Five Things to Consider When Planning Your Kitchen Lighting

Thinking of updating your kitchen lighting or remodeling your kitchen? Or maybe you’re starting a new construction project? It’s never too early to start planning! In fact, it’s essential to begin planning your kitchen lighting as early as possible in your kitchen design process. 



Lighting is a key part of any room, but that is especially true in the kitchen. The kitchen is the ultimate multi-tasking room in the home – a space to prepare food, entertain, complete schoolwork and for many, even work from home. The right kitchen lighting layout allows the kitchen to flow seamlessly through each of its many roles.

Good kitchen lighting ideas offer different levels of brightness and the ability to change the look, vibe, and feel of the space. Well-planned lighting schemes make a space feel larger or cozier with a combination of well-placed task and mood lighting.

Sound like a lot to keep in mind? Let’s break it down into five key things to consider when choosing kitchen lighting. 

ONE: How Much Light Do You Need?

Luxury_kitchen_transitional_lightingLet’s talk about lumens, which refer to brightness levels. How bright is bright enough? Well, that depends on what you are using the space for and how many lights you will have. But, it’s relatively easy math. 

To figure out your space’s lighting needs, simply multiply the kitchen floor area in square feet by the foot-candle (light intensity) needed. For example, if your kitchen is 100 square feet, it needs between 10 and 20 foot-candles. To provide that amount of foot-candles, you need 1,000 to 2,000 lumens. Light bulbs provide a certain number of lumens, so you can calculate how many bulbs you need by dividing the number of lumens by the number of lumens each bulb delivers. 

If you’re lost or math’s not your forte, no worries. An experienced Lighting Consultant (like those on our team!), designer or builder, will be able to advise you on the total number of lumens required to adequately illuminate your kitchen. 

TWO: Tackle Your Task Lighting

Ceiling lights can also provide ample task lighting, as long as they focus light on the work area. Chandeliers, pendants or even flush mount ceiling fixtures must be placed so they cast light over the work surface, unimpeded. Cabinets, shelves or other fixtures may get in the way.


The other culprit when it comes to casting shadows on our work areas is our own bodies – or more accurately, our shadows. So, be sure to position your kitchen task lighting to hit the back/center part of the countertop. That way, when you are leaning forwards over it (to wash, chop, mix or stir), your shadow is not cast over your counter space. With proper lighting placement, your shadow will rest just in front of your work, which allows the surface to be perfectly lit.

Wall lights (think sconces!) could be used where there aren’t wall cabinets or shelves. Again, avoiding shadows key, so remember the lights should not be directly behind you. Many designers recommend linear LED lighting below cabinets to cast light onto the counter below and help reduce shadows. 

THREE: Add Ambient Lighting

A room’s ambient lighting provides general background illumination, and is also a key component of a layered kitchen lighting schematic. Keep in mind how much natural light the room receives, but be sure the ambient lighting provides a comfortable and uniform level of light for the room at all hours, day or night.

Ambient lighting might come from different styles of ceiling designs such as recessed or surface lighting, pendants or chandeliers. Usually, a combination of several ceiling lights is recommended.

FOUR: Consider Accent Lighting

Accent lighting is the layer of lighting which takes a room from ordinary to truly something special. It adds visual interest, contributes to the overall atmosphere of the space, and can help highlight different features of the room. 

For example, use accent lighting to create a warm glow with lighted cabinets, allowing glasses stacked on glass shelves to be illuminated. To shine a light on an architectural detail, position the light an inch or two from the back of a shelf to create a backlit effect.  Or use an ever-versatile pendant over spaces like breakfast bars or other seating areas. Hang them low to create more intimacy and atmosphere, and consider a dimmer for even more versatility in creating the just-right vibe. Under cabinet lighting is a great way to highlight beautiful tile backsplashes or vibrant, high-end surfaces.

FIVE: Focus on Flow

You’ll be choosing multiple fixtures to make up the task, ambient, and accent lighting for the space and they all need to work together in a cohesive manner. To optimize the effect of a layered lighting plan, the lights must be able to be operated individually. Having the choice to switch lights independently from each other makes it easy to change the atmosphere. For example, switching different fixtures on for cooking and prep, but changing up the combination of what’s on or off  to create a relaxing dining space. You may want yet another configuration for cleaning up. 

Being able to dim some of the lights is a fantastic (and very easy, if planned in advance!) way to change the atmosphere. Dim your main lights for a lovely glow, perfect for entertaining or after-dinner conversation. 

And what about aesthetics? Aside from insightfully-planned illumination, your fixtures need to have a cohesive look. That doesn’t mean the need to be “matchy-matchy” – just keep the final effect in mind. If you prefer a more eclectic mix in your decor, ensure the tones of the finishes match. For example, you might select a warm aged brass finish to a more bronze. For cooler tones, maybe nickel to aged zinc finishes would work well for you. Or if your main fixture is matte black with gold accents, perhaps other black and that same gold tone would complement it nicely.


If symmetry and cohesion are more your style, use the same finish for your fixtures. Many manufacturers even offer collections which work beautifully together. You can also incorporate those finishes into sockets, faucets, appliance finishes and cabinet hardware for a beautifully aligned aesthetic. 

Closing Thoughts

Whatever your style, a well-planned and thoughtfully-designed lighting schematic will make your kitchen optimally functional as well as beautiful for all of the space’s uses. Utilize the expertise of industry professionals as you plan and make your selections. They’re happy to help and will ensure your new space is adequately illuminated while keeping your vision, budget and unique personal flair in mind.


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