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Kitchen Lighting 101

The kitchen is the heart of the modern home. Kitchens are no longer just work spaces for cooking. They have evolved to become spaces where we dine, gather, and entertain – which is why the lighting needs to be functional, yet comfortable. Whether you’re starting from scratch or doing a simple remodel, our guide below breaks down the basics of kitchen lighting for you.

Layering the light is the most effective way to achieve this. Having a number of light sources minimizes glare, shadows and dark corners.


In the kitchen, the layers of light can come from ceiling lights such as recessed lighting, pendants, chandeliers, and flush mounts in addition to other sources such as under cabinet light bars and lamps or sconces.

Beacon Tellium FJ Kitchen Lighting 101

Image features the Beacon Pendant from Tech Lighting


General Lighting in the Kitchen



Let’s start with general lighting, which can also be referred to as ambient lighting. This type of light provides overall illumination within a space. Sources of general lighting should include either recessed lighting or a central ceiling light, like a chandelier or semi-flush mount. Recessed lighting is best organized around the perimeter of the room to add illumination without distracting from a decorative fixture. A chandelier looks great centered in an open kitchen or above a kitchen table. Flush mounts and semi-flush mounts are ideal for low ceilings or small kitchens. Arranging two or more pendants or mini-chandeliers over an island or a bar is a great way to add elements of your personal style to the space.



Focal Lighting in the Kitchen



Focal lighting, also known as task lighting, is essential to food prep and cooking. Island lights are an easy choice for the kitchen because they have more flexibility when it comes to style. Industrial pendants are very popular right now, and clear glass pendants are timeless and elegant. Choose a finish that matches or compliments the existing finish of the hardware in your kitchen. For more tips, visit our post about finding the perfect pendants for your space.

Another source of focal lighting is under cabinet lighting, which is great for illuminating countertops while highlighting the backsplash. Under cabinet lighting comes in the form of light bars, linear track, puck lights and LED tape. LED lights are very effective and produce a nice, bright white light, which is ideal for the kitchen. When installing under cabinet lights, we recommend that they be placed at least six inches away from each other. Be sure to measure your cabinet before purchasing so you know how many you need. Finally, putting under cabinet lights on a dimmer switch will create a soft, warm glow.


Kichler Light Layering Modern Kitchen Daytime 1000x749 Kitchen Lighting 101

Illuminated with Tape Light and Under Cabinet Light Bar by Kichler.

The key to well-designed kitchen lighting is to incorporate layers of light with multiple light sources for ambient, focal and decorative light. With the help of this guide, you’re on your way to creating a beautifully lit kitchen.

Have specific questions or need personalized help with a detailed lighting plan or kitchen remodel? Email or call us at 888.602.7011 to speak with one of our team members.