Kitchen Lighting is often the last thing homeowners think about but is one of the most critical aspects of the kitchen design and should be thoughly thought out before any work begins.


There are three basic types of lighting in any space and the kitchen is no exception. 

This kitchen shows all three types of lighting – ambient, task and accent lighting.




AMBIENT – This lighting is general lighting for illuminating the whole room and lighting aisles. It is often put on dimmers so there is control of the amount of light at different times of the day and night or when it is being used in combination with task lighting.



Ambient lighting is those recessed lights in the ceiling or the center light in the room which casts a light generally around the space.  If the fixture is ceiling hung be sure it has frosted sides and bottom so it does not create glare and will light a greater area.  One of the limitations of recessed lighting is that is creates a dark ceiling but a ceiling hung fixture will radiate light back up onto the ceiling, visually lifting it. For that reason a ceiling hung fixture may be a better choice in a room with a low ceiling.


In this picture the up lighting above the cabinets helps compensate for the recessed light fixtures so the ceiling is not dark but as you can see it only throws the light so far.  This angled ceiling would also require sloped housing for the recessed lights so the light aims straight down and not at an angle in your face! 

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This picture illustrates how a ceiling fixture reflects light back up onto the ceiling  allowing the light to spread throughout the space.  





TASK – This is specific lighting directed at work surfaces so there is proper lighting to complete tasks without eye strain or shadows.  under cabinet lighting is a good example of task lighting.  When installing under cabinet lighting be sure it is placed near the front of the cabinet so it lights the surface you are working on and not the backsplash.  Another type of task lighting is fixtures over the eating area or counter.  These may be decorative as well as task lights. They direct the light where it is needed for eating, homework, etc. 


Here is an example of the under cabinet lighting properly placed at the front of the cabinet and has the convenience of strip outlets added at the back of the cabinet. 


Notice that there are two different types of task lighting over the two eating areas in this picture.  The one at the bar is low profile because the one at the dining table is the focal point (accent) as well as a task light.  Also low voltage track lights are used for the ambient lighting in this room.  I hope there is also undercabinet lighting so shadows are not cast onto the work surfaces. 




ACCENT – This lighting is used to highlight artwork or architecture.  It can be used at the top of cabinets that don’t reach the ceiling or even in the toe kick. You will find it inside cabinets and open shelving to highlight items being displayed and focused on art work throughout the space. 

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 In this picture the accent lighting highlights the bar area with halogen lights.  It created drama on the cabinets and backsplash and also sparkle for the crystal on display. 



Be sure you think through were the light switches will be placed, if they are to have dimmers and if they will be three way or four way switches. Check the spread of the light fixtures so that there will be adequate coverage for the room so you place them properly.



If you find that lighting design is complex (which it is) call for help from a kitchen designer or lighting designer.  They are up to date on the codes and types of fixtures available for each light source and will be able to specify the proper light fixtures and lamps (bulbs) needed for a truly spectacular kitchen lighting plan.




Happy Kitchen Lighting Design!!