The kitchen is often thought of as the heart of the home. While this space is often abuzz with activities, including cooking and entertaining, it’s also so overlooked in one major area.
Kitchen lighting is tantamount for any multi-functional room that blends cozy togetherness, safety, and cooking. All homeowners – first-time and seasoned – may spend much more time in the kitchen than they realize. Besides having a kitchen that’s well-lit from a health and safety standpoint, optimal lighting is a total gamechanger in the style, mood, and feel of any house.
Lighting for a dining and eating space doesn’t subscribe to a one-and-done mindset. In fact, what many homeowners discover in the building process is that kitchen lighting covers a broad spectrum of product solutions. Even though there’s a sea of options and fixtures to wade through, don’t get discouraged.
What lighting will make your kitchen sing? Our guide sheds light on a host of options for a flawless, illuminated kitchen. But first, let’s look at the lighting color temperature that will yield the best glow for your space.
There are three types of temperature spectrums to consider: cool, warm, and bright lighting. Here are simple definitions you’ll want to become familiar with:
- Cool lighting has a crisp and clear blue tone that invigorates and stimulates.
- Warm lighting has soft red cozy hues for a serene and soothing atmosphere.
- Bright lighting mimics daylight with its natural-inspired versatility.
To note, cool is often paired with modern functional spaces like kitchens, studios, and offices. While warm is often associated with luxurious relaxing rooms like bedrooms, playrooms, and dens. Bright is a highly flexible temperature which can work in any space. As for color temperature and the kitchen, cool can be an obvious choice for meal prep areas and overhead stove lighting. Yet some homeowners might decide to mix in warm or bright lighting for dining areas like eating tables and breakfast bars.
How to choose the best kitchen lighting ideas? Familiarize yourself with the kitchen space in terms of size and its regular, intended use. Ask yourself a few key questions:
- What purpose does your kitchen serve?
- Will it be a rather sizable standalone space for entertaining and prepped meals? Or, is the dining space separate from a smaller and efficient area?
- What is your budget? Does this include daily maintenance, repairs, and bulb or fixture replacement?
- What is your personal design style? Are there specific trends you like?
Once you lockdown these questions and a budget, these factors will influence what lighting options you choose. Read on for top-notch lighting options, accessories, configurations, and more.
How to Configure Kitchen Lighting
How should you configure kitchen lighting in the space? The room layout is like a circuit and lighting is the connectors in that board. The layout will be a determining factor in how much lighting you need and where the fixtures will be installed or staged.
However, let’s separate the kitchen lightning into three categories: ambient, accent, and task. These are the main sections of lighting based on function and design. Therefore, you’ll stage lighting based on these selections accordingly. Ambient lighting manifests the room’s general sense of light and brightness. Accent lighting broadens with additional lighting in concentrated bursts such as a pendant illuminating a quartz countertop. After the general lighting – concentrated and broad – is determined, add task lighting. Task lighting is placed in areas that are function-based with “tasks” – such as under cabinet lighting, track lighting above workstations, and so on.
Adding onto types of lighting, you’ll want to consider accessories that can control the volume of light. Ambient lights, including recessed, often come with dimmer switches to adjust the illumination in a space. Dimmable lights also pair well with accent light, as you’re drawing attention to a key area or focal point.
What other configurations should you consider? Pendant and other hanging lights. What’s the appropriate height to hang them? A basic rule is that a hanging light should be at least six feet from the floor, or three feet from the table.
Types of Kitchen Lighting
Since the kitchen is the North Star for many homes, choosing the right kind of lighting for the room can be quite an undertaking. With modern fixtures and many open concept layouts taking precedence, layering essential lighting can be a bit tricky.
Cool lighting is a popular choice for the kitchen as most folks cycle through a variety of tasks. But other lighting temperatures or natural lighting solutions can also play a big factor in the styles incorporated into the kitchen or eating area.
- Track. A versatile fixture that can illuminate any room, track lighting can be both task-based, decorative, and also bring clarity to dark corners.
- Recessed. A common choice for overhead tasks like meal prepping, cooking, and washing. Recessed lights are fixtures installed directly into the ceiling.
- Directional recessed. Similar to the above, this light is installed directly into the ceiling with a directional casing to cast light on specifically targeted areas.
- Surface. These cap-shaped fixtures hold a single bulb and illuminates a large area while consuming a small amount of space.
- Pendants. The traditional pendant lights come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and like recessed lights, can direct focused light. This fixture can be displayed solo or in clusters to yield larger pools of light over countertops, islands, or a table.
- Chandelier. Most commonly viewed as a decorative dining area option, the classic chandelier is an ornamental fixture that adds ambience and style to any eating spot in the kitchen.
- Spotlight. For large shafts of light, opt for this fixture. The spotlight levels up the light intensity. These fixtures can also be grouped together as a multiple lamp fixture.
- Skylight. While this isn’t a lighting fixture per se, a skylight window enhances the natural lighting in a kitchen. These window fixtures can also be fitted with track lighting or LED tubes that illuminate after dark.
Choosing a Striking Finish
Once you have a light fixture plan in action, the next step is to consider finishes. The first thing any homeowner should do is choose the finish that corresponds with the mood or style of the space.
Brass, nickel, chrome, white, and black are the leading finish styles found in many homes. These choices can range from matte and shiny to polished and lustrous. Many homeowners might decide on one finish for the kitchen, while others might mix and match. Still not sure on finish colors and shades? Look at the mood and silhouettes of the fixtures and consider which finish works best on the lighting option.
Choosing the Right Support Lighting
Once your main fixtures are in play, it’s time to look for supportive lighting that will add lighting to much needed areas or decoration.
Supportive lighting can illuminate under cabinets, bar carts and home bars, islands, and shelving. Supportive lighting includes:
Sconces, shelf, pendants, and under cabinet lights can brighten up task-based stations and storage areas. Chandeliers, countertop lamps, and floor lamps pull in mood and atmosphere, or change light temperature to a functional space.
Choosing Light Accent Covers
Don’t overlook small but mighty details such as light covers. Whether it’s a linen shade for a tabletop lamp, a glass cover, or flush mounts, this fixture elevates light sources instantly.
Not sure how to choose a light cover? Divide your lights into a few categories based on location and function (ceiling, shelf, pendant, and so on). Then, similar to choosing finishes, take into account lines, shapes, and silhouettes for the cover. These shapes and the opacity of the cover will affect how the light is cast and reflects on a surface.
Below are light cover styles to consider:
Ceiling Light Covers
- Flush (installed against the ceiling)
- Semi-Flush (detached from the ceiling)
Stephanie Valente is a Content Director and Editor in Brooklyn, NY. She’s previously held writing and social media positions at Barkbox, Men’s Journal, and currently works at a full-service advertising agency. She’s a self-confessed home and design enthusiast. Stephanie is an award-winning poet and fiction writer. When she’s offline, you can find her taking a yoga class, running, hanging out with her rescue dog Pepper. Find her on stephanievalente.com.