10 Must-Know Tips for Planning Your Kitchen Lighting Design

Kitchen lighting design is about more than picking pretty light fixtures that go with your decor.

Sure, you want a cohesive look that adds the perfect decorative touch to your space.

But the functionality of lighting is especially important in the kitchen. With all of the activity that happens in the kitchen, you need lighting to match.

Positioning the lights correctly and using the right types of lights ensures you get a bright, functional kitchen without dark corners or shadowy countertops.

Use these 10 tips to plan your kitchen lighting.

1. Maximize Natural Light

Before you think about supplement lighting, consider the sources of natural light in your kitchen. Some kitchens have very few if any windows, which means you’ll need to rely heavily on the supplement lighting.

If you’re lucky enough to have windows, consider how you can let the light in as much as possible. If you’re renovating your kitchen, consider swapping out a solid exterior door in the kitchen to one with glass panels.

Your window coverings also play a role in how much light you get into your kitchen. Choose lightweight window coverings to maximize the light. 

2. Layer Supplemental Lighting

As you move into your supplemental lighting plan, think in layers. Only using general overhead lighting leaves many dark spots in your kitchen lighting scheme.

Layered lighting includes ambient, task, and accent lighting. Each serves a different purpose. The light types should work together.

This approach reduces shadows throughout the space. It also adds depth to the lighting design to make your kitchen look great.

3. Focus on Task Lighting

Task lighting is important in a kitchen. It’s the bright, focused light that goes over specific work areas.

Common places for task lighting include:

  • Sinks
  • Stoves
  • Food prep areas
  • Islands

An easy way to incorporate task lighting is to install under-cabinet lighting. It casts an even, bright light over your countertops, so you always have adequate illumination.

If you have a range hood, choose one with a bright built-in light to illuminate your cooking surfaces.

Pendant fixtures can also provide task lighting. The pendants should hang low enough to light the surface well yet high enough so they’re not in the way. An ideal range is 30 to 36 inches above the surface.

4. Position Ambient Lighting Well

Ambient lighting is the softer overhead lighting that provides general illumination.

You can create ambient lighting with almost any fixture type, including recessed lights, flush-mount or semi-flush-mount fixtures, and chandeliers. 

The positioning should allow the light to illuminate the kitchen evenly. Placing it centrally or over walkways works well.

If you choose recessed lighting, the general recommendation is to space the fixtures at half the ceiling height. Space them 4 feet apart in a room with 8-foot ceilings or 5 feet apart for a room with 10-foot ceilings.

5. Add Accent Lighting

Accent lighting is more decorative in nature. It adds illumination and often highlights a certain feature in the kitchen.

An example is lighting inside a glass-door cabinet that displays your china collection. You might also position accent lighting to highlight corbels, coffered ceilings, or other architectural features.

Accent lighting is usually low profile. Instead of the light being the focus, its goal is to make the highlighted feature the focus.

6. Create a Focal Point

The functionality of kitchen lighting is important, but you can also make it a focal point in your kitchen. Choose one large fixture with a bold design that gives your kitchen personality. 

Another option is to use a collection of three bold pendant lights to create the lighting focal point. This is an ideal option above an island.

The rest of the lighting fixtures are often more subdued to avoid competing with the main fixture.

7. Watch for Glare

Your lighting fixtures can cause glare in the kitchen if you don’t plan it right.

Lots of shiny or light surfaces can reflect the light from your fixtures and cause glare on those surfaces.

One way to avoid this is by using diffusers and light housings. Choose overhead fixtures with diffusers over the bottom to soften the light and prevent glare.

For LED strip lights under cabinets, special housings with frosted covers can minimize glare.

You can also lower the wattage in brighter kitchens. Darker kitchens might need higher wattage fixtures to provide enough brightness.

8. Try Different Options

Kitchen lighting doesn’t have to stick to the traditional design elements you often see. Try something unexpected in your kitchen to show off your style.

Pendant lights are common over the island, but you can use chandeliers instead to create a unique look.

Look for unique design elements no matter what type of fixture you use. Wood elements on light fixtures are a prime example of doing something different.

You can also mix and match the fixtures. They don’t have to all have the same finish or come from a matching line of fixtures.

Choose fixtures that tie together in some way while each having their own distinct style or look.

9. Consider the View From Other Rooms

When choosing your kitchen fixtures, consider the other angles. With the popularity of open floor plans, you’ll likely have a view of your kitchen fixtures from your living room or other spaces.

Your fixtures don’t have to match everything around them, but make sure they work with the overall style of your home. They might stand out in a negative way if they don’t work with other design elements.

10. Use Dimmers

Bright light works well in the kitchen when you’re prepping meals or doing homework, but you might not always want such intense light.

Putting lights on a dimmer switch lets you lower the lighting when you’re having conversations or having a romantic dinner.

Install multiple dimmer switches so you can adjust the different levels of lighting independently. This gives you better control over your kitchen lighting.

Get Your Kitchen Lighting Design Right

When you’re creating your kitchen lighting design, keep in mind how you use your kitchen. Keep your spaces bright and clean with the right types of fixtures positioned in the best way.

Do you want help designing your kitchen lighting? Contact us for help with your lighting.