The 3 Types of Kitchen Lighting Every Home Needs

The 3 Types of Kitchen Lighting Every Home Needs

The Adult's Guide to Kitchen Lighting

Life happens in the kitchen. As you and your spouse unwind at the counter with a bottle of wine or your kids whip up a Mother's Day breakfast, you’ll need the perfect lighting to match every moment. In this guide, learn how to find stylish and functional kitchen lighting that ages as well as you do.

Ambient Kitchen Lighting for a Cozy Family Hub

Kitchen with ambient lighting including recessed cans and pendant lighting

An overhead kitchen fixture with a wide-reaching glow will keep you from having to plug in other support lights. Leave those outlets free for appliances so you can blend smoothies and brew coffee without cramping your counter space.

Start with a fixture that’s high and beaming. You can’t go wrong with recessed cans or directional track lighting if they work with your kitchen layout. A ceiling fan is another tried-and-true option that will keep you cool as you slice watermelon on those hot summer days and filter out smoke when recipes go awry.

Since the kitchen is a gathering place for Super Bowl soirees and holiday martinis, you might want to splurge on a luminous conversation piece. Swap that flush mount out for a chandelier or a trendy cluster of pendants. You’ll want to measure your larger kitchen light fixtures and hang them about 30 inches above your island or table to avoid head bumps or blinded eyes as guests reach for the charcuterie board.

Task Kitchen Lighting for a Hands-On Chef Station

Task Kitchen Lighting for a Hands-On Chef Station

Where do you perform more menial tasks than in the kitchen? Whether you’re poring over mail or rifling through junk drawers for superglue, downlighting is the heart of your kitchen. Under-cabinet lighting says it all in the name. These no-fuss fixtures won’t get cloudy as steam rises from your sautéed veggies, keeping you productive rather than toiling away at upkeep.

Speaking of cleanliness, as much as you wish those dishes would stay hidden, you’re going to need task lighting over your sink. Use pendants or sconces to make sure you scrub every sauce stain clean. You’ll want to keep your kitchen spick and span, because task lighting will also highlight your fancy tile backsplash or gleaming quartz countertops. To avoid casting an unsightly glare with your new fixtures, learn more about color temperature in our Home Lighting Tips Guide.

Accent Kitchen Lighting to Avoid That Glare

Accent Kitchen Lighting to Avoid That Glare Image Provided by Jason Leung

Accent lighting is that extra decorative touch when you want a glow to be evenly diffused throughout your kitchen. In other words, when you’re scuffling in your slippers for a midnight snack, you’re going to wish you didn’t rely solely on your fridge’s tiny light bulb to find it. Recessed can lights or LED tape lights are a quick solve. You can add them under counters for toe-kick lighting, which will brighten a path for stub-free foraging. Just don’t install them above glossy white floors so you don’t have to squint from the reflection.

Back lighting in your pantry will make it easy to find all the ingredients you need when you’re scrambling to make something for the company potluck. Just get a bulb with low enough wattage so your pantry doesn’t become an oven. Accent lighting over cabinets or on open shelving can flaunt your heirloom china or leaning artwork. Just add small kitchen accent lights in the spaces you want to shine.

You can use a combination of ambient, task, and accent lighting to make sure every inch of your kitchen is bright and welcoming. For more kitchen lighting tips on fixture size, material, and brightness, read our guide on How to Choose Kitchen Lighting. To explore your best lighting options for the rest of your home, check out Lighting By Room.