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What kind of lighting is best for the kitchen?

In kitchens you generally have three purposes for lighting: ambient lighting to generally light the room, task lighting to spotlight a specific work area, and accent lighting and finishing touches. No kind of lighting does all of these perfectly, so you’ll most likely have to choose different kinds of lighting to fulfil all purposes.

Common kitchen lighting solutions include recessed, strip, spotlight, flush-mounted, and pendant. In this blog, we’ll cover inspiration for using all these types.

How to light a kitchen

General / Ambient Lighting

In reality, if you’ll be using task lighting in your kitchen (more on that below), you may not need much more to light up the space.

Recessed lighting is a great option for filling any ‘gaps’ in your kitchen - brightening dark corners without bringing too much attention to individual fixtures.

Otherwise, decorative lighting like a chandelier or large pendant lights are a great way to make a statement with your general kitchen lighting

Task lighting

Task lighting targets specific areas of the kitchen - illuminating small spaces allows brighter lighting exactly where you need it, helping you to accomplish tasks.

When planning your task lighting, think of your kitchen as ‘zones.’ What are the individual tasks that need light, and where will they be? Consider around the sink, the stove, walkways, countertops and cabinets.

Kitchen Lighting Ideas Task Lights
Instagram: @sheratonkitchens

Accent lighting & finishing touches

Not to be confused with task lighting, accent lighting is also used to highlight specific areas of the kitchen. But rather than illuminating work spaces, use your accent lighting to highlight decorative or architectural details in your kitchen.

As a general rule, your accent lighting should be around 3 times brighter than the rest of the lights in the room to make it stand out (but the lights themselves should be smaller and more targeted in their range).

Choosing a style for your kitchen light fittings

Once you know the types of lighting you need, and where, the next question to answer is, “how do you want your light fittings to look?”

Depending on the overall style and design of your kitchen, you will want to choose different light fixtures to complement it.

Minimalist, monochrome kitchens may benefit from bold architectural lighting. Think geometric shapes, large industrial fixtures, or spiral effect pendants to create a focal point in the space.

Kitchens that feature a lot of glass or marble, on the other hand, look great with a classic chandelier to complement the luxe design.

Keep your colour scheme, and the atmosphere you want to create, in mind when choosing your kitchen lighting. Metal pendants are perfect for adding an industrial element, while glass light shades feel right at home in a traditional kitchen.

For a bright, eclectic look (or to add a pop of colour to an otherwise muted space), why not try brightly coloured pendant lights above the island?

Kitchen Lighting Ideas Colourful Pendant Lights
Instagram: @sheratonkitchens

Kitchen ceiling lighting ideas

Your ceiling lights are generally used as the ambient lighting in your kitchen, to gently illuminate the whole room rather than specifically light up work or food prep areas.

You may even choose to install dimmer switches for your kitchen ceiling lights, to give yourself more control over the balance of lighting between your ambient and task lights.

Pendant lights

Pendant lights are a stylish lighting option for those who want to make a statement. Pendant lights come in a huge range of colours, shapes and materials, so there really is something for every kitchen, traditional or modern.

Pendant lights can be installed individually, or you can purchase a set of multiple pendants to be hung in a line through the length of your kitchen. If you’re sticking to a neutral colour scheme, something as small as pendant lights are where you can introduce a splash of colour or an eye-catching shape, that will really put your personal stamp on the kitchen design.

Kitchen Lighting Ceiling Pendant
Instagram: @englishrosekitchens

Recessed lights

Recessed lights are a more seamless kitchen ceiling lighting choice, due to the fact that the bulbs are fitted into a hollow space in the ceiling. They’re particularly suitable for kitchens with low ceilings, where you want to avoid hanging lights encroaching on the space.

White recessed lights that are the same colour as the ceiling will blend in and give your kitchen a lighter, more airy feel. If your kitchen is a galley layout or quite narrow, recessed lights placed periodically along the length of the ceiling will help to avoid shadows or dark corners in your space.

Kitchen Lighting Ceiling Recessed
Instagram: @spillerskitchens

Flush-mounted lights

If you don’t have the height in your room to accommodate a hanging pendant but still want to make a statement with your lighting, a flush-mounted light is a nice compromise.

Flush-mounted lights sit close to the ceiling so you can maintain the sense of space in your kitchen, but you can pick out a creative shade design that still adds personality to the look.

Kitchen Lighting Ceiling Flush Mounted
Instagram: @atlantiskitchensltd

Undercabinet lighting ideas

Whatever you choose for your ceiling lights, it’s also useful to have some undercabinet lighting to accompany it. Undercabinet lights have the benefit of not having anything in the way to cast a shadow, making them an ideal task lighting solution.

The low position of undercabinet lighting also means they won’t cast glare across the rest of the kitchen, so you can select brighter lights. Do consider your worktop material though before committing to bright bulbs, as gloss countertops will reflect light more harshly than matte.

Strip lights

LED strip lights are a stylish solution that subtly illuminate the whole counter. This is the preferred solution if you want a less harsh light that will light up a larger workspace, and provide a relaxing ambience for entertaining. Strip lighting also does a great job of creating a nice glowing outline around your units.

Kitchen Lighting Under Cabinet Strip
Instagram: @kbkstudio

Spotlights

Spotlights are a brighter, more concentrated approach, that’s more suited to task lighting. Spotlights can either be fitted in isolation or as a set in a row so that they still illuminate most of the worktop.

Kitchen Lighting Under Cabinet Spotlight
Instagram: @mackintoshkitchens

Kitchen island lighting ideas

The lighting you put over your kitchen island will largely depend on what you use your island for; if it’s purely a social space, accent lighting is all you need, but if it’s also a work prep space, you’ll need to consider how you elegantly implement some task lighting above the island.

Pendants

Pendants are a popular look for kitchen islands, as a row of two or three pendants fits perfectly above the linear run of an island. With the right shaped shade, they can also work quite well as spotlights, if they direct the light straight downwards onto the countertop.

Kitchen Lighting Island Pendant
Instagram: @astleykitchens

Chandeliers

For an alternative to pendant lights, consider a chandelier! Chandeliers add an element of grandeur to your kitchen and are a great fit for more traditional, kitschy or shabby chic kitchens.

As they so naturally draw the eye, a chandelier will make your kitchen island the focal point of the room. However, take time to carefully select a chandelier size and style that fits neatly above your island, and doesn’t overpower other features in the kitchen.

Kitchen Lighting Island Chandelier
Instagram: @allidomo_interiors

Under counter strip lights

If you have a modern styled kitchen, LED strip lights under the edge of your kitchen island counter can create a really dramatic look, especially when teamed with a glass worktop.

LED strips will cast a soft glow around the edge of your island, and create definition around the space. This can serve as ambient lighting if the main kitchen light is too bright, and can be a nice touch when hosting people for a party or dinner.

Kitchen Lighting Island Strip Lights
Instagram: @surrey_interiors

What height should your lights be at?

The ideal height for your kitchen lighting depends on a couple of factors - the height of your walls, and the height of the people living in your home.

If you’re particularly tall, or you have lower ceilings, you may want to avoid hanging lights - you don’t want your light fixtures getting in the way while you’re trying to cook. Or if you’ve chosen wall lights, you don’t want to be standing above them.

Consider natural light

When planning how to light your kitchen, keep natural light in mind.

How much light does the room get naturally? The direction the room faces will determine how much light you get at different times of day. Just because your kitchen is bright in the morning, doesn’t mean it will be in the afternoon! So plan how much artificial light you’ll need, and where you’ll need it, based on this.

If in doubt, think of all the areas you’ll need to light at night, and plan your kitchen lighting that way.

There you have it - kitchen lighting ideas for every area of the kitchen!