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How to Get Kitchen Lighting Right

Updated: Jun 27, 2022

As the most-often used room in the house, the kitchen carries the pressure to get things right. Besides setup and appropriate appliance preferences, it all comes down to lighting. The right balance of lighting will help get you focused to accomplish the day’s tasks. Be it breakfast, a new recipe or meal prep, correct lighting provides a successful backdrop to get it all done like a boss. Designer Becki Owens concurs, “When I design a kitchen, I often like to keep the whole space light and neutral and add wow factor with great lights.”

modern kitchen lighting

TYPES OF LIGHTING There are three basic types of effective kitchen lighting. Courtesy of Ylighting, let’s


  1. Ambient Lighting: This will be your main source of light—whether in addition to natural light, or to fill in for lack of it. You want to cast as much of it as evenly as possibly from your ceiling. You can do so with a combination of (but not limited to) pendant lights, chandeliers, recessed lighting and semi- or full-flush mount ceiling fixtures.

Expert opinion from designer Jamie Herzlinger: General kitchen lighting should be located directly over walkways, prep areas, sinks and cook tops. This way, no matter where you are or what you’re doing, you won’t have any dark corners.

  1. Task Lighting: While ambient lighting enables you to navigate throughout the kitchen, it often leaves shadows in areas that require more focus. Task lighting illuminates work surfaces and cabinetry properly so you can safely prepare meals, read recipes, and easily spot ingredients on a shelf. Typical kitchen task lighting options include strip lights and puck lights.

Expert opinion from designer Wesley Moon for Huffpost: Select beautiful, interesting fixtures for the ceiling and over the bar. I prefer antique or vintage pieces. Let these be jewelry for the room, providing an ambient glow for those times when the party (inevitably) ends up in the kitchen.

  1. Accent Lighting: Consider these your bonus lights; the icing on the cake, if you will, of your well-designed kitchen: toe kick lights, cabinet lights and any other light that might accentuate your favorite elements. Accents could also be part of the ambient and task lighting package.

Expert opinion from designer Penny Frances for Eclectic Home: The finishes and styles don’t have to match. Push the envelope and add the unexpected.

ISLAND LIGHTING Task or ambient lighting are the go-tos for your island. Really, it all depends on its use, whether it’s task-oriented with a sink and/or stovetop, or you’re using it for prep and hanging out. Ylighting

marble kitchen lighting with lighting

suggests a mix of recessed downlighting and hanging lights to work by, however if it's more of a conversation time with counter seating, try pendants or linear suspension lighting for proper ambience. Linear suspension lighting offers a wide array of styles, and work particularly well for higher ceilings. As long as there’s at least 40” above your countertop you’re good to go.

And don’t knock natural lighting, either. You figure you’ve got an average 12 hours of it every day depending on the time of year, so use it to your advantage! Appropriate window treatments can harness that light and brighten your kitchen even further, especially when using colors that effectively pop against your kitchen appliance/counter motif.

The right balance and mix of lighting will do wonders in your kitchen, thereby increasing the quality of time spent in there, and the investment will certainly pay off for resale opportunities. Talk to J. Sweet Construction about more great ideas in kitchen lighting. Let us put over 20 years of luxury home building and remodeling experience to work for you.



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