative bronze tube can accommodate a sloped ceiling, which makes for a nice visual effect with the angled amber shade. thomaslighting.com
Bulb: Wattage should not exceed capacity on fixture’s label.
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BARN LIGHT ELECTRICSize: 4”W x 7”HHighlights: A vintage blue mason jar with a zinc lid becomes a pendant paired with a porcelain socket.Cost: $194 Barn Light Electric; Nostalgic 40W thread bulb, $13; Barn Light Electric
How Big? Scale the shade to the size of the room or its most prominent piece of furniture. Over a rectangular dining table, for instance, the shade diameter should equal the table width minus 1 foot on either side, to create a visual buffer around it.
How Many? An odd number of fixtures—one, three, or five—generally looks better than an even number. Over a kitchen island, space the fixtures evenly, typically 24 to 30 inches between the centers of the shades.
A pendant at the end of a bank of upper cabinets defines a swath of countertop below as a distinct spot for paying bills and reading recipes.
The 16 1/2-inch rim casts a wide canopy of light, ideal over a breakfast table. Prismatic ribbed glass has an old-fashioned look. thomaslighting.com
Instant Pendant Light Adapter with corded socket, canopy, and fabric drum-style shade, about $89; Ballard Designs
Canopy: Stamped white metal, a lightweight alloy that’s easy to plate.
Suspended from a long chain, this repro gaslight makes a lofty, two-story foyer feel cozy and welcoming.
Install it yourself or hire a pro? Swapping out an old fixture is easy if you know basic wiring. But if your existing wires are brittle or you need to run electricity to a new spot, call an electrician.
How-to For visual harmony, let table size dictate the height—typically 33 to 36 inches above its top. Hang it on the high end of the range for a large table, the low end for a small one.
GLOBE ELECTRICSize: 6 ½”W x 9 ½”HHighlights: This conical glass-shaded fixture plugs in for easy installation.Cost: $54; AllModern. Victorian 40W bulb, $17; Barn Light Electric
BIRCH LANESize: 8 1⁄4”W x 8 ½”HHighlights: This plug-in sports an adjustable petal cage.Cost: $52; Birch Lane. Bulb similar to shown: Feit Electric 4.5W LED, $9.46; The Home Depot