Kitchen lighting ideas – to deliver the right brightness level as and where you need it

A versatile lighting scheme is a must-have for today's multifunctional kitchen
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  • Seeking thoughtful kitchen lighting ideas? The primary function of a kitchen may still be cooking, but it increasingly serves as one of the main entertaining spaces in the home – even a home office these days.

    Despite its importance kitchen lighting can sometimes be the last consideration when it comes to designing a space, but for a kitchen to look and function well, every area must be lit properly. Experts agree that the best time to decide on a new lighting scheme is at the planning stage, as you’re signing off your kitchen drawings. Leave it until later, and it could become an afterthought, with limited possibilities.

    The right lighting can totally transform the space. Helping to make small kitchens feel larger. With levels of brightness dramatically altering its mood and feel. It’s important to invest in a scheme that provides good task lighting, as well as creating the ideal ambience.

    Check out our kitchen channel for more great kitchen decorating ideas and inspiration

    Kitchen lighting ideas

    A good kitchen lighting system needs at least two elements: bright, shadow-free, task light for safe cooking and preparation. Along with atmospheric illumination to create mood, highlight architectural features and make the room feel less functional.

    1. Take control of your kitchen lighting scheme


    Image credit: David Merewether

    With so many different light sources at your disposal and with different functions to cater for, it is wise to consider a flexible control system rather than a simple on/off switch. If possible, make sure your lights are controlled separately so you can create different moods at the flick of a switch. To create mood lighting in relaxing zones, try wall lights and washers, which add a subtle form of background illumination. For high ceilings, uplighters on top of the kitchen cabinets will enhance the general light, while reducing the number of downlights you’ll need.

    2. Illuminate under cabinets

    Integrated wall cabinet ligting

    Image credit: B&Q

    ‘Getting the lighting right in your kitchen can mean it can easily switch from home office to cooking haven and, on occasion, a dancefloor’ explains Chris Webb, Kitchen Category Manager at B&Q.

    ‘One design feature that has proved popular with our customers is integrated cabinet lighting, such as our Tasuke range. These lights replace the base of the wall cabinets and provide light inside and below the cabinet and use motion control to switch on and off – meaning there are no messy wires or unhygienic switches.’

    3. Perfect your scheme with overhead pendant lights

    Kitchen lighting ideas

    Image credit: David Parmiter

    A series of beautiful pendant lights or a fabulous single statement piece above a dining table will help differentiate the dining space from the kitchen’s work zones. Styles range from old-school, industrial shapes in shiny, on-trend copper to striking ceramics in translucent hues. Hang pendants low over the table for a feeling of intimacy. Or position them high over kitchen islands. This not only provides a great source of light, it also adds interest, breaking up the austere lines of cabinets.

    For added flexibility, try fitting pendants with a dimmer switch, so the island can function as a bright area for working, or a place to gather with friends with softer, low-level lighting.

    Want more kitchen lighting ideas? READ: Kitchen lighting – everything you need to know

    4. Embrace alternative lighting designs

    blue kitchen

    Image credit: Colin Poole

    While pendant lights remain the more popular style choice for kitchens, there’s a growing trend for incorporating more statement lighting designs – ones which you’re more likely to find dressing living rooms. As open-plan kitchen spaces become more common place this fusion between decor styles opens up a world of possibility to have fun with statement chandeliers and Sputnik-style globe lights. Use the more statement style to act as a central light source, over dining areas and islands, while adding more directional task lighting via spotlights and downlighters over countertops and cooking areas.

    5. Consider the mix of materials

    grey kitchen

    Image credit: Martin Moore Kitchens

    ‘You need to take the style of your kitchen into consideration’ advises Richard Moore,  Design Director at Martin Moore. ‘A room with glazed cupboards, large windows, glass splashbacks etc. is the perfect setting for a traditional or contemporary chandelier to add real sparkle. At the other end of the spectrum, calm minimalist spaces require bold architectural lighting.’ Base your lightning choice to reflect the materials within your chosen kitchen surfaces.

    6. Light up with LEDs

    Black kitchen ideas with grey walls

    Image credit: Davide Lovati

    Offering a wealth of lighting opportunities, Light-Emmitting Diodes (LEDs) are frequently used in modern kitchen design. Their low heat emission makes them extremely energy efficient and ideal for areas that require little maintenance or are awkward to replace such as recessed ceiling lights or floor uplighters. LEDs are smaller and easier to conceal than fluorescents, won’t flicker when turned on and take no time at all warm up to full brightness. ‘LEDs are most certainly the future when it comes to lighting the kitchen,’ declares Michael Linsky, managing director of Sensio. ‘When compared to outdated alternatives they are more cost effective, because although the initial outlay may be higher, energy bills are reduced.’

    7. Work from the ground up

    kitchen island lighting

    Image credit: Magnet

    Think about the whole room when considering lighting, floor to ceiling. Adding profile lighting to the bottom of kitchen cabinets or an island can serve purely to add ambience. But given how creating ambience is a key role of lighting in any room, this style of lighting goes a long way to transform the feel of a kitchen space..
    ‘If you want to really make a statement with your kitchen island, perhaps the boldest form of accent lighting is LED profile lighting,’ advises Hayley Simmons at Magnet. ‘Sitting below the worksurface, profile lighting brings bags of ambiance to a contemporary kitchen and is perfect for those that love to host and entertain.’

    8. Take on task lighting

    Kitchen lighting ideas

    Image credit: James French

    Under-cupboard spots fitted directly above the hob, sink and chopping board will ensure bright, focused task lighting; make sure you position them as close to the front edge of the cupboard as possible, otherwise you’ll illuminate the back of the worktop only. John Cullen Lighting recommends small, compact fluorescents or LED under-cupboard downlighters that are slim enough to be recessed into the bottom of overhead units. Flexible LED strip lighting mounted on the underside of cupboards is another option.

    9. Think about height

    Kitchen lighting ideas

    Image credit: Paul Raeside

    The perfect height of lights depends on two factors: the height of the people living in the house and the height of the ceilings. Wall lights work well in a small kitchen, especially ones with little natural light. Give a modern kitchen an industrial twist with a stainless steel or brass light fixture.

    Looking for more kitchen ideas? READ: Budget kitchen ideas – spend less without compromising on style

    10. Take your kitchen space into consideration

    Kitchen lighting ideas

    Image credit: British Standard Cupboards

    Working in a kitchen with only a central light fitting means that you are standing with your back to the light and in your own shadow wherever you are in the room. A matt white ceiling and light coloured upper walls make any lighting system more effective by reflecting the light and spreading it more evenly, which also creates an illusion of space.

    11. Repurpose the same style to match


    Image credit: Lizzie Orme

    Create a cohesive style throughout a kitchen lighting scheme by keeping the design uniformed. Seek a style of lighting that offers focal overhead pendants alongside matching wall lights. Matching the style will help to enhance the flow of the layout, where no one zone will standout from the other. Opt for dimmable switches or set up a smart control to have the option to sync the brightness, for total unison.

    12. Highlight features

    grey kitchen wall with lighting alchove

    Image credit: Douglas Gibb

    Use overhead lights to set the scene for display areas within your kitchen. Simple LED spotlights would work best, meaning they are more energy efficient and will last longer. This simple kitchen lighting idea is perfect for recess spaces that lend themselves naturally to display decorative objects. Float glass shelves within he space to benefit more storage space – while allowing the light to cascade down through the glass to each level.

    13. Use your favourite colour

    Kitchen lighting ideas

    Image credit: David Brittain

    Warm colours or industrial looking fittings have previously been popular for pendants but we are now seeing a move towards bolder, colour choices such as red, yellow and green. Customers want to add a splash of colour to the kitchen, which is nowadays thought of more as a hub for socialising. Match the style of your light fittings to your kitchen.

    Interesting light fittings will stop your kitchen looking overly clinical. Prismatic glass and bone china work wonderfully in country style kitchens, metallic pendants give an industrial flavour and brightly- painted pendants bring an often-needed pop of colour.

    Enjoyed these kitchen lighting ideas and want more kitchen advice? READ: How to plan a kitchen – your step-by-step guide to the perfect space

    What type of lighting is best for a kitchen?

    What type of lighting works best for a kitchen will vary, dependant on size and needs. First look at the areas of your kitchen and think about the activities that will happen in each space – to determine which kind of lighting each area requires.

    Some spaces, such as food preparation zones, the kitchen sink and above the hob, will require task lighting. While others, such as the dining area, call for mood and accent lighting. If people are going to be chatting to you in the kitchen over a glass of wine while you’re cooking, you’ll want them to sit in a softer light so they can relax.

    You may want to seek advice from a lighting expert or interior designer who will have a vast knowledge of the different sources of light, the many fixtures and fittings on offer, as well as today’s hi-tech control systems. Always employ a qualified electrician to ensure a safe and well-fitted installation. Experts say it is crucial to think about the key areas that need lighting rather than working around grids and symmetry.

    What’s trending in kitchen lighting?

    What’s trending for kitchen lighting is smart functionality. The modern home allows the user to tailor their lighting to their mood. As we use our kitchens more and more, they become as much of a social space as a functional cooking area. Therefore the ability to dim and lower the brightness becomes a key aspect of good kitchen lighting.

    Martin Moore’s Design Director,Richard Moore explains, ‘Currently, there is a focus on character lighting; large pendant lights above the island are very popular, helping to introduce colour and a decorative touch to the kitchen. In lofty rooms, pendant lighting help to draw the focus downwards towards the island.’

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