How To Choose Track Lighting Heads & Pendants

As well as offering a functional and tailor-made approach to brightness and room ambience, track lighting heads & pendants can add a touch of sophistication and good taste when it comes to home décor.

Do you need the flexibility that a large overhead light can't guarantee? Is there a specific artwork onto which you'd like to bring the focus? Or perhaps you enjoy changing the layout of your furniture every once in a while, and don't want to be restricted by the lighting side of things? If any of these scenarios sounds familiar, track lighting heads & pendants will solve your problems and brighten up your day.

Combining practicality and cohesive design is key to finding the perfect heads or pendants to match your existing track and the décor of the room.

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What Does Track Lighting Consist Of?

Track lights consist of two main parts:

  • Track, rail or bar: the piece that holds the different lighting fixtures, which is probably already mounted onto your ceiling. It can be:

    • linear: consists of a single straight length of track, making it the most practical, easiest to install and, consequently, most popular design; best for long hallways and other narrow spaces;

    • flexible: more customizable, this type of track can be curved into different shapes and, sometimes, even cut to your preferred length; it's the best choice if you're aiming for a unique design or have very specific lighting requirements. 

  • Track heads, which are small light fixtures directly attached to the track, or pendants, a longer and more ornamental alternative to track heads, reaching lower down from the top of the ceiling.

When choosing track lighting heads and pendants for an existing rail, it's essential to check whether or not they are compatible: there are three main types of rails (Halo, Juno and Lightolier Track System), so you need to look for HT, JT or LT on your new lights depending on what bar you own, otherwise it might not fit.

Track Light Rail H-Type
Black and Gold Track Head
Black 4-Light Track Kit
Silver Flexible Light Track Kit
Straight Light Track Lighting Kit
Simple Straight Light Track

What Types of Track Lighting Heads Are There?

While pendants come in a large variety of designs, track heads can be divided into four main categories:

  • Step Head: this is the most common type; thanks to its simple design, it works well with the majority of tracks and décor styles;

  • Round Back Head: its rounded back is the only aspect that differentiates it from the previous type, making it fit even better with modern rooms;

  • Pinhole Head: with its partially exposed back, it can add to the unfinished raw charm of industrial décors; it's also ideal in functional scenarios like art studios;

  • Gimbal Head: similar to the iconic camera lights seen in movies, these heads can swivel 180 degrees and are perfect for modern, contemporary and industrial settings, rooms that value functionality, or areas that require a higher degree of adjustability.

Black Gimbal Track Head
Black Metallic Gimbal Track Head
White Mini Round Track Head
Black Round Track Head
White Round Back Track Head
One Black Round Back Track Head

What Style of Track Lighting Pendants Should I Choose?

Pendants, on the other hand, come in a much larger variety of designs. A simple way to categorize them is to look at the material, as some work better with certain types of décor. The most popular options are:

  • Metal: ideal for task lighting, metal pendants with shiny finishes (such as polished chrome or brushed nickel) can help you achieve a modern, industrial, Scandinavian or, when entirely monochrome, minimalist feel;

  • Plastic: while they can achieve a similar effect as their metal cousins, plastic pendants can discolor over time if used very often, so we only recommend them if price is your main concern. Has your room got a bright accent color that you wish to keep consistent? The wide available range of plastic pendants will make it easier to match it;

  • Clear glass: as glass helps diffuse the light more effectively in all directions, they work particularly well in kitchens or rooms that follow a traditional décor relying on a feeling of coziness and warmth; if the glass is ornate and meticulously decorated, they can also complement Victorian, Tiffany or retro styles;

  • Fabric: usually drum-shaped and similar to bigger overhead lighting, fabric pendants are a great fit for mid-Century modern rooms; however, because they come in several colors and designs, they can also match different types of décor styles and palettes.

Clear Glass Round Lighting Pendant
Orange Glass Rectangle Lighting Pendant
Metal Bowl Lighting Pendant
Metal Drum Shaped Lighting Pendant
Metal and Fibre Lighting Pendant
Glass Single Bell Lighting Pendant

What Are the Best Track Lighting Heads for Different Types of Décor?

Can you imagine ornate glass pendants in a minimalist, modern bedroom? The mere thought makes us want to switch them off immediately! While functionality should also be one of your main concerns when picking your new track lighting heads or pendants, here's what we recommend in order to match the existing décor of your room:

  • Most track heads can complement any modern or contemporary setting, but round back and pinhole heads would be the best choice;

  • Monochrome white or black track heads are perfect for minimalist décors;

  • If you're striving for an industrial look, choose pinhole heads or, even better, the new hipster classic: exposed light bulbs;

Metal Round Back Lighting Head Track
Black Round Back Lighting Head Track
Monochrome Black Minimalism Lighting Head Track
Black Industrial Lighting Head Track
Metal Industrial Lighting Head Track

What Area Will Your Track Lighting Heads or Pendants Illuminate?

When it comes to track lighting heads & pendants, there are three different types of lighting that they can be useful for:

  • Ambient lighting: track heads can be enough to illuminate a small room, but, if they're going to be your main source of light in a larger space, you should consider choosing pendants insteador including additional lamps;

  • Wall washing or accent lighting: track heads are perfect to highlight specific features in your room, such as shelves or pieces of art;

  • Task lighting: for the functional goal of needing increased lighting for a specific task (for example, if you're hanging them above your writing desk), longer pendants or adjustable track heads will be preferable.

Numbers & Dimensions

Most track light systems are between 4 and 8 feet long and include from three to six lights. However, make sure you check your existing rail before purchasing your new track lighting heads & pendants to avoid disappointment.

  • You should place a track or pendant every 12 to 24 inches;

  • If you need the track lighting heads to be closer together in order to achieve a particular type of accent lighting or to illuminate a work area, try and keep them at least 4 inches apart.

  • With pendants, it's important to consider their diameter, too; our top tip is to maintain their width as the space in between pendants (e.g.: leave a space of 16 inches between pendants if they're 16 inches wide);

  • As for their length, you can be pretty flexible when it comes to ambient lighting; however, if you need your pendants to illuminate a designated surface, we recommend leaving a 30-36-inch gap;

  • Another tip is to use an odd number of pendants to illuminate a surface: this allows you to create a central focal point and an even balance on both sides.

Quick Tips

Too much to take in all at once? Don't worry: it's just because we had to cover lots of scenarios. Once you've identified your needs and décor, it'll be much easier to find some track lighting heads & pendants that match them! Remember these points:

  • Always check your type of track rail (HT, JT or LT) before buying lights for it!

  • You can choose among step, round back, pinhole and gimbal heads or different types of pendants

  • It's vital to consider what type of lighting you want to achieve: ambient (track heads will do for smaller rooms, but pendants are better for larger ones), accent (any track head) or task lighting (go for longer pendants or adjustable heads)

  • Consider the existing color palette and décor of your room: while most track heads fit modern and contemporary houses, pendants are better suited for traditional, stylish and sophisticated looks.