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Plan Your Kitchen Lighting

The kitchen is the busiest space in many homes, so it’s important that kitchen lighting be functional and decorative. It provides illumination for meal preparation and cooking, and also for family time and hosting friends. A variety of kitchen lights helps to make the space warm and inviting.

When outfitting a kitchen, think where you want more light, and consider the kitchen size and position of counters and cabinets. Whether you’re renovating your kitchen or fitting a new one, this kitchen lighting guide can help you come up with design ideas and make informed choices.

Lighting Styles Complement the Kitchen Decor

Matching lighting fixtures to other kitchen furnishings is an effective way to achieve a cohesive decor. The most popular kitchen lighting styles are traditional, transitional, and contemporary.

  • Traditional lighting products have decorative flourishes like carved and etched details. They are ideal for a kitchen with wood-tone surfaces.
  • Transitional units are more subtle than traditional ones and have fewer embellishments. They look good in kitchens with furnishings of mixed styles.
  • Contemporary lights have minimalist designs and polished finishes. This modern kitchen lighting also often uses integrated LED lights. They work well in a modern kitchen featuring stainless steel, chrome, and glass surfaces.
  • Traditional lighting
  • Transitional lighting
  • Contemporary lighting

Three Types of Kitchen Lighting

These are ambient, task, and accent lighting. Each type is ideal for different areas of the kitchen and may even be useful for dividing the space into zones. Homeowners should consider their kitchen arrangements and how they use this room when shopping for different kitchen lights.

Ambient or general lighting sets the overall mood for the kitchen space by bathing it in bright or soft light. Fixtures to consider for ambient kitchen lighting ideas include pendants, chandeliers, recessed lights, and track lights. For a small kitchen, ambient lighting may be enough for cooking, doing dishes, dining, and other activities meant for this space.

Task lighting adds character to a kitchen by illuminating specific areas. It usually provides a brighter light than the room’s ambient lighting to offer better visibility for important tasks. Think about hanging task kitchen lights over the island if you use it for food preparation, cooking, and/or dining. Homeowners also place task lighting over sinks, lunch counters, and stovetops. Besides hanging lights, strip and puck lights are excellent task lighting options to consider.

While the other two types of kitchen lighting emphasize function over form, accent lighting is decorative. It’s ideal for highlighting display items and decorative furnishings.
One way to draw attention to vintage dishware or pull focus on the sink is with a pair of matching wall sconces. Models are even available with adjustable necks to use as task lamps when needed. Consider showing off a china and glassware collection by illuminating the cabinets holding them with accent lighting.

If you like some mood-setting kitchen light fixtures, installing toe kick and above-cabinet lights can help create the right ambiance.

Kitchen Light Fixtures

Even as indoor lighting serves a practical purpose, it should also be stylish and enhance the mood of living spaces. While it’s unwise to crowd cooking and dining areas with too many light fixtures, bold and unique design choices can be rewarding when you try your own kitchen lighting ideas.

Before deciding on the ones that best suits your needs, it helps to know the different options available.


A couple of helpful kitchen lighting tips to consider when using pendants: have them closer to the ceiling when looking for general lighting and hang them lower for task lighting. The rule of thumb when illuminating an island, a counter, or dining table with pendant lights is to hang them 30 to 36 inches above the countertop.

Light Bulbs for Your Kitchen Lights

While some kitchen light fixtures have integrated lamps, others require replaceable light bulbs and may even ship with these in the box.

If you’re looking to reduce your energy bill and use environmentally friendly lighting, it’s best to avoid incandescent bulbs. These are also short-lived and get hot to touch. For most types of kitchen lighting, CFL (compact fluorescent lamps) and LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs provide better performance. Both types are ideal for track and recessed lighting as well as pendants.

LED bulbs are especially versatile kitchen lights. They’re the most cost-effective and energy-efficient bulb types available. Besides lasting longer and running cooler than the alternatives, they come in different shapes, sizes, base types, and warmth. There are even LED Edison bulbs with glowing faux filaments you can use for a vintage kitchen lighting design.

Choosing the right lightbulbs for the kitchen will allow you to create the exact lighting style wanted.

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