Kitchen Lighting Ideas & Inspiration

Heather Clouse
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Understanding the Main Types of Lighting used in Kitchens

The kitchen is one of the most important rooms in the house, and it’s also one of the most difficult rooms to get right. When it comes to the lighting, this is even truer.

Kitchen design plays a key role in the overall feel of a room as it often defines the way it is used. For example, a kitchen with better natural lighting is more likely to be used for cooking and hosting at dinner parties.

To shine a light on how lighting influences your design decisions, we asked interior designer, Lark James, for her thoughts.

While the size and purpose of the room may ultimately determine which lighting style you choose, she says, lighting design plays an important part:

  • Function: The design and position of the ceiling lights and pendant lights, if present, may be dictated by the use of the room.
  • Ambiance: Lighting can also dictate the ambiance of the kitchen when used to create a relaxing atmosphere or that of a more contemporary contemporary layout.
  • Cost: Nearly half of UK homeowners admit that they have considered how much fitting their chosen kitchen lighting will cost them, according to a study by Lighting Direct.
  • Efficiency: Lighting systems should be above and beyond energy efficient and save you costs.

Ambient Kitchen Lighting Ideas

Ambient kitchen lighting is the best way to brighten up your kitchen while also making it a welcoming space for spending time with family and friends. Contemporary kitchens are typically better suited to ambient lighting, as it makes them feel more spacious.

With ambient lighting, you can create a subtle and warm glow that is inviting, without upsetting the mood you have created with your hard surfaces and centerpieces.

For ambient lighting, it’s better to use LED light sources, as they are generally more energy efficient and have a longer life span. Use multiple recessed lights or a track light, and create a track that moves across your kitchen, so that you can change the mood with a simple flick of a switch.

Task Kitchen Lighting

Task lighting fixtures are placed over the sink, stove, or prep area. They are ideal for lighting up small areas. For example, when you are prepping food or when you are cooking meals.

Task lighting provides a focused light on the workspace, which makes it easier to prepare food and eat meals.

We recommend desk lamps which are portable, and feature flexible light bulbs that provide optimal brightness for the area at hand.

When choosing your kitchen task lighting, a recessed light fixture is a good option if you are guaranteed to have a plug around.

This lighting is also ideal if there’s not much space between the countertop and the top of the cabinets.

To learn more about how to increase lighting in your kitchen, keep reading…

Accent Kitchen Lighting

Your kitchen is undoubtedly the most important room in the house. After all, your kitchen is where you spend time cooking a big meal for your family or serving a hot cup of tea at 2 am after a long night.

So it’s only natural that your kitchen will be your focal point. And to have the kitchen warming up your home, you need to have a beautiful, functional and efficient set of kitchen lighting above your kitchen.

When you’re shopping around for lighting fixtures for your kitchen, be sure to check the bulb type:

Incandescent bulbs are the most common bulbs available on market, and they are also the cheapest. However, they are not the most energy efficient lights and therefore are not very popular.

Compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL) are becoming more and more popular as they are more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs, and they usually cost less than halogen bulbs.

However, you must pay extra attention to the wattage when purchasing. Typical light bulb watt colors should be used, but different wattage CFLs can make small differences.

It’s best to replace your standard 100 watt incandescent bulbs with CFLs or LED light bulbs that are equivalent to 60 watts.

Illuminate Key Areas

What are the most important areas of your kitchen where light is important?

Much of the daily activity in the kitchen takes place on your countertops, so kitchen lighting should be placed in this area, as well as under your cabinets.

Overhead lights are also important for tasks such as cooking and food preparation. Here you should use bright, soft light bulbs that mimic daylight as much as possible.

Kitchen islands and other areas of your kitchen that people tend to be gathered around during daily activity need a good amount of light as well.

While recessed lighting is optimal for such areas, you can use LED strip lights that are mounted on the wall behind the island to light up the edge of the countertop and the surface the island is on, similar to using recessed lighting, but without making the room dark.

To compliment these, you should use mirror tiles or back lit tiles on the island, or on the wall in the background to reflect a subtle overhead light and increase the perceived brightness and size of the room.

This is a basic outline of how you can use lighting in your kitchen but there are thousands of possibilities to make your kitchen feel and look amazing using lights and some simple design tricks.

Over Island Kitchen Lighting – Pendant & Recessed

Over island kitchen lighting can be done in a variety of ways. The most common, however, are pendants and recessed lights.

Pendants are great because they provide you with a lot of flexibility. They can be put together or separate. Their height can be adjusted. You can use up to two pendants or one large one over the center of the island.

In the image above, you can see one pendant over the counter which is one easy solution.

Recessed lights, on the other hand, are also a good choice because they offer a unique, modern look when combined with the appropriate furniture. If you don’t like pendant lights or don’t want to use them because of the mess they create in terms of cables and the need to consider this in the design of your kitchen, recessed lighting is a great alternative.

Recessed lights, especially LED ones, will help you achieve the mood you want in your kitchen. You can have overhead lights for when you cook and use the under-cabinet lights for when you are cooking and want something more soft and subtle.

Under Cabinet Lighting Fixtures

Before adding under cabinet lighting to your kitchen, make sure your cabinets have enough space to accommodate as you can mount the light fittings along with your existing cabinet layout.

Most under cabinet lighting kits consist of either a flexible cord or adhesive tape to hang the flexible strip lights which in turn run along the inside edge of the cupboard.

The strip lights are available in both cold and warm white temperature options. The warm white light is more energy efficient as it has higher CRI (Color Rendering Index) which makes the colors of the food products look more natural and fresh.

When choosing under cabinet lights, you can either go for a warm or cold white but always choose the one which has a CRI higher than 90.

The under cabinet lighting should have a color temperature to match the output of the primary lamps ie. halogen or fluorescent. A stable light of about 20 degrees Kelvin with a CRI>90 is an ideal light for illuminating your kitchen.

When deciding the placement of the under cabinet lights, you should consider.

  • The size of the cabinet and the room as well as the wall cut-out dimensions.
  • The distance from your cutting area to the under cabinet lights.
  • The color of the under cabinet lighting as well as the primary light in the kitchen.
  • The type of light you need from your under-cabinet lights ? task lighting or ambient lighting

Give the Ceiling Special Attention With Lighting

I am a big proponent of opening up a room and letting the sky be the star! But when you do that, most of the light coming from your living room will come from the ceiling.

Follow these tips to create a beautiful canvas on the ceiling that accentuates the sky and the room around it.

Lighting is one of the most cost-efficient ways to make quick and dramatic impact to the way rooms look, feel, and function.

In an open room setting like you have in your living room, lighting is even more important as it helps bring focus on certain areas of furniture and accent pieces.

Get this one right and a whole room can come together.

Just like any other room, you always want to start with something clean. Remove any items that are not part of the decor and spend time decluttering your living room.

Then think about how you can make your living room look bigger and more balanced. You can add lighting fixtures (which I will talk about shortly.)

Add a few large pieces of art and mirrors that actually work with the living room and not against it.

Update your room with pillows, warmer throw blankets and a rug or two.

Making your Kitchen Really Stand Out with Accent Lighting

Overwhelmingly bright kitchens turn off potential buyers from ever entering. There is an old saying that “most kitchens at open houses smell like onions.”

Lighting a kitchen incorrectly can affect a home’s resale value.

Kitchens are the heart and soul of a home, so it’s important to get it right when designing a room worthy of your home theater setup.

Accentuate the features that make your kitchen special. Make sure you not only have the right amount of light, but also the right type of luminaires for each task. Here are a few lighting ideas that will make your kitchen look like a million bucks: