No one wants to cook in the dark or wield sharp knives in a dimly lit space.

Finding the right kitchen lighting is about having enough light to perform daily functions, but also illuminating your space in a beautiful way.

Gone are the days when one giant fluorescent light in the middle of your kitchen will do the trick. In today’s kitchens, lighting is softer, more intentional, and much prettier.

When you invest in a kitchen remodel, carefully planned lighting allows you to use your space better with just the flick of a switch.

3 Basic Types of Home Lighting

To keep things easy, there are just three basic types of kitchen lighting – ambient, task and accent.

All light fixtures can be categorized into at least one of these groups. Understanding and using each of these three types of home lighting is important to correctly illuminate an area according to function and style.

Accent, ambient, and task lighting are the three basic types of kitchen lighting.

  1. Ambient Lighting: This is the main source of light in the room and provides universal light for the overall space. Even with no other lights turned on, ambient kitchen lighting should illuminate the entire room. While ambient light can be natural light from the sun, in most kitchens, this would be can lights, track lighting, traditional lighting fixtures, or a chandelier.
  2. Task Lighting: Task lighting is an intentional light added to the kitchen to aid in a specific task. For example, task lighting under the cabinets might allow you to work at the countertop more easily. Task lighting over the stove illuminates the pots and pans you’re cooking in.
  3. Accent Lighting: Accent lighting is generally more decorative than functional. An accent light may be placed to showcase a beautiful piece of art or tilework in the kitchen. Sometimes task lights can double as accent lighting, depending on where they are placed. Accent lighting in a kitchen may look like sconces on the wall, track lights under cabinets, or picture lights.

Types of Light Fixtures to Put in a Kitchen

To create a beautiful combination of ambient, task, and accent lighting – multiple fixtures should be used intentionally in your kitchen lighting design.

There are different kinds of fixtures that are suitable for kitchen lighting, such as pendants, cabinet, surface, and recessed lights.

  • Surface Lighting: Surface lights are standard fixtures mounted directly onto the ceiling to provide ambient light. They may be single, mushroom-shaped fixtures or larger rectangular fixtures with fluorescent tubes.
  • Recessed Lighting: This is also overhead lighting that provides ambient light but is typically a stronger light and installed into the ceiling or wall rather than hanging below. These lights are unobtrusive and preserve a sense of open space.
  • Under Cabinet Lighting: This is an often-overlooked lighting solution and a great addition to a kitchen remodel in Louisville, KY. Under cabinet lighting can be built into your cabinetry or added later. It provides both task lighting and accent lighting to show off your beautiful finishes.
  • Pendants: Pendants are often used over an island, peninsula, or bar area to provide both task lighting and a bit of visual interest to the space.

Island kitchen lighting and sconces are ideal for enlightening particular parts of your kitchen.

  • Island Lighting: Intentional lighting over the island provides task lighting for the space and accent lighting to the kitchen. Island kitchen lighting can be either a pendant light or more of a chandelier style but is designed to illuminate tasks taking place at the island.
  • Sconces: A sconce is a beautiful accent lighting source placed on the wall to add beauty and style to the space. Sconces work especially well in rustic, southwestern, or more modern kitchen design.

Chandeliers are great options as kitchen lighting because they give luxurious appearance and can be used as task lights.

  • Chandeliers: To give your kitchen a touch of luxury, beautiful chandeliers provide both task lighting and ambient lighting when placed above the kitchen table or island.
  • Track Lighting: Track lighting is typically used as an accent light fixture. It can be placed to illuminate beautiful tilework in the kitchen and can sometimes double as task lighting.

Track lights can be a perfect kitchen lighting option for illuminating details, such as beautiful tilework.

6 Important Things to Consider When Picking out Kitchen Lights

Once you decide on kitchen lighting types and the style of fixture you prefer, there are a few additional features to consider:

  1. Ceiling Height: When designing your kitchen lighting, consider the height of your ceilings to match the fixtures you choose. For example, lower ceilings usually work best with flush-mount or recessed kitchen lights. Higher or vaulted ceilings lend to beautiful chandeliers or longer pendants.
  2. Maintenance and Materials: Keep in mind that a kitchen can get messy. A fabric drum light or lamp shade can quickly become greasy and sticky. Choose nonporous materials with easy-to-wipe surfaces. Flat metal and smooth glass work best in kitchens.
  3. Cost: You can find beautiful light fixtures within your budget, but things can quickly get out of control if you’re spending hundreds (or thousands) on each fixture. Balance the budget by spending more on reliable ambient light and impact style pieces and less on smaller task lighting.
  4. Installation: Homeowners can successfully install their own home lighting. But if you’re planning to install new switches, or change the current wiring, it’s best to hire a professional.
  5. Surfaces and Glare: The light you choose can change the look of your countertops, paint, and cabinet finishes. Keep this in mind as you choose lighting fixtures. For example, Jennifer Johnson, CEO of The Light Center says, “black soapstone will soak up some of the light, whereas polished quartz will reflect and bounce the light back up at you, potentially creating glare.” A kitchen designer can help create a combination that is both beautiful and functional.

11 Kitchen Lighting Design Tips

If you’re not sure how to narrow down your ideas, or combine your lighting inspiration while keeping things streamlined, we are here to help.

These design tips will help you to get the most out of your lighting and use it to enhance the overall look of the space.

1. Mix Up Your Fixtures, But Keep It Coherent

Use different types of lighting but keep a common theme or tone so everything looks more cohesive and intentional. Using the same brand/style of lighting fixtures can help create this consistency.

Mixing up kitchen lighting fixtures gives a stunning appearance to the whole area.

2. Add a Pop to a Neutral Scheme with Feature Lighting

Lighting fixtures can be a great way to bring a dark accent into a neutral kitchen or provide a pop of color.

A pop of color to a neutral kitchen can be an amazing kitchen lighting option.

3. Use Lighting to Illuminate Texture to Bring in Depth 

Accent lighting near a tile backsplash or frosted glass cabinets bring these different textures to life and creates a beautiful artistic quality to your kitchen.

Accent kitchen lighting can give a beautiful artistic quality to your kitchen.

4. Consider a Solo Light to Highlight a Focal Point

Create a spotlight with a featured light fixture over the island. This can highlight a beautiful space and provide a feeling of elegance.

A solo element as kitchen lighting is an excellent way to achieve an elegant feeling.

5. Create a Quirky Feature with Oversized Lighting

Don’t be afraid to go big. Particularly in modern kitchens with a simple style, an overstated lighting fixture can provide extra character.

Oversized kitchen lighting is a great way to give a quirky effect to the area.

6. Incorporate Reflective Materials to Bounce Light Around the Room

Creating a balance of lighting with reflective materials (like class, metal, or mirrors), can help to enhance both day and night lighting.

Reflective materials can make kitchen lighting look better and in balance.

7. Choose Light Fittings with a Similar Shape or Finish to Your Kitchen Furniture

To maintain a sophisticated design that draws the eye both up and down, choose lighting that complements your furniture.

For example, the metal accents on your lighting fixtures should match the metal used on the faucet and cabinet hardware. If you have modern minimalist bar stools, pair with sleek modern pendant lights.

Kitchen lighting that is similar to your furniture will give a sleek appearance to the whole area.

8. Use Wall Lights as an Alternative to Downlights

Not all lights have to be on the ceiling, wall lights can be a beautiful addition to your kitchen design. This works particularly well with accent lighting over open shelving or task lighting above a countertop.

Wall kitchen lighting is an amazing addition to ceiling lights.

9. Select Lights that are in Line with the Kitchen Island

Don’t be afraid to go bigger with lights above the island or peninsula. Lights that are too small look lost in the space.

Aim for the bottom of the pendant to be at least 35 inches above the worktop and proportional to the overall length.

Kitchen lighting that is in line with your island will create a perfect ambiance.

10. Group Smaller, Understated Lights for a More Dramatic Impact

This works particularly well in a shabby chic, rustic, or antique-style kitchen where vintage pieces work well.

You can gather a group of unique glass pendants or lighting fixtures that are small on their own but combined together create something that is unique and still provide adequate lighting.

Grouping smaller fixtures with other kitchen lighting options will obtain a dramatic effect.

 11. Blend Modern and Traditional Styles

Lighting can also be a great way to blend the different styles of homeowners. A sleek and modern light fixture can be a great way to bring a more traditional kitchen into a contemporary age.

On the flipside, an antique light fixture can provide more character to an otherwise modern kitchen.

Combining modern and traditional kitchen lighting is an amazing way to combine the different styles of homeowners.

Blending Design and Functionality

Lighting carries a lot of responsibility in your kitchen.

It must first be functional (so we aren’t working in the dark) and it must also be controllable. It is critical that you’re able to control the kitchen lighting in order to adjust the mood and atmosphere in the home.

Creating the best combination of design and functionality brings your kitchen to life. Talk to our design team to see how we can bring your kitchen to life.