The Best Ways to Illuminate Your Kitchen for an Easy Cooking and Dining Experience

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If you spend a lot of time in the kitchen cooking and entertaining, you know how important it is to have good kitchen lighting. Having the best kitchen lighting can significantly impact your cooking and dining experience.

The Best Ways to Illuminate Your Kitchen for an Easy Cooking and Dining Experience Pinterest pin

This blog post will discuss the best ways to illuminate your kitchen for an easy cooking and dining experience. Whether you’re renovating your kitchen or just looking to upgrade your lighting, you’ll find plenty of tips and ideas to help you create the perfect lighting plan.

Importance of Good Kitchen Lighting

an open plan kitchen with island and breakfast bar. There are lights over the island and downlights in the ceiling

There are many reasons why every kitchen should have good lighting. With the current trend of open-plan kitchens becoming commonplace, highlighting the kitchen area has never been more important for an easy cooking experience.

The kitchen is a workspace where people handle sharp knives, hot stoves, and other potentially dangerous tools. Proper lighting ensures that you can clearly see what you’re doing, reducing the risk of accidents. 

From reading recipes to chopping vegetables, many kitchen tasks require focus and precision. Good kitchen lights, particularly task lighting, are essential for these activities. It can help avoid eye strain and ensure tasks are carried out efficiently.

a grey kitchen with exposed brick wall. There is strip lights under the kitchen cabinets and downlights in the ceiling

Well-planned and layered kitchen lights can dramatically enhance the look, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere. It can highlight architectural features, show off your décor, and even make the space look larger or more intimate, depending on your preferences.

Finally, the kitchen is not just a place for cooking; it’s also used for dining, socializing, studying, and even working. Having different types of lighting (ambient, task, accent) allows you to adjust the mood and functionality for different uses.

Best Kitchen Lighting to Illuminate Your Kitchen

large gold cage lighting over a kitchen island with a white kitchen and large fridge freezer

Creating a well-lit kitchen is an art that involves layering different types of light sources — ambient, task, and accent lighting — strategically placed to brighten every corner and surface.

The choice of lighting fixtures themselves also significantly contributes to the overall aesthetics of the space, reflecting your personal style and the kitchen’s design theme. Here are some of the best kitchen lighting ideas to get you started. 

Light the Counters

downlights in the kitchen with pendant lights over the navy blue island. There are bar stools at the island and a large ceramic vase with dried flowers
The downlights are barely noticeable in our kitchen but light up the kitchen counters easily

A common mistake in kitchen lighting is to add overhead lights over floors instead of above workspaces like countertops, sinks, and ranges. Recessed downlights are often placed in front of or behind countertops, which can create harsh shadows where sharp knives are being used.

Instead, consider locating recessed downlights directly above the centre of countertops. This will light up the countertops, upper cabinets, and open shelves while avoiding awkward scallops of light.

One of the best ceiling lights for kitchens is downlights. Place downlights, or recessed lights, over the perimeter of the countertops in the kitchen.

Downlights should be evenly spaced throughout the kitchen ceiling, depending on the size and shape of your kitchen. Typically, they are placed about 4 to 6 feet apart in a grid-like pattern for consistent illumination.

a large kitchen with equally spaced out recessed lights, looking at them from the sink

You should aim to position some of your downlights directly above key work areas, such as countertops, sinks, and stovetops. This ensures that these areas are well-lit and safe to work in.

If you have an island or dining table in your kitchen, placing downlights directly above can help highlight this area and make it a focal point. Remember to ensure that the light is evenly distributed to avoid shadows.

If you are looking at getting downlights for the kitchen, directional downlights are a fantastic addition. They can be adjusted to focus light on a specific area making them ideal for task lighting, helping to focus light on activities like cooking and cleaning. 

A room with higher ceilings will require fewer downlights than a low ceiling as the light will expand the further it has to travel. 

Add Kitchen Lights Under Cabinets

a white gloss kitchen with oak worktops and under cabinet lighting

To address the issue of upper cabinets blocking light and creating dark spaces below them, consider adding undercabinet lighting. It focuses on illuminating the countertop areas which can help with food preparation and cooking and help highlight your beautiful backsplash

Different types of undercabinet lighting include: 

  • Puck lights: These circular, hockey-puck-shaped lights can be installed individually or in a series under your cabinets. Make sure you space them evenly to keep the light consistent.
  • Strip Lights or Linear Lights: These provide a continuous, evenly distributed source of light along the length of your cabinets, reducing shadows and providing excellent task lighting. They can be hardwired or come as easy-to-install battery-operated or plug-in units.
  • LED Tape or Rope Lights: These are very thin, flexible strips of LEDs that can be cut to size and attached with adhesive backing. They provide a smooth, even light source and can fit into tight or awkward spaces due to their flexibility and small size.
  • Smart Under-Cabinet Lights: With advancements in technology, some under-cabinet lights can now be controlled via apps or smart home systems, allowing you to adjust the brightness or even colour of the lights.

Each of these options has its pros and cons, so the best choice depends on your specific needs, your kitchen design, and your budget. Regardless of the type you choose, under-cabinet lighting can greatly improve the light in your kitchen, highlighting areas that most need it.

Light Up a Sink or Cooking Area

a kitchen with an oven hood and lights
Lighting up your cooking area is essential if you want to see what you’re cooking!

Adding multiple kitchen lights over the sink instead of just one small recessed or pendant light is recommended to ensure good visibility while washing dishes. A directional downlight can also be adjusted to focus the light right where you need it.

When purchasing a range hood, it is important to pay attention to the lighting as well. A good starting point is 750 to 1,000 lumens of high-quality light, depending on the width of the cooking surface.

These lights are typically halogen or LED lights that brightly illuminate the cooking surface. Make sure to clean and replace these lights as needed to ensure they function well.

Use Dimmers

a large white kitchen with oak flooring and lots of dimmer lights in the ceiling
Dimmer lights can be used so that the light can be concentrated in other areas

Dimmer switches are an essential tool for creating the perfect ambience in your kitchen. In accordance with your mood and requirements, you can adjust the brightness of your lights.

The kitchen is not just a place for cooking. It’s also used for dining, entertaining, and sometimes even studying or working.

A dimmer allows you to easily adjust the lighting to suit different activities and moods. For instance, you can have bright light for cooking and food preparation, and then dim the light for a cosy dinner.

Installing dimmer switches can also help you save energy and extend the lifespan of your lamp bulbs. When choosing dimmer switches, make sure they are compatible with the type of bulbs you have installed.

Some LED bulbs are not compatible with certain types of dimmer switches, so be sure to check the packaging or consult with a lighting professional before making your purchase.

Track Lighting

track lighting in the kitchen

Track lighting is a versatile and adjustable lighting solution that works particularly well in the kitchen, where you have various tasks requiring different lighting needs. Track lighting features multiple light fixtures (heads) attached to a continuous track, which contains the electrical conductors.

Because the lights can be directed to specific areas, track lighting is excellent for both task lighting and accent lighting. You can illuminate your workspace, highlight a piece of artwork, or even direct light onto open shelving or cabinets.

Track lighting comes in a wide range of styles, from sleek and modern to more traditional designs, allowing you to match the lighting with your kitchen’s aesthetic. The heads can also be replaced to change the look or upgrade to more energy-efficient bulbs.

Lighting Idea Trends

Lighting plays a critical role in a modern kitchen’s design and functionality. Here are a few of the latest lighting idea trends:

  1. Over the island
  2. Smart Lighting
  3. Swing Arm Lights
  4. Toe Kick Lighting
  5. Interior Cabinet Lighting
  6. Industrial Style Lighting

Over the Island

  • The placement of two pendant lights over a kitchen island should be 30 inches from the centre and 30-32 inches away from the countertop. A minimum of six inches from the edge of the island, three pendant lights should be just as high and spaced evenly apart.
  • Linear Suspension Lighting: Linear LED lighting work well in kitchens with higher ceilings and can hang at least 40” above the countertop.
linear lighting hanging over a black island with quartz worktops
Linear lighting
  • Using a track or monorail system could make moving power around the ceiling easier. Lighting should not create too much glare here. To prevent the light from looking like an art gallery, use wide-beam spread lights instead of narrow spotlights.
  • For a dramatic and elegant statement, consider a chandelier over your kitchen island. A chandelier can provide both task lighting and ambient light, contributing to the overall atmosphere of your kitchen.
  • For a contemporary look, consider installing LED strip lights under the island countertop or base. This creates a floating effect and provides ambient lighting.

Smart Kitchen Lighting

a white kitchen with wooden backsplash and lights controlled with smart technology

As smart homes become more prevalent, smart lighting is gaining popularity. This includes lights that can be controlled via a smartphone or through a home assistant, allowing for remote control, dimming, or even colour changes. Some smart lighting systems can also be programmed to adapt to your schedule.

Swing Arm Lights

a large kitchen with a big chandelier above the island. There are wall sconce lighting above the kitchen cabinets and oak parquet flooring
Wall sconce lights in the kitchen help highlight an area. Image: @houselust

With the rise in popularity of open shelving in the kitchen, swing arm lights, or adjustable arm lights are providing just as popular. These are versatile light fixtures that can be moved around to direct light where it is most needed or highlight items on a shelf. 

If you want to highlight artwork or open shelving, a strategically placed swing arm light can be adjusted to shine a light on these areas, acting as accent lighting.

If you have a breakfast nook or a small dining area within your kitchen, a swing arm light could be used to provide adjustable, focused light for reading or intimate meals.

Toe Kick Lighting

lighting under the kitchen island and kitchen cabinets
Image: Realtor

Toe kick lighting is a type of accent lighting installed in the recessed space at the base of cabinets, also known as the toe kick. This space is typically about 3 inches high and deep, providing just enough room for a strip of lighting.

Toe kick lighting can add a subtle, yet effective design element to your kitchen and create a soft, ambient glow that can make your kitchen feel warm and inviting.

LED strips are commonly used for toe kick lighting due to their energy efficiency, durability, and flexibility. They can be cut to the exact length needed and come in various colour temperatures.

Moreover, some LED strips even offer colour-changing and dimming options, giving you more control over your kitchen’s mood and ambience.

Interior Cabinet Lighting

white kitchen with cabinets lit up.
Light up your cabinets! Image: Photo by Sidekix Media

Interior cabinet lighting serves to illuminate the contents of your cabinets, making it easier to locate items, especially in deeper cabinets or at night. If you are proud of your kitchen and tableware collection, this is also a lovely way to highlight them. 

If your cabinets have glass shelves, installing LED lights above each shelf can create a beautiful effect, with the light cascading down through the entire cabinet. One of the easiest ways to add lights to your cabinets is to install puck lights which help illuminate your cabinets. 

For an easy-to-install option, you might consider battery-operated LED lights. Many of these are motion-activated, turning on when the cabinet door is opened and off when it is closed, saving energy.

Industrial Style Lighting

Large brass industrial style pendant lighting over a dark navy island in the kitchen
Large brass industrial pendants create an industrial look in the kitchen

For modern kitchens with an industrial design, lighting fixtures with a raw, utilitarian aesthetic are trending. These may feature exposed bulbs, metal finishes, and simple, clean lines.

One of the trademarks of industrial style is exposed bulbs. A simple pendant light with a visible bulb can give an immediate industrial vibe to your kitchen lights. You can opt for Edison-style LED bulbs for added vintage appeal.

Look for pendant lights with a metal finish (like aged brass, copper, or black metal) that have a simple, utilitarian design. These could be dome-shaped, conical, or even cage-like in design.

Lighting that mimics those found in factories or warehouses — like large, metal pendant lights or sconces with a protective grill — can make a bold industrial statement.

a white kitchen with gold trim and marble flooring. There are lights over the kitchen island and in the kitchen cabinets.

The best kitchen lighting scheme illuminates your space in a way that’s both functional and aesthetically pleasing. It requires a blend of different types of lighting — from ambient to task, accent, and decorative lighting — to create a layered, flexible, and welcoming kitchen environment.

Factors such as the layout of your kitchen, the colour scheme, your specific tasks, and even the time of day all play a role in shaping your ideal kitchen lighting solution.

Trends like smart lighting, LED lights, under cabinet and toe kick lighting, and industrial-style fixtures can offer exciting possibilities, but the key is to choose what suits your personal style and the specific needs of your space.

By focusing on kitchen lights for the counters, adding lights under cabinets, lighting up the sink area, fighting shadows, and using dimmers, you can create the perfect ambience for any occasion.

Additionally, trend lighting ideas such as pendant lights over the island, LED strip lights, and flush mount or semi-flush mount lighting can add depth and dimension to your kitchen.

With these tips and ideas, you can create the perfect lighting plan for your kitchen.

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