The kitchen is the heart of your home, where you prepare meals and create memories with your loved ones. It's the center of attention, where the best meals are enjoyed, Christmases are celebrated, birthday cakes are cut, and guests are entertained.
In fact, in a recent study, 80% of homeowners ranked the kitchen as the most important room in their home. We mean, that's where the food is, so it comes as no surprise, really.
With all that in mind, it's easy to see why setting your kitchen up for success is so important. But while so many designers and magazines talk about counters, sinks, tap fixtures, and floors, so few mention the importance of lighting.
The right lighting is crucial to make your kitchen functional and inviting. In fact, even if you don't have the budget to invest in changing any large aspect of your business, good lighting can completely transform a room when done correctly.
This comprehensive kitchen lighting guide is here to help.
We'll provide you with valuable insights on how to design kitchen lighting, how to plan kitchen lighting, and the essential aspects of kitchen lighting design, making it the ultimate resource for creating a perfectly illuminated kitchen.
There's a lot to cover, so we're making this as actionable as possible.
An Introduction to the Three Types of Lighting
Firstly, let's cover the basics of kitchen lighting.
Most people agree there are three fundamental types of lighting you need to consider when planning your kitchen lighting: ambient, task, and accent.
- Ambient Lighting: This is the main source of general lighting, providing overall kitchen illumination. Some examples of ambient lighting fixtures include chandeliers, pendant lighting, recessed lighting, and flush mounts.
- Task Lighting: This form of illumination focuses on specific areas where you perform tasks like cooking and food preparation. Examples of these include strip lights and puck lights.
- Accent Lighting: Accent lighting highlights key features and favorite elements in your kitchen, such as open shelves or glass cabinets. This type of lighting includes toe-kick lights, cabinet lights, and other decorative fixtures.
Each lighting type has its pros, cons, and best uses, but the best-lit kitchens should combine all three types of lighting to ensure optimal functionality and visual appeal.
We'll talk more about this a bit later.
For now, let's delve a little deeper into each type of lighting and explore various fixture options.
Ambient Lighting: Setting the Mood
Ambient lighting sets the overall mood of the kitchen and ensures that the space is well-lit. The right ambient lighting can create a warm, inviting atmosphere while also providing adequate illumination for safe navigation.
Its function and form rolled into one.
Expert Tip: To determine the right amount of ambient light needed in your kitchen, multiply the room's square footage by 20 lumens (the unit of measurement for the amount of light emitted). For example, a 150-square-foot kitchen would require 3,000 lumens.
Here are some popular ambient lighting options:
- Chandeliers: Chandeliers are elegant and eye-catching, making them an excellent choice for larger kitchens or those with high ceilings. They provide general illumination while also serving as a beautiful focal point.
- Pendant Lights: Pendant lights are versatile and stylish, offering both ambient and task lighting depending on their placement. They come in various designs, sizes, and materials, allowing you to choose the perfect fixture for your kitchen's aesthetic.
- Flush and Semi-Flush Mounts: These fixtures are ideal for kitchens with low ceilings, as they sit close to the ceiling and provide ample ambient lighting without taking up too much space. Flush mounts are directly attached to the ceiling, while semi-flush mounts hang slightly lower, offering a bit more decorative appeal.
- Recessed Lighting: Recessed lights are installed directly into the ceiling, providing a clean and unobtrusive source of ambient light. They can be spaced evenly across the ceiling to ensure even illumination throughout the kitchen.
Expert Tip: When installing recessed lights, place them approximately 4-6 feet apart, and ensure they are at least 3 feet away from the wall to prevent harsh shadows.
Task Lighting: Illuminating Your Workspaces
Task lighting is essential for performing kitchen tasks efficiently and safely. It primarily focuses on the countertops, stovetop, sink, and other work areas where you need bright, focused light to clearly see what you're doing.
Expert Tip: According to the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES), this form of lighting in the kitchen should provide a minimum of 50-foot candles (or 500 lux) at the countertop level for adequate illumination.
Here are some popular task lighting options:
- Under-cabinet Lighting: Installing LED strip lights or puck lights under your wall cabinets is an excellent way to provide focused task lighting for countertops. This type of lighting is especially crucial for helping you complete all kinds of day-to-day activities, like chopping and reading recipes.
- Over-the-Range Lighting: A well-lit stovetop is crucial for safe cooking. Choose a range hood with built-in lighting or install separate lighting to ensure proper illumination.
- Pendant Lights: As mentioned earlier, pendant lights can serve as task lighting when placed strategically above workspaces like a kitchen island or sink or can be used as decorative lighting when positioned correctly.
- Track Lighting: Track lighting is typically used to highlight a particular feature of a room, and while it works for living rooms and hallways, it can be a great idea to use these roof and wall lights above an island or breakfast bar.
Accent Lighting: Adding a Touch of Elegance
Accent lighting is all about showcasing your kitchen's unique features and adding visual interest to the space. While not as crucial for functionality, this lighting can create depth and dimension, making your kitchen more dynamic and personalized.
Expert Tip: The IES recommends that accent lighting should provide a minimum of five times the ambient light level to highlight specific features effectively.
Here are some popular accent lighting options:
- Cabinet Lighting: Installing LED strip lights or puck lights inside glass-front cabinets or open shelving units can create a beautiful display of your favorite dishes, glassware, or decorative items.
- Toe-Kick Lighting: Adding this kind of mood lighting along the base of your cabinets not only creates a unique visual effect but also serves as a practical night light for those late-night kitchen visits, like acquiring a midnight snack! These kitchen lights also help to set the ambiance.
- Wall Sconces: Wall sconces can add an extra layer of lighting to your kitchen and serve as a decorative element. Place them strategically to cast light on artwork and architectural features or to create a cozy nook.
All this being said, it's important to realize that many of these forms of lighting, specifically the examples, will interlace with one another. For example, you can use ceiling lighting (typically best for providing adequate lighting to a room) to set the tone and atmosphere or use traditional task lights to create a background.
The trick here, as we'll discuss below, is to get a knowledge of how light design works and then take those fundamentals and make them your own based on the space you're trying to light.
How to Plan Your Kitchen Lighting Layout
Now you're familiar with the different types of lighting and their respective fixtures; it's time to plan your kitchen lighting layout. With proper planning, you'll ensure your kitchen is functional, comfortable, and visually appealing and basically ticks all the boxes for what you're looking for.
This is a little step-by-step guide, but remember, you really can be creative with how you do this. It depends on your space, your needs, your goals, and the vision you have for your kitchen space.
Your kitchen and home are your own, so don't be afraid to mix things up if it works better for you!
- Evaluate your kitchen's needs: Assess your kitchen's layout, size, and the activities you perform there regularly. Consider the natural light sources and identify the areas that need additional lighting. After all, you don't want to install hanging lights on a low ceiling where you'll hit your head, for example. Evaluate the space you have to work with.
- Layer the lighting: With every design, you should aim to include a combination of ambient, task, and accent lighting in your kitchen design. This creates a balanced and functional space while adding visual interest and basically balances the whole design.
- Choose your fixtures: Select the lighting fixtures that best suit your kitchen's design and your personal taste. Remember to consider each light fixture's size, style, and placement. And don't forget to experiment with different types.
- Plan for controls: Incorporate dimmers, switches, and smart controls to customize your kitchen lighting according to your needs and preferences. You must ensure your fixtures are easily within reach and positioned accordingly.
For example, switches are typically next to doors because you can turn them on while walking in and off as you leave.
- Consult a professional: If you're unsure about your kitchen lighting plan, consult a professional lighting designer or electrician for guidance. They're educated and well-versed in these matters and can help you create a well-designed lighting plan that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing.
Expert Tip: The National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) recommends consulting a Certified Kitchen Designer (CKD) or a Certified Lighting Consultant (CLC) to ensure your kitchen lighting plan meets industry standards and best practices.
The Key Components of Planning a Kitchen Lighting Scheme
Hand in hand with the section above, treat this section of the guide as a more in-depth breakdown of what you can expect when creating a kitchen lighting design, using the more traditional, tried-and-tested design methods that will guarantee positive results.
Setting Up Your Ambient Kitchen Lighting
First, ambiance, because no kitchen is complete without it.
You never want to overpower a kitchen with light intensity because it's just blinding and uncomfortable. Sure, you need this in certain areas, but the overall vibe needs to be calm, relaxing, and homely. You want people to feel comfortable and want to spend time in the room.
On a basic level, this can be achieved by using under cabinet lights as task lighting to highlight your specific work areas, and then you position recessed lights around the edges of the room, lighting the walls subtly while not being too much.
You can then use two pendant lights in the center of the room if you need them, usually highlighting the centerpiece, kitchen island, or table should you need them. However, you may need to install a diffuse light to stop this from being too overpowering.
Think About Function
As much as you want your kitchen to look great at all times, aesthetics really don't compare to function, although it's certainly about finding a balance between the two.
If you use a retail and commercial design and just light up everything, it'll be too much. If you don't illuminate countertops properly, you won't see what you'll do, and you'll just get frustrated.
At the end of the day, if you're using a kitchen for an hour and a half a day, that's nearly 400 hours a year in a kitchen you don't like being in.
How Many Lights Should Be in a Kitchen?
It's hard to say what a precise number should be, but rough guides suggest using recessed light for every 4-6 feet of space. We also recommend having at least one practical task lighting fixture and a bright light to bring the entire space to life.
Then again, it all depends on you. If you have a large kitchen space, having three pendant lights could be ideal, but if you have lots of natural light, maybe that's too much. If you're living in a small apartment, then having under-cabinet lighting might be all you need.
This is why it takes so much knowledge and experience to light a kitchen properly!
A Focus on Energy Efficiency and Sustainability
With the growing focus on energy efficiency and sustainability, it's crucial to consider these factors when planning your kitchen lighting. You can save on energy costs and reduce your environmental impact by choosing energy-efficient lighting options.
Here are some tips for creating an energy-efficient kitchen lighting plan:
- Opt for LED bulbs: LED bulbs use up to 90% less energy than incandescent bulbs and have a much longer lifespan, making them an eco-friendly and cost-effective choice. Look for ENERGY STAR-rated LED lighting bulbs for the best performance and energy savings.
- Use dimmers and smart controls: Installing dimmer switches and smart controls can help you save energy by allowing you to adjust the light output according to your needs. This not only reduces energy consumption but also extends the life of your bulbs.
- Maximize natural light: Take advantage of natural light sources by keeping windows unobstructed and using light-colored window treatments. This will reduce your reliance on artificial lighting during the day and create a more welcoming atmosphere.
- Choose energy-efficient fixtures: Select light fixtures designed to accommodate energy-efficient bulbs, such as LED-compatible fixtures. This will ensure you get the best performance and energy savings from your lighting system.
A Moment to Think About Safety Considerations
Safety should always be a top priority when planning your kitchen lighting. Poorly lit areas can lead to accidents and injuries, so ensuring that your kitchen is adequately illuminated for all activities is essential.
Here are some safety tips to keep in mind when planning your kitchen lighting:
- Avoid glare: Position your lighting fixtures to minimize glare on shiny surfaces, such as countertops, appliances, and backsplashes. Glare can cause eye strain and make it difficult to see correctly.
- Use appropriate lighting for wet areas: In areas near sinks and other water sources, choose light fixtures rated for damp or wet locations. This will help prevent electrical hazards and ensure your lighting remains safe and functional.
- Install proper lighting: Ensure all your workspaces are adequately illuminated with focused, functional task lighting. This reduces the risk of accidents caused by poor visibility during food preparation and other kitchen tasks.
- Consider safety features: Choose light fixtures with built-in safety features, such as shatter-resistant covers, to protect against accidents and injuries. Low-energy bulbs won't heat up as much, also ensuring little hands won't get burned if they end up touching them - ideal for a low-lighting scheme.
A well-designed kitchen lighting plan can greatly enhance the functionality, safety, and aesthetic appeal of your space. By incorporating a mix of ambient, task, and accent lighting and choosing the appropriate fixtures, you can create a kitchen that is both beautiful and practical.
Don't forget to consult a professional if you're unsure about your lighting plan or need guidance in selecting the right fixtures for your space.
With the right kitchen lighting design, your kitchen will become a welcoming and inviting place where you can cook, dine, and entertain in comfort and style.
A place that you and your family will well and truly love.
Ready to create a perfectly illuminated kitchen?
Visit Luminesy today and explore our stunning collection of designer lights.
Your dream kitchen is just a click away!