Choosing the right kitchen lighting ideas is as much about the functionality of certain spaces, as it is about the stunning fixtures and fittings available at the touch of a button.
Kitchens are no longer only spaces where we cook. For many families, kitchens offer a space to talk over breakfast, relax after dinner, entertain guests and, perhaps, to have a small disco with a glass of wine.
No matter if you're planning a new lighting design from scratch or updating a tired or impractical scheme, in this handy guide, we will take you through the different types of lighting that can be utilised in a kitchen — from functional spotlights to show-stopping pendants.
1. Where to Begin with Kitchen Lighting Ideas
Ambient, or background, lighting gives practical illumination to the whole room.
Task lighting helps to focus on particular tasks, such a cutting vegetables, stirring sauces on the hob or working at the kitchen table.
Accent or mood lighting picks out features you might like to highlight, such as shelving, glazed units or artwork.
With most rooms, it's recommended to include the three key lighting types (see box out), so when planning your kitchen design, consider how they will play a part in how users will interact with the spaces.
If the kitchen doubles as a home office, consider how to add task lighting on the breakfast bar or island, or if you love to entertain dinner guests in an open-plan area setting different lights on dimmers can be a great way of changing the ambiance.
Set a budget at the start and try to stick to it as best you can — lighting prices can escalate dramatically and take a chunk out of your project finances. If you have storage space, try to take advantage of seasonal sales and offers to get the best bang for your buck.
2. Plan for Flexibility and Versatility
Designing a lighting plan around when you utilise the kitchen will also make a huge impact on functionality.
For instance, if you tend spend a lot of time with family in the morning, windows and other sources of natural light will do the hard work, while if you cook later in the evening and use the space to catch up on the day while relying on artificial lighting extensively, baring this in mind in the planning stages will make not just the project, but the way you live in the house simpler.
(MORE: What is Daylighting?)
3. Highlight an Island with Statement Lighting
A kitchen island is a workhorse which don't just provide extra work surface but can also feature hobs, sinks and various units underneath so highlighting with dramatic, yet functional lighting, will give it them attention it deserves.
4. Light Up Runs of Worktops with Plenty of Task Lighting
Is there anything more annoying than standing in front of your own lighting while at a worksurface, casting a shadow over your task? Ensure that recessed downlights and other types of task lighting are positioned so worktops will be well lit, even when you're working.
However, remember that task lighting, while important to get right, can also be eye-catching over worktops in a modern kitchen. Wall-hung adjustable spotlights like this can be angled for the perfect illumination while chopping, washing up or cooking.
5. Small or Cramped Kitchen? Light It Up with Ambient Strips
If pendants or dangling chandeliers will get in the way of the practicality of a small kitchen and spotlights feel too cluttered, opting for LED strips in recesses and under units is a smart choice.
This windowless kitchen ingeniously uses high-strung glass pendants above the island and LED strips in the ceiling to compensate for the lack of natural light.
(MORE: The Best LED Bulbs)
6. Add Depth by Illuminating Open Shelving Units
People often talk about layered lighting, meaning that several types of different light sources can be used along or in conjunction to create different effects. This is just as important in the kitchen, if not more so, as in other spaces in a house.
Highlighting open shelving units isn't just practical to see the bottle at the back, but it also create a warm and considered environment when on its own circuit— the cherry on top of a functional design.
7. Get Smart With Kitchen Lighting Ideas for Low Ceilings
Low ceilings can be a pain when designing a good lighting plan as they can limit choices on pendants and often reduce options to simply recessed spotlights — which won't sufficiently do the job by themselves and too many up close can be overwhelming.
This schoolhouse conversion with mezzanine level cleverly includes a light-up extractor fan over the island hob carefully positioned spotlights and a pair of dazzling brass balanced arm lights.
8. Pendant Lights Can Look Great Over Worktops, Too
Pendants aren't exclusive for islands and breakfast bars, if you're working with a galley kitchen or similar they can look great in a corner to create a focal feature.
9. Using Kitchen Lighting Ideas to Zone Open Plan Spaces
Visually divide open-plan living, kitchen and dining spaces with low-hanging pendants over an island or worktop. Not only will this create a stunning effect, but means larger spaces feel cosier and less vacuous.
10. Keep Lighting Ideas Tidy in Smaller Kitchens
Spotlights are useful tools for background lighting, but can often look cluttered when too many are used in one space. Unfortunately, this can't be helped in smaller kitchens or those with no option of including pendants and the like.
Here, the homeowners chose to recess their spotlights into the ceiling during their side return extension project. The result is a fuss-free and well-considered space.
11. Use Kitchen Lighting Ideas to Unify a Large Space
Creating themes in open-plan rooms means a lighting design doesn't look slap-dash and hastily put together. That doesn't have to mean the fixtures all have to look the same, but working towards a similar colour palette will end in a smart, curated effect.
This open-plan kitchen extension combines finishes of matt black and pale wood throughout the space.
12. Highlight Special Features with Kitchen Lighting Ideas
Whether you're working on an extension, self-build or renovation project, if you're redesigning the lighting in a kitchen always try to pick out a favourite feature in the space to highlight with accent lighting.
This could be an oak beam, old fireplace recess or, as shown here, a new window seat.
13. Go Bold by Choosing a Modern Chandelier
Designing a new kitchen lighting design is exciting, so don't forget to treat yourself with something that really makes the space pop.
Including a glamorous contemporary chandelier above an island, kitchen table or breakfast bar will ensure you smile every time you enter the room.
14. Get Creative with Mix and Match Kitchen Lighting Ideas
Add some drama to your kitchen by playing around with different styles of lighting. This amazing kitchen makes the most of the vaulted ceiling by including large rooflights, long-corded pendants over the worktop, and stylish movable spotlights to an incredible effect.
15. Line Up Kitchen Lighting Ideas for a Sleek Finish
Take a leaf out of this stunning kitchen extension's book and organise the various types of lighting in strips.
Starting on the right, under unit LEDs and spotlights ensure a bright working area, then pendant lights sit proudly over the island-cum-breakfast bar. Smart LED strip lights line the RSJ beam which divides the original house from the extension, zoning the space, and finally, elegant wall lights wash up and down for the perfect dinner mood lighting.
Editorial Assistant Amy began working for Homebuilding & Renovating in 2018. She has an interest in sustainable building methods and modern rustic interior design. She is on the lookout for a potential step onto the property ladder in the form of a budget renovation project, but for now settles on filling her Pinterest board with ideas for the future.
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