These kitchen lighting ideas will ensure that your room is gorgeous and also completely practical to work in. Perhaps your existing lighting is functional, but a little dull? Or you could be looking for kitchen ideas to plan an entirely new decor scheme, for which you will need the right lighting to go with it. Wherever you’re starting from, we’ve got what you need to get your space on point.
We spend more time than ever in our kitchens, so both style and practicality are the watchwords when you’re planning kitchen lighting. To make sure you can tick both boxes, we’ve put together the most striking looks, as well as all the practical advice you need to plan your kitchen lighting design scheme right.
1. Plan for form and function
The industrial pendants are on point in this kitchen and they are totally functional. We recommend focusing on the three types of lighting when planning this into your overall kitchen design – practical task, general background light, and accent lighting.
Don’t forget to factor in both budget for the fittings themselves and, for most lighting, for an electrician either employed by you or your builder or kitchen supplier if they’re not part of any price you’ve been given.
2. Make your kitchen lighting design scheme work around you
Of all the rooms in the house, the kitchen perhaps sees the most varied activities, and if it's combined with a dining and living space, the most action, too.
Pay attention to how you use each part of the space to decide which kitchen lights you need where – especially look out for spaces you use a lot and will need plenty of kitchen task lighting. The overall look of your kitchen lighting should complement the kitchen’s style, and by considering how you use each kitchen zone, you’ll begin to see why getting the right kitchen lighting in the right places can really help make this space a success, whether you have an industrial style kitchen, a modern kitchen, or a traditional kitchen.
3. Remember to consider natural light in your kitchen
Working out orientation and how much natural light your room gets will help inform you kitchen lighting design. For example, north-facing rooms are likely to be light-starved; east-facing rooms will get little light in the afternoons; while south- and west-facing kitchens are likely to be naturally bright well into the late afternoon.
Think about natural dark spots, too. For example, if you’re planning a kitchen extension, the area in the deepest part of the extension will lack natural light, and might need lighting during the day.
However, it's worth talking to your architect first about improving light levels with glazing, bi-fold doors and rooflights, keeping in mind the location where in the kitchen they would work best before you start planning the lighting scheme.
Ceiling heights will affect the room's natural light levels, as well as the surfaces you're planning on installing in the kitchen – light-colored kitchen cabinets, kitchen flooring, worktops, kitchen paint colors and high-gloss finishes will all bounce light around and lessen the need for artificial lighting.
4. Work out the best position for kitchen lighting fittings
When you’re planning how to light a kitchen, working out the exact position of your kitchen units and furniture is a must. Rebecca Hutchison of John Cullen Lighting explains: 'You’ll want lights over worktops and not walkways. If you’re planning a kitchen diner, you don’t want the dining table where there isn’t going to be any light. You need to know the height of your units too and whether you’re going to want to light these spaces from above.'
Working this way will also help you pinpoint where your light switches will be; if yours is an open plan kitchen diner and living space, you may want lighting controls at both ends of the room.
5. Highlight your kitchen island with plinth lighting
Plinth lighting can be subtly concealed beneath a substantially sized kitchen island to create an almost floating effect. In this kitchen lighting design, illumination also shows off the stylish parquet flooring. Like the idea of a kitchen island? You'll find plenty of inspiration with our clever kitchen island ideas.
6. Choose eye-catching kitchen lighting over an island
Looking for kitchen lighting ideas that are a feature in themselves? Pendant lighting above a kitchen island draws attention to the feature, and can create a pool of light when it – or a portion of it as here – doubles as a breakfast bar or dining area.
7. Add in plenty of kitchen task lighting
Kitchen task lighting needn’t be dull just because it’s functional. In this room, white SEKOND cord sets and RYET lightbulbs all Ikea, stand out against the dark tones of the wall to illuminate the worktops and kitchen splashbacks, plus it adds to the moody aesthetic of the room.
8. Light your kitchen cabinetry
When you’re planning kitchen lighting, under-cabinet lighting isn’t just a practical feature to illuminate worktops. Position it at plinth level and it will sweep light on to the floor, plus create an attractive punctuation point between solid surfaces.
9. Highlight the dining table with kitchen lighting
We'd recommend planning kitchen lighting that works on a separate circuit over a dining table, so you can move attention to the meal you’ve created, and dim preparation area lights so pots and pans aren’t a distraction.
We love this kitchen light idea which mismatches geometric pendant lights from Pooky.
10. Light the inside of kitchen cabinets
Lighting up cabinets is not only one of the most practical kitchen lighting ideas but it can also turn them into an interesting focal point with in the space. If you have glass cabinets, fill them with your favorite glassware and crockery or why not pinch this idea and light up a well organized pantry?
11. Brighten up shelving with clever kitchen lighting
If you are after super practical kitchen lighting ideas, this is one to copy. Strip lights along the edge of shelves will make more of tableware and condiments on display – or use them to brighten drawers and gloomy cupboard interiors.
These 3W LED strip lights by Lighting Direct can be installed without the need for an electrician.
12. Make a feature of a splashback
A piece of top kitchen lighting advice? Put the focus on the room’s best features. The gorgeous splashback is a highlight of this kitchen, and downlights make it shine much more brilliantly than it would in daylight alone, showing off the texture, too.
13. Get on-trend with dark kitchen task lighting
If you feel like experimenting with the dark and atmospheric decorating trend that has become so popular in recent years, then the good news is that kitchen is a great space in the home to try out a dark or completely black kitchen color scheme, since these rooms tend to have plenty of natural light to balance out the dark colors. A dark pendant light is a great way to create a graphic contrast in your dining space – and if you find that it doesn't work after all, pendants are easy to replace.
We like the lace-like effect created by the Wire and Thread Pendant Lamp in Black from Out There Interiors.
14. Go for uniformity with your kitchen lighting design
These matching industrial style pendant lights make this kitchen space pop. The placement is ideal to illuminate the kitchen island when in use and the choice of off-white shades really complements the rest of the decor.
15. Or mix and match kitchen pendant lights
This is a very easy and effective way to add interest when you’re planning kitchen lighting. Whether your shades are a different shape, color, texture or simply hung at different lengths from the ceiling, go with what you feel and the room's energetic ambiance will be transformed.
16. Max out natural daylight
Think about how much of the daylight available to your room can be put to good use as you’re planning kitchen lighting. These bi-fold doors allow light to flood into this kitchen extension, reducing the need for artificial light during the day.
17. Be bold with bulbs
You don't always have to use shades in an open area of your kitchen and we love this kitchen lighting idea that uses a mobile lighting fixture, complete with exposed bulbs. It's modern and classy yet a bit edgy and works especially well in this all white kitchen color scheme.
18. Dress it up with copper kitchen lights
Adding shine is one of the most brilliant (sorry, couldn’t resist) kitchen lighting ideas. Here gleaming copper lights and an abstract pendant shape add something really special to the space.
19. Go for all white kitchen lights
What a way to brighten up a breakfast bar. White kitchen lights will lift the light levels in all kinds of spaces and these three pendants above sure brighten this area of the kitchen – helping to marry the other parts of the color scheme together also.
20. Pick barely noticeable lighting to light up surfaces
As we have mentioned, kitchen task lighting is an essential part of your lighting design, and works best above your worktops so you can... well see when you are prepping food. But they don't always have to be a feature in your kitchen, or take up space – can you even notice the lights in this kitchen? There's just a very small strip of ceiling spotlights that don't interfere with the quirky, colorful look of the space.
Check out Ikea for similar kitchen lighting.
21. Consider shadows when you’re planning kitchen lighting
The number one most annoying problem when it comes to kitchen lighting? Standing at the worktop and having a clear view of what you’re doing impeded by your own shadow. This can happen when ceiling lights have been positioned above the edge of the counter.
You don’t need to rip lights out of the ceiling to solve the issue, though. Simply install under-cabinet lighting and your view of the worksurface will be good – and chopping will be a far safer job.
22. Set pendant lights at the right height
Pendant lights above a counter can be a fabulous part of a kitchen lighting design, but what height should they be hung at? As a rule, they should be around 32 to 40 inches above it, measuring between the base of the pendant light and the top of the counter. If the ceiling of your room is around 8 feet high, the smaller distance will probably suit, while if it’s taller, it will be better on the higher side.
Bear in mind that what you definitely don’t want is a light that blocks the view across the counter, so you might want to adjust depending where the eye line of the tallest member of your household falls.
Want to make getting the height right really easy? Opt for a rise and fall light, like this Rise & Fall School Light 7200 from Davey Lighting, which you can adjust as needed.
23. Correctly space island pendant lights
We’ve talked, above, about how high pendant lights should be, but what about the distance in between them? Bear in mind when you’re planning kitchen lighting that the rule isn’t hard and fast and you should trust your feelings about how the lights look, but there are definitely guidelines to follow.
If there is room for an odd number of pendants over the island, then place the first light in the center – easy! Then hang the others so they’re at least 24 inches apart. It can be more, though, and you should adjust depending on the size of the pendants; up to 30 to 32 inches should look good.
Small island and only room for two pendants? The easiest way to work this out is to place the center of each of the two pendant lights one quarter of the way in from either end of the island.
24. Plan shapely designs into your kitchen diner
One of our favorite kitchen diner lighting ideas is to consider a more decorative pendant light over the dining table. It will help to distinguish this area of the room where you sit down to relax and enjoy the results of your prep and cooking from the hard-working kitchen area.
25. Light up a breakfast station
Opting to keep small appliances like a coffee maker and toaster off the counter and in a breakfast cupboard in which they’re concealed when they’re not in use can help keep a kitchen tidy. But if your breakfast station is going to be a success, it needs great lighting inside so you can see what you’re doing (yes, we’re talking task lighting once again: see above and below). This stylish design has internal downlights that make prepping breakfast easy.
Kitchen lighting design tips
Best places to buy kitchen lighting
- Don’t put lights too close to cabinetry as if you have low ceilings, the glare from the lights could discolor the veneer.
- If you have low ceilings, you will need fewer downlights; too many and the light will be overpowering.
- Use spotlights on dimmer switches so you can easily control light levels.
- Include mood and task lighting in a scheme so that when you’ve finished cooking you can turn the bright lights down and have accents more suited to a sociable eating environment – not bright or harsh lighting.
- Ensure light switches are compatible with the style of your kitchen.
Layer practical task and atmospheric mood lighting
Including different layers of light in your scheme will give you the best of all worlds: a kitchen that functions brilliantly, but one that looks good or that you can quickly conjure an atmosphere in, too.
Task lighting is purely practical and should be designed to allow you to prep and cook safely, and perhaps use an area of the room for reading or homework. Task lighting might be ceiling downlights and under-unit lights, well placed above worktops in order to illuminate task areas.
Accent lighting is used to highlight of softly light elements of the kitchen. So, if you’re including a kitchen island or dining table, pendants both as a focal point and to focus a soft glow on the table will do the trick (hang pendants in odd numbers – they look better). Similarly, LED strips under breakfast bars, beneath 'floating' kitchen islands, over wall units or illuminating shelves within cabinets can provide accent lighting, highlighting these features while contributing a warm backlight to create atmosphere in the evening.
Ambient lighting – in other words, general background light – can be provided by wall and table lights, but also by your main task lighting if it's controlled by dimmer switches.
Put kitchen lighting on separate, zoned circuits
No kitchen lighting scheme will look its best controlled by one switch – putting your kitchen lighting on different circuits is a must. Here's what to consider:
How many circuits? An average kitchen will need three circuits: one for downlights; one for pendants; and one for under-unit lights, for example.
How many zones? An open plan kitchen/living/dining space will need more circuits, because you should treat each zone's lighting individually.
Which lights when? How will you use the space and what lights do you want switched on at the same time? For example, it makes sense to have the kitchen on separate circuits to the living/dining space, so that you don't have to look at the washing up while you're relaxing.
How bright should kitchen lighting be?
The brightness of lights is an important factor in kitchen lighting planning. Lighting levels are often measured in foot candles. So what is a foot candle? It’s a measure of the intensity of the light and is defined as 1 lumen per square foot.
We know what you’re asking now: what’s a lumen? The answer is that it’s a measurement of the quantity of light visible to the human eye from a light source per unit of time. The higher the lumen rating, the brighter the light.
The bottom line here, of course, is that your kitchen lighting needs to be sufficiently bright for all the activities that go on there.
To work out whether your kitchen will have enough light, start by calculating the square footage. As a guide, a kitchen will need 30 to 40 foot candles for general lighting. Multiply the square footage of the room by the above foot candle numbers and the result is the lumens required.
Bear in mind that this is the overall light for the room and working zones such as the cooking area and sink need task lighting, which should also be calculated and added on to your total. You’ll require 70 to 80 foot candles for these areas.
If math isn’t your strong point, you’ll find calculators on line to help with planning your kitchen lighting.
What color should kitchen lights be?
Planning a successful lighting scheme is also about getting the light color/quality right, too. This is somewhat subjective, but you should choose bulbs that not only flatter the space but make it feel welcoming, too.
Light color can impact dramatically on your scheme. Take LEDs, for instance: their color temperature is measured in kelvins (or K) — daylight measures around 6,000-6,500 kelvins; candlelight comes in at around 1,800 kelvins. While you may want your LEDs to give off cool white light above worktops, warm white is much more relaxing for dining or living areas.
'The most versatile color for kitchen lighting is 2,700 kelvins, which gives off a slightly warm light that is creamy enough to have on during the day but is still a comfortable warm light for evenings,' continues Rebecca Hutchison. 'For lights within shelving units, you would most likely have these on of an evening for atmosphere and so you’d more than likely select strips with extra warmth and go for 2,400 kelvins.'
Are LED lights good for kitchens?
LEDs are most certainly the way forward when it comes to lighting. In comparison to outdated halogen bulbs, they’re a far more cost effective and eco-friendly solution. The low wattage of LED lights means that energy consumption is reduced, and they also last longer. LEDs will last for up to 40,000 hours compared to the 3,000 hour lifespan of halogens.
Get the right amount of lighting in your kitchen
How to get the balance right? A good electrician will advise on how many downlights you'll need but, as a guide, an average-sized kitchen, at around 4m x 4m, would need six.
Designing a kitchen on a budget? Track or monorail lighting can be a cost-effective alternative as you can position lights on the track to target the key areas you want to light.
Who can install kitchen lighting?
Your builder: if you're planning a kitchen extension, it's likely your builder will bring in an electrician to carry out the lighting work alongside the first fix of other electrical fittings, although you may want to engage a lighting designer to oversee the planning at the very least.
Your kitchen supplier: if it's a case of installing a new kitchen into an existing room, your kitchen company may offer a lighting design service as part of the package or as an added extra. 'For elements such as in-cabinet lighting, it very much depends on how you brief your kitchen supplier as to who is responsible for installing this,' advises Rebecca Hutchison of John Cullen Lighting. 'Bear in mind, though, that if this is provided and installed by your kitchen supplier, you might not have the same colour of light as the rest of the lighting in the room — whereas if you specify all of your lighting from the same place then the warmth and brightness will be consistent and you’ll end up with a better result.'
Your electrician: if you're fitting lighting retrospectively or are project managing your kitchen renovation yourself, your electrician can do the work.
You: if you're fitting your own kitchen, you can take on some of the work yourself (for instance, chasing out walls), but only if your electrician is happy to sign it off. Be aware of what you can and can’t do: Part P of the Building Regulations legislates for DIY electrical work and states that if a job is ‘notifiable’ – such as adding a new circuit or replacing a consumer unit – it either needs to be carried out or certified by a registered competent person, such as a NICEIC member, or inspected by building control.