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Lighting Guide: The Kitchen

Lighting is a fundamental part of kitchen design. Not only does it set the tone but it also makes sure the space is functional. It is important to create a space that seamlessly transitions from daytime cooking to intimate evening gatherings. Here is a technical guide to crafting the perfect lighting scheme for your kitchen.

1. Understanding the Layers of Light

Creating a well-lit kitchen involves understanding the different layers of light to maximise functionality throughout the day and into the evening. These layers typically include ambient, task, and accent lighting. You can read our complete layered lighting guide here for more detailed information.

  • Ambient Lighting: Think of this as the foundation. It provides the overall brightness and ensures a comfortable level of visibility throughout the space. In most homes, it is the light that fills the room and sets the general tone. More often than not this comes in the form of recessed spotlights. 
  • Task Lighting: This is crucial for those focused activities like food preparation or reading recipes. Task lighting illuminates specific areas like countertops, stovetops, and sinks.
  • Accent Lighting: This adds that extra touch of depth and dimension. It could be anything from highlighting architectural features to showcasing decorative elements or focal points.

2. Kitchen Islands

If your kitchen features a central island or breakfast bar, pendant lights are a fantastic way to combine style and function. Suspended above the countertop, pendant lights offer focused task lighting that’s perfect for meal prep, casual dining, and chatting with guests. When selecting pendant lights for your kitchen island or breakfast bar, consider factors such as size, style, and height:

  • Height: For the best blend of style and functionality, hang your pendant light about 36 inches above the countertop. This height provides great task lighting for cooking and eating, while keeping your sightlines clear and the space feeling open and airy.
  • Size: For smaller islands, consider a single large pendant or a cluster of smaller pendants. This approach creates a focal point without overwhelming the space. For larger islands, multiple pendant lights spaced evenly along the countertop can offer uniform lighting and a balanced look. Aim for approximately 18 to 24 inches of space between each fixture.
  • Style: Don’t be afraid to play around with different pendant styles, experimenting with shapes, finishes, and textures to complement your kitchen's aesthetic while adding personality and visual interest. For example, a horizontal pendant such as our Edie or Orla makes a welcome change to popular single drop pendants hung in a row.

Still unsure on what lighting will suit your kitchen island? Discover our in-depth kitchen island lighting guide.

3. Bulb Selection

Given the practical nature of this space, kitchens require a higher level of light. Choose LED bulbs with a high lumen output - these bulbs are energy-efficient and bright, making them perfect for the kitchen. Pick bulbs with a colour temperature between 3000-3500 Kelvin. This range gives you a nice, clear light that's perfect for cooking and prepping meals. 

4. Dimming Capability and Circuits

When creating the perfect kitchen lighting setup, controls play a crucial role in ensuring functionality, flexibility, and ambiance. Starting with the main light that turns on with the flick of a switch, spotlights are essential for lighting countertops, pathways, and should all be controlled on one circuit to ensure a well-lit workspace whenever needed. Pendant lights or a statement pendant above the kitchen island, however, should be assigned to a separate circuit, creating a striking focal point while allowing you to adjust them independently. Accent lighting, such as LED strips or under-cabinet lights, on its own circuit adds warmth and highlights architectural features as desired.

Dimmer switches are also beneficial as they allow you to adjust the brightness of each circuit as needed, helping you create just the right mood for any occasion.

Lighting plays a key role in your kitchen’s design. It is all about making sure each area has the right kind of light for what you’ll be doing. Think about how you'll use different spaces and pick your lighting to match.