Know Your Options for Kitchen Lighting

Know Your Options for Kitchen Lighting


Victor Hugo once said that "to see beauty is to see light." And though his statement was meant in the abstract, it equally applies to literal light — in this case, kitchen lighting!

Kitchen lighting is not only functional. It establishes the mood of a room, creates ambiance, and can make an otherwise ordinary space look beautiful. That's why choosing your kitchen lighting design is a critical step in your next renovation project. Because kitchen lighting is unique in that it needs to be just as much functional as it is aesthetic.

The balancing act between task lighting, ambient lights, and statement lights, therefore, is a delicate one. And it all has to do with personal taste and your individual needs. Read on to learn more about kitchen lighting and the best methods for making design selections.


Kitchen lighting falls into three broad categories: overhead lightingsupport lighting, and statement lights. And each of these types serves a different purpose. Here’s more detail on the three categories of kitchen lights:

Overhead lighting

Overhead, or ambient, lighting is usually the primary light source in a kitchen.

Overhead lights are often recessed in the ceiling: these are called can lights. They can also come in the form of flush, semi-flush, or pendant lights, though this last style would more accurately fall under the category of statement lights.

The purpose of overhead lighting is to provide ambient overall room lighting. To achieve this, Philips recommends placing them 23 inches off the wall with approximately 40 inches in distance between spots.

Recessed lights are functional in nature, but they also have an aesthetic component. They can affect a room’s ambiance, depending on their vibrancy.

Therefore, having wall dimmers for your recessed overhead lighting is important for mood adjustments in your kitchen.

As a multifunctional room, the kitchen wears many hats. You might be entertaining one evening and meal-prepping the following afternoon. Each task or occasion that your kitchen is host to requires a different vibrancy level of your recessed lights. Having wall dimmers makes this multifunctionality possible.


Support lighting

Next is support, or task, lighting. These are your lights that assist with specific kitchen tasks, such as chopping vegetables on the countertop. Because you’ll need to make sure that your work areas are properly lit. 

And task lights do just the trick. They illuminate countertops, usually by means of under cabinet lighting that brightens the functional area.

If cooking isn’t your forté, however, and the kitchen is more a place for entertaining, then task lighting may take a back seat to your ambient and statement lights. But the chefs among us will want to take extra care with task lighting selections, as these lights will make all the difference in your food preparation process.

Regardless of your preferences, the Better Homes & Gardens “rule of thumb” for task lights is to install them at about 30 inches above your stove top, sink, countertops, and any other frequently used work surfaces.

Luckily, almost all under cabinet task lights are LED, which means that they’re efficient and easy to install.

Hardwired under cabinet lighting vs. wireless under cabinet lighting 

Wireless under cabinet lighting is an affordable and effective way to get the task lighting you need for your kitchen countertops.

And, as a bonus, these lights can be last minute additions to your kitchen lighting design plan.

Wireless under cabinet lighting usually comes in the form of strips that can be mounted on the underside of a cabinet with either screws or 3M tape.

There are also puck lights — aptly named for their resemblance to a hockey puck. These are individual spotlights that can be applied to under cabinet areas for additional task lighting. However, they’re a more popular choice for illuminating the insides of cabinets rather than their under areas.

An alternative to both strip lights and puck lights are hardwired under cabinet lighting. These can complement your kitchen lighting design with the most professional look of the three.

Statement lights

And finally, there are statement lights. Choosing these can be among the most exciting aspects of an interior home remodeling project. Statement lights give you the opportunity to showcase your personal style and take design risks all in the process of adding more light to your kitchen space.

They’re usually selected for their aesthetic value after the room has already been sufficiently lit by a combination of overhead lighting and task lights.

Kitchen island lighting is a popular outlet for statement lights. Three identical pendants suspended above a kitchen island or one oversized pendant light are classic and stylish statement looks.

And if you go with three pendants, make sure you leave about 30 inches of space between them and ensure they’re not hanging over the sides of your kitchen island.

Swanky island light fixtures like the ones detailed above, or even an opulent chandelier, can be great choices for a bold statement.

Although, Architectural Digest has identified a return to organic “serene and calming” forms in warmer tones as one of the five statement lighting trends that have ruled 2021.

But remember — trends aside — these lights have everything to do with your taste and the particular kitchen design theme you’re going for.

Pendant lights are your chance to play designer and express your own unique style. So have fun with the process.

Natural light

With all this talk of interior lighting, we can’t forget the first and best source of light out there — the sun!

Any opportunities that you have to bring more natural light into your kitchen should be taken. Natural light is excellent for everything from functionally brightening a room to improving the mood of a space. But it’s particularly useful in kitchens, where the average American spends the better part of one hour preparing meals every day.

There’s a reason why windows are set above the sink in almost every kitchen design ever.

The natural light flooding in from a window helps with food preparation and it’s good for the well-being of the person standing at the sink.


The short answer: ASAP.

Your lighting design plan should be reviewed and approved before you start swinging hammers on your kitchen renovation project.

A great place to start is to define the different “zones,” or functional areas, located within your kitchen space.

Which zones are purely task-oriented and which are geared more toward entertaining? This will help you decide how and where to place your ambient, statement, and task lights early on.

Another great place to start is with a consultation with our interior designer. This can help you figure out how to balance your style and needs to achieve the dream design for your new kitchen.



  • All photos used in this blogpost are sourced from the internet, and the rights belong to their respective owners
  • Seeber, B. (2021, November 29). Know Your Options for Kitchen Lighting. The Good Guys.
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