The kitchen or kitchen diner is so often the hub of our homes these days, and as such, a good lighting scheme is really important. Of all the rooms in the house, it perhaps sees the most varied activities.

Getting Started

In order to get your kitchen lighting right, the key is to plan as early as possible, and to work out where your kitchen units and furniture will be going as the layout of your kitchen is vital to planning your lighting scheme.

Think of the tasks you may undertake in your kitchen diner – preparing dinner, working at the breakfast bar, cosy dinners at the dining table – and you’ll begin to see why getting the right lighting in the right places can really help make this space a success.

You’re going to want your 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.

This diagram shows the different areas in a kitchen which would benefit from light

This diagram shows the different areas in a kitchen which would benefit from light

Types of Kitchen Lighting

With a little forward-thinking, you’ll be able to plan in different layers of light: task, accent and ambient (general) lighting, using the types below:

  • Statement
    Unlike practical downlights, pendants are a great way of adding visual interest to your kitchen, and look most effective when placed above a kitchen island or above a dining table — helping to zone the separate areas within a kitchen too. If your hob is set within the island, some companies now offer sculptural-like extractor fans with lights, if you’re after the wow-factor.
  • Ceiling
    Positioning downlights within the ceiling offers practical lighting from above, which can be used to illuminate worktops and kitchen islands. While it might be tempting to add lots of downlights to ensure the space is adequately lit, instead consider positioning lights only where needed to avoid an overcrowded design.
  • Task
    Much like downlights in the ceiling, spots underneath wall units are perfect for washing the worktops with light. Offering practical task lighting, under-unit lighting is ideal for carrying out worktop food preparation.
  • In-Shelf
    Illuminating your shelves and cupboards, while not a necessity for those on a budget, is an effective way of creating atmosphere in the kitchen. If run off a separate circuit to your downlights, this accent lighting can be switched on during an evening to create a dim, soft glow — as well as showing off your best crockery too.

Choosing the Right Colour Light

A good lighting scheme is not just about choosing the right type of lighting for the right spot — do consider how the colour of your LEDs will impact your scheme, too. The colour temperature of LEDs is measured in kelvins (or K) — daylight measures around 6,000-6,500K; conversely, candelight measures about 1,800K.

While you may want your LEDs to give off cool white light above task areas, warm white is much more relaxing for dining areas. The most versatile colour for kitchen lighting is 2,700K, 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.

For lights within shelving units, you would most likely have these on during the evening to create atmosphere and so would more than likely select strips with extra warmth of around 2,400K.

This open plan kitchen diner features lighting designed by John Cullen

This open plan kitchen diner features lighting designed by John Cullen

Assessing the Right Amount of Lighting

A good lighting scheme is all about balance — if your scheme looks too busy on a lighting plan then that’s because it probably is. The most common mistake is to puncture the ceiling with too many downlights — for an average-size room (4 x 4m) six downlighters is adequate. More than 10 can be excessive and not energy efficient. It’s tempting at the lighting design stage to overcompensate and worry about the lack of working light, particularly in kitchens.

Specifying track or monorail lighting can be a cost-effective alternative; you’ll be able to position lights on the track to target the key areas you want to illuminate. Such a solution also means you will not need to puncture multiple holes in the ceiling.

Who Manages the Kitchen Lighting Design?

Your kitchen lighting could fall to various parties to manage, depending on your budget, specification and willingness to spread the workload. You might want to engage a lighting designer to oversee work, however some kitchen companies will offer this service as part of a package or 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. It’s worth noting 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. However, 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.

Can You DIY?

Alternatively you could work with your electrician who will be able to carry out the work on your behalf. You may even be able to take on some of the work yourself if your electrician is happy to sign it off. If you’re taking on any electrical work on a DIY basis, you’ll need to be aware of what you can and can’t do.

Building Regulations

“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 (e.g. a NICEIC member) or inspected by building control.

In short, you can undertake the jobs on a DIY basis, but need to get someone to certify them. If the job is not notifiable, then the work can be carried out on a DIY basis without the need to inform anyone,” explains electrician Darryl Bertie.

The lighting scheme in this kitchen was specified from John Cullen Lighting

The lighting scheme in this kitchen was specified from John Cullen Lighting, and features task, ambient and statement lighting options to ensure a stylish space

Zoning the Space with Lighting

If you’re lighting a single room, then you’d expect to run your lighting off approximately three circuits with downlights, pendants and under-unit lights, for instance. For open plan kitchen/living/dining spaces you’re likely to have more circuits and will want to treat these zones individually. Think about how you’re going to be using the space and what you want switched on at the same time.

You need to allow for some flexibility and so some homeowners will have their practical, accent and cosy lighting all on their own circuits which will also help to create mood.

Rewiring vs Retrofitting for Renovators

If you’re renovating a kitchen and planning your lighting scheme, while it might be more cost-effective in some instances to retrofit your lighting by adding circuits and swapping in some halogen bulbs for LEDs, rewiring the room might be the better option as it’s easier to achieve the correct setup.

Rewiring provides a good opportunity to install some dedicated LED light sources, rather than retrofitting using existing wiring and transformers that might not be compatible with the new lights you plan to install. Factor rewiring into your budget.

Lighting Control

Give some thought to control too. The ideal solution would be to drive everything to be served from one point. This will mean, however, that your electrician will need to run u the walls and fish through the ceiling to bring the cables to a convenient place where you’re going to want to control it. This will of course be disruptive if you’re taking on a renovation, but depending on the level of work involved it might not be as challenging as you might think.

Alternatively, look at specifying a wireless control system where the lighting can be switched on, off and dimmed and get rid of switches altogether.

Our Sponsors