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How to Get the Most From Your Kitchen Lighting

Pendant lights lined up in a kitchen

Kitchen lighting is an important part of designing your kitchen. Not only do you want your kitchen lighting to be visually appealing, but it also needs to be functional and safe. If your work surfaces aren’t lit up, you’ll find it difficult to cook and prepare food. Cooking in the dark is truly a recipe for disaster!

Kitchens are now often a family room for relaxing and eating too. With so many functions, getting the kitchen lighting right is incredibly important. With the right lighting, you can highlight featured appliances or designs, create zoned areas, and boost natural light.

Determine Your Lighting Needs

Before you jump into placing lights around your kitchen, you need to consider what you need them to do.

Think about all of the tasks performed in the kitchen. This includes meal prep, cooking, cleaning, entertaining and eating. Now think about which of these tasks require the most light.

Meal prep and cooking can be dangerous without adequate lighting. After all, most recipes will require using a sharp kitchen knife or heat! Therefore, the areas where these tasks take place will need the most light. So that’s your countertops, stove, and oven.

Your sink will also need to be well lit. This is the area where you’ll do your washing up, liquid measuring, and a few other tasks too.

You will of course need light for entertaining and eating too. However, how bright these areas are isn’t as important. What is important for these areas is the ambiance. Do you want your lighting to be bright and energetic, or warm and cosy? Maybe you’d like the flexibility of creating a different ambiance depending on the activity, time of day, or the company you have. Anything is possible, as long as you plan ahead!

Choose the Right Types of Lighting

Now that you’ve identified your kitchen lighting requirements, let us explore the different types of lighting. We’ll begin by grouping types of lighting into task lighting, ambient lighting, and accent lighting.

Task Lighting

Task lighting is focused lighting designed to help you perform specific activities in the kitchen. This type of lighting includes under-cabinet lighting, pendant lights over key areas, and track lighting.

Task lighting is essential for activities such as chopping vegetables, reading recipes, or cooking on the stove. Opt for fixtures that provide bright, shadow-free light to enhance visibility in these crucial work areas.

Image Source: Homes and Gardens

Ambient Lighting

Ambient lighting will be your primary source of illumination in the kitchen. Its job is to create the overall light that fills the space. This can be achieved through ceiling-mounted fixtures, recessed lights, or even chandeliers.

Ambient lighting sets the tone for the entire kitchen, and ensures that there are no dark corners. Choose ambient lighting fixtures that distribute light evenly and complement the overall design of your kitchen.

Image Soucre: The Kitchen Company

Accent Lighting

Accent lighting adds drama and visual interest to your kitchen by highlighting specific features or areas. This could include the use of LED strip lights under cabinets, recessed lighting to showcase artwork or architectural details, or decorative pendant lights above a kitchen island. 

Accent lighting is not designed with function in mind, but instead contributes to the aesthetic appeal of your kitchen. It helps you to create a well-balanced and visually pleasing atmosphere.

Image Source: John Cullen Lighting

You may think that this sounds similar to task lighting. However, accent lighting is not as bright. It is usually brighter than ambient lighting though.

Using a combination of task, ambient, and accent lighting will allow you to create a functional and visually interesting kitchen. There are many different kitchen lighting designs available for you to choose from to create the kitchen of your dreams. We would highly recommend doing lots of research on kitchen lighting before making your decision. It’s amazing how the right lighting can transform a space!

Tips for selecting the best lighting fixtures:


Black pendant light

You should choose light fixtures that complement the overall style of your kitchen. For a modern kitchen, sleek and minimalist fixtures may be ideal. Meanwhile, traditional kitchens may benefit from classic chandeliers or pendant lights with ornate details. Consider the finishes and materials that will match your kitchen’s design.


Ensure that the size of your lighting fixtures is proportionate to the space. Overly large fixtures can overwhelm a small kitchen, while too-small fixtures may not provide enough light in larger spaces. Consider the scale of your kitchen and the height of your ceilings when selecting the size of your lighting fixtures.


Father showing daughter how to wash up. Under-cabinet lighting is shown in the background.

Strategically place your lights to provide balance throughout your kitchen. Remember to focus on the areas where task lighting is most needed. Additionally, distribute ambient lighting evenly to avoid dark spots. Experimenting with the placement of accent lighting to highlight specific features can create visual interest.

How to incorporate natural light in your kitchen:


Large windows will allow natural light to flood into the kitchen. Installing countertops and sinks near windows will help you make the most of the natural light while working. You can also look into window treatments, such as privacy film, to maximise daylight without sacrificing privacy.


Skylights are a fantastic way to bring natural light into the kitchen, especially when windows are limited. They can create a bright, airy atmosphere, and help reduce the need for artificial lighting during the day. Ensure your skylight is in a position to avoid glare and excessive heat.

Glass Doors

If your kitchen connects to an outdoor space, consider using glass doors to allow natural light to filter in. Sliding or French doors with glass panels can brighten up the kitchen, and provide a seamless transition between indoor and outdoor spaces. It’ll also be much easier to keep an eye on the kids!

Use a Mix of Lighting Sources

Using a mixture of lighting sources can give your space flexibility and visual interest. There are a few different light sources available that you can easily mix and match.

Pendant Lights

Pendant lights are not only functional but also serve as eye-catching focal points. Hang them above the kitchen island or dining area to provide task lighting with a touch of style. There is a wide range of designs and materials available to complement any kitchen theme, from modern to rustic.

Recessed Lights

Recessed lights, also known as can lights or downlights, offer a clean and contemporary look. They provide ambient lighting without occupying visual space. We recommend carefully placing lights across the ceiling. This will help you to avoid shadows, and ensure an even distribution of light throughout the kitchen.

  • Combine pendant lights and recessed lights for a balanced blend of ambient and task lighting. The pendants add visual interest, while recessed lights provide the overall ambiance.

Under-cabinet Lights

Light up your countertops efficiently with under-cabinet lights. These fixtures not only enhance visibility for meal preparation, but they also help to create a warm and inviting atmosphere. LED strips or puck lights installed beneath cabinets can be discreet yet effective. They will prevent shadows from forming in crucial task areas.

Track Lighting

Track lighting is a versatile option that allows you to direct light precisely where it’s needed. One way you can use tracking lighting is by installing it on the ceiling. You can then use the adjustable fixtures to highlight specific features or areas. This type of lighting is perfect for adding lighting flexibility. It’s so easy to adjust the direction and intensity of the light!

  • Combine under-cabinet lights with track lighting to create layers of light. This combination ensures that both the countertop workspace and key features are well-lit.

How to Create Visual Interest

  • Vary the heights and placements of pendant lights to create a dynamic visual effect. This not only enhances the functionality of the lighting but also adds a decorative touch to your kitchen.
  • Use recessed lights to highlight architectural details, such as exposed beams or a beautiful backsplash. This subtle accenting contributes to the overall design and character of your kitchen.
  • Track lighting can be an excellent tool for showcasing artwork or a collection of decorative items on open shelving. The ability to adjust the lights allows you to change the display whenever you want.

By thoughtfully combining pendant lights, recessed lights, under-cabinet lights, and track lighting, you can transform your kitchen into a well-lit, multi-functional space with a visually pleasing design. The key is to strike a balance that meets your practical needs, while elevating the aesthetic appeal of the heart of your home.

Adjust Lighting Levels and Colours

Creating the perfect ambiance in your kitchen involves more than just choosing the right types of lighting. Experiment with different intensities and colours of light to create a dynamic atmosphere. For example, consider using warmer tones for ambient lighting and cooler tones for task lighting. This will help to enhance focus in specific areas.

The Impact of Dimmer Switches on Mood and Functionality

Mood Enhancement

Dimmer switches allow you to control the intensity of your kitchen lighting. Lowering the lights during a relaxed evening meal or when entertaining guests can create a cosy, inviting atmosphere. Dimmed lights therefore contribute to a more intimate setting. This fosters a sense of comfort and relaxation.

Functionality and Task Lighting

Dimmer switches are particularly useful for task lighting areas, such as over the kitchen island or countertops. During meal preparation, you may want brighter, focused light to ensure accuracy and safety. With dimmers you can adjust the brightness according to the task at hand. This makes your kitchen more versatile and accommodates various needs throughout the day.

The Effects of Different Light Colours

Warm Tones

(Reds, Yellows, and Oranges)

Warm-toned lighting, often resembling the glow of a sunset, creates a cosy and inviting atmosphere in the kitchen. Consider using warm colours for ambient lighting, especially during social gatherings or relaxing evenings. Warm lighting can also enhance the richness of wooden elements in your kitchen, adding a touch of warmth and elegance.

Cool Tones

(Blues, Greens, and Whites)

Cool-toned lighting is more energising and is often preferred for task-oriented activities. Installing cooler lights above workspaces such as countertops or the stove enhances visibility and focus. Cool tones can also contribute to a clean, modern aesthetic in the kitchen, making it feel fresh and well-lit.

Tips for Adjusting Lighting to Suit Different Activities and Times of Day

Morning and Daytime

During breakfast or daytime, try to maximise the use of natural light, if possible. Otherwise, use brighter, cooler-toned lighting to create an energising environment. This helps to promote alertness and productivity, making morning activities more efficient.

Evening & Entertaining

During the evening, lower the overall lighting level using dimmer switches. You can also use warmer tones for ambient lighting to cultivate a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. This adjustment is ideal for dinner parties or quiet evenings spent with family.

Low-Key Activities

When you’re winding down and engaging in low-key activities, opt for softer, dimmed lighting. This not only minimises disruptions to your circadian rhythm, but also promotes a soothing environment for relaxation. It’ll also help prevent waking the whole household when sneaking downstairs for a midnight snack!

We hope you now have the knowledge to make the most out of your kitchen lighting. Remember to determine which areas need the most light. This will help you to create a well functioning kitchen. We also urge you to experiment with different lighting sources and techniques. This will allow you to find the perfect lighting solution for your kitchen.

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