Selecting the right kitchen lighting ideas is so important when it comes to how well this very practical space will work – it really is as much about creating a practical lighting design as it is about finding good-looking fixtures and fittings.
You really need to consider your kitchen lighting as a whole scheme as opposed to looking at the individual fittings as this will not only ensure that your kitchen has the right ambience, but will also result in a layered approach to ensure that there's bright task lighting for when you need it.
In this guide, we've gathered together 25 beautifully lit kitchens to provide you with plenty of inspiration to start formulating your own lighting design, including some really interesting ideas for kitchens that you might never have considered for your own space.
Starting to build up kitchen lighting ideas
First things first, leaving your lighting as an afterthought when designing a kitchen is never a good idea. It is really important to consider your lighting alongside the layout of the space as well as the style of units and worktops.
That said, having a clear idea of what is going where in the space is crucial when it comes to working out the best position for fittings so it does pay to get your design in hand first.
"You'll be able to ensure that there's lighting, likely downlights, over the kitchen worktops, and to position lighting, perhaps a statement pendant, over the dining table," explains Hugh Metcalf, Deputy Editor of sister title Livingetc.com. "This is important as it will mean you getting the wiring in the right place is key early on, even if it needs to be slightly adjusted once you've made choices such as the style and size of dining table you choose."
Hugh is Deputy Editor of sister title Livingetc.com and former Digital Editor of homebuilding.co.uk. He has worked on a range of home, design and property magazines, including Grand Designs, Essential Kitchens, Bathrooms, Bedrooms and Good Homes. Hugh has developed a passion for modern architecture and green homes, and moonlights as an interior designer, having designed and managed projects ranging from single rooms to whole house renovations and large extensions. He's currently renovating his own Victorian terrace in Essex, DIYing as much of the work as possible. He's recently finished his kitchen renovation, which involved knocking through walls, and landscaping a courtyard garden, and is currently working on a bathroom renovation.
1. Create a multifunctional kitchen space with layered lighting
Ceiling lighting ideas should form only part of your design. Taking a layered approach to lighting is important in any room, but in a space such as the kitchen, which is often used for many different activities, it is, perhaps, more important than ever. In its most basic form, layered lighting consists of task, ambient and accent lighting.
In this stylish kitchen, from Higham Furniture, the task lighting is provided by the low hung pendants over the island and the lights on the underside of the cooker hood. The ambient (or background) lighting comes courtesy of the selection of recessed downlights and the accent lighting from the hidden LEDs that shine down the exposed brick wall.
2. Light up your worktops with under-unit lighting
Lighting under kitchen units not only adds a welcoming glow to a space but it also serves a practical purpose in illuminating the work surfaces to make carrying out everyday kitchen tasks that little bit easier.
This kitchen was designed and installed by Et Lorem. The fresh white units and worktops, with their sleek flush finish, are really highlighted by the concealed strip lighting that has been used beneath the wall units.
3. Hang low pendants in threes over an island
This is one for anyone looking for the best way to design a kitchen island. Pendants, hung low over this type of central unit, really ensure the space is highlighted as well as easy to use. Odd numbers of pendants tend to look better than even numbers and three is perfect, as is demonstrated here, using Original BTC Hatton Pendants.
"We tend to choose different lighting to the rest of the kitchen over the island, which can often be spotlights," says Richard Davonport, managing director at Davonport. "We instead look to choose pendants — and nearly always in groups of three."
Richard Davonport is Managing Director at Davonport and has been since the company first opened in 1993.
4. Get cosy with side lamps too
While homeowners often use side lamps when it comes to their living room lighting ideas or in bedrooms, this type of fitting is often passed over when it comes to kitchens. This is a real shame as one or two table or floor lamps can really highlight a cosy corner as well as making the whole space feel just a little more welcoming.
This modern white kitchen enjoys a warm glow thanks to the use of a neat little lamp — the Blossom Portable Light from Original BTC.
5. Tie together a freestanding kitchen with your lighting
The type of lighting you use as part of your freestanding kitchen ideas will play a big role in how the space looks and works. While one of the beautiful things about a freestanding kitchen is that relaxed vibe that can be achieved, it is still a good idea to unify the whole space somehow.
In this kitchen from Higham Furniture the cooks table island is lit up by a run of three scalloped pendants while the selection of recessed downlights that has been used to illuminate the entire space ties the room together as one.
6. Step away from the downlights for added character
Although downlights tend to be one of the most popular ways of lighting a kitchen, there are other ways and sometimes these will work better in spaces with sloping ceilings, interesting angles and irregular shapes. Using a selection of different light sources also adds character and individuality.
Shades of green are big in the world of kitchen trends at the moment and if you like the idea, take a look at this restful space. The soft green used for the tongue-and-groove panelling is brought to life by the use of a leaf green side lamp and warm copper wall lights from Pooky.
7. Plan for flexibility and versatility
Designing a lighting plan around when you utilise the kitchen will make a huge impact on its functionality.
For instance, if you tend to spend a lot of time in there 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, bearing this in mind in the planning stages will make not just the project, but the way you live in the house simpler.
Take inspiration from this great kitchen diner idea where the clever combination of a recessed section of ceiling that runs up the wall and over the dining table, along with the fixed glazing that runs parallel to it ticks both the natural and artificial light boxes.
8. Draw all eyes to your island with statement lights
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 it with dramatic, yet functional lighting, will give it them attention it deserves.
Here, three crisp white pendant lights from Original BTC light up the stunning navy kitchen island and really ensure all eyes are on the marble worktop and traditional-style pillar taps.
9. Brush up on 'light temperature'
Choosing the right light fittings isn't the only decision you need to make — light temperature is also important, and deciding between cool light vs warm light will make all the difference in how your kitchen feels.
While you can choose the best LED bulbs to meet your requirements, modern lights with integrated LEDs, especially those which aren't dimmable, won't give you the option of choosing light colour, so bear this in mind when shopping for fixtures.
10. Consider combining spotlights and downlights
Should your kitchen use spotlights or downlights? Potentially both! Spotlights are useful for highlighting areas in your kitchen, and have been used in this design where there's little room for recessed downlights thanks to an overhead rooflight. Downlights offer a good spread of functional light for your kitchen space.
In this smart kitchen diner, the roof lantern has been worked around with a combination of downlights, pendants and spots.
11. Light up runs of worktop with lots 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 an eye-catching modern kitchen idea. Wall-hung adjustable spotlights like this can be angled for the perfect illumination while chopping, washing up or cooking.
12. Hide light sources in small kitchens
If you are after small kitchen ideas, bear in mind that pendants or dangling chandeliers can get in the way when it comes to carrying out the more practical tasks. In this case, 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.
13. 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 kitchen shelving isn't just practical to see that bottle right at the back, but it also creates a warm and considered environment when set on its own circuit— the cherry on top of a functional design.
14. Be smart with lighting for low ceilings
Lighting low ceilings can be a little tricky as they can limit your options when it comes to pendants and often won't work with too recessed spotlights – 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.
15. Remember that pendant lights aren't just for islands
Pendants aren't exclusively for islands and breakfast bars – if you're working with galley kitchen ideas or similar they can look great in a corner to create a focal feature.
Here, a couple of low-slung pendants, set at slightly different heights, give one corner of the kitchen a nice interesting glow at the same time as drawing attention to the stylish black units and beautiful marble surfaces.
16. Zone open-plan spaces using lighting design
Open plan living in kitchen and dining spaces works brilliantly but be sure to define the spaces using with low-hanging pendants over an island or worktop. Not only will this create a stunning effect, but it means larger spaces feel cosier and less vacuous.
In this kitchen diner, the green and gold glass pendant lights over the peninsula act as a strong visual divide between the food preparation area and the dining space.
17. Stick to neat light sources 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.
18. Unify a large kitchen space with your lighting layout
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.
Those after kitchen extension ideas should take a look at this new open-plan kitchen which combines finishes of matt black and pale wood throughout the space.
19. Highlight notable features with focused lighting
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 – such as a picture window – 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 – which is a beautiful spot to sit and enjoy the garden views. The recessed downlights ensure the space can be enjoyed once the sun goes down too.
20. Inject some drama with 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. What's more, statement lighting such as this is a big lighting trend right now.
"In 2024, the world of lighting is set to be transformed as sculptural lights emerge as the stars of the show," says Mara Rypacek Miller, founder and managing director of Industville. "Lighting fixtures are no longer just sources of illumination; they are works of art that define interior spaces."
21. Use mix and match fixtures for a fun finish
Add some drama to your kitchen by playing around with different styles of lighting and don't forget they are also a great way to introduce a subtle burst of colour.
In this otherwise neutral kitchen scheme, these mix and match pendant lights from Curiousa & Curiousa share a common design language which allows them to create a contrasting, yet cohesive design for over this kitchen island.
22. Make the most of a kitchen with a vaulted ceiling
Playing with different lighting ideas for vaulted ceilings will give you the chance to make some real impact when it comes to your kitchen design.
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.
23. Use an orderly lighting layout 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.
24. Emphasise reflective surfaces with light
It's important to consider how shadows and reflections play into your lighting design. A dramatic light shade, for example, can create dynamic shadows across your space that add to the lighting design. Using reflective surfaces can also amplify the effect of your lighting in a creative way.
Metallics are hot news in the world of kitchen design at the moment and present lots of opportunities for creating stunning reflections within the space, as has been done here.
25. Get an eclectic look with fabric finishes
Kitchen lighting tends to be more functional than in some other rooms, so homeowners choose different fittings than they might for, say, their bedroom lighting ideas. However, with the right design, textiles can be used for characterful lighting designs. Bear in mind that any textiles should be away from your stove, to save them getting splashed with oil or damaged by smoke. Try over a kitchen island instead.
This wonderfully whimsical kitchen features light shades that tie in with both the wallpaper as well as the curtains.
Are all lights suitable for kitchens?
Thankfully, there are not too many rules and regulations when it comes to kitchen lighting. That said, there are a few rules to be aware of.
If you plan on using downlights, UK law requires that downlights are fire rated. This is because when you make a hole in your ceiling, you are effectively creating a potential fire hazard. Fire rated lights delay fire from spreading.
In terms of IP ratings, this is more something to think about when it comes to bathroom zones, where water is more likely to be in contact with the light.
What's the best way to light a dining table?
If you are also after lighting ideas for dining rooms, or for the dining section of an open-plan kitchen, the positioning of the lights you opt for is crucial.
"The key to good dining room lighting is to focus light onto the centre of the table, onto the silverware or the flowers, but never directly over the diners’ heads," explains Sally Storey, creative director of John Cullen Lighting.
In terms of the type of light source you choose, pendants work really well, as do chandeliers.
“We always recommend having a beautiful pendant as the centrepiece in the dining room. Hung centrally above a dining table, an elongated light positioned horizontally draws the eye in and brings the whole space together,” advises Ian Cameron, creative director of Cameron Design House.
With most rooms, it's recommended to include the three key lighting types, 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.
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Assistant Editor Amy began working for Homebuilding & Renovating in 2018. She has an interest in sustainable building methods and always has her eye on the latest design ideas. Amy has interviewed countless self builders, renovators and extenders about their experiences for Homebuilding & Renovating magazine. She is currently renovating a mid-century home, together with her partner, on a DIY basis, and has recently fitted her own kitchen.