Everything you need to know about kitchen lighting
When it comes to lighting your home properly, the most important room is by far the kitchen. For a start, a lot of time is spent there, with family and entertaining guests, so you want your lighting scheme to show your kitchen in its best light. Also, there are several jobs done in the kitchen that requires good lighting to be done safely, such as working with sharp knives and handling boiling pans.
There is also far more to consider than simply sticking in a row of ceiling lights and being done with it. It’s important to think about the different types of lighting, how best to control the lights, and where to place lights, as well as how to use or create natural light.
So, with these questions in mind, we’ve created this handy guide to talk you through everything you need to know about kitchen lighting.
Let’s get started!
We should clear one thing up right away; practically speaking, changing the lighting scheme in your kitchen is not a simple job, it requires electricians to carry out the wiring, or rewiring, of your kitchen. This is not to say that it’s a huge, extensive project, but you should at least be aware that it will take some time and money to complete.
For this reason, the best time to renovate your kitchen lighting scheme is when the kitchen itself is being renovated. If you’re at that stage, take your time to plan your kitchen lighting well, as this will be key to creating a beautiful and functional kitchen. Your decisions around lighting will have an impact on how your kitchen is wired, as well as how many sockets you’ll need and where, so these issues must be considered at an early stage.
That being said, if you’re not currently renovating or planning to renovate your kitchen, there are still a range of options available to improve your kitchen lighting. It’s important your lighting works well with the rest of your kitchen, so we’ve covered lighting and much more in our ultimate guide to designing your kitchen.
Before we consider the different types of lighting, and how you can best utilise them, let’s pause to consider natural lighting, the baseline level of light your kitchen enjoys. For those with kitchens with many windows and perhaps French doors, this will be lots of light. For others, it may be far less.
The actual amount is not important; what is important is that you at least assess how much natural light your kitchen enjoys, where exactly this light comes in, and at what time of day the sun shines through the window.
Clearly, there will be no natural light at night, and less during winter, so it’s important not to be fully reliant on it. However, by considering natural light, it will allow you to make more informed decisions about another key issue in kitchen lighting: controlling your lights.
Controlling the kitchen lights
Gone are the days when the kitchen lights were either on or off. Now, they can be dimmed across a range of brightness, creating different moods for different occasions, and controlled individually as per your requirements.
For example, suppose it’s summertime, and above the kitchen sink, you have a window. You could keep the task lights at the sink area off, as there’s enough natural light to see to wash the dishes. Meanwhile, as you wash up, your kids are finishing their homework at the kitchen table, and need a bit more light, which isn’t a problem as you can individually control which lights are on and how bright they are.
This flexibility is a real asset and can be a way to save a lot of electricity (and money!) through the summer months. Many modern lighting systems can now be controlled from your mobile phone, which allows you to pre-set some lighting configurations for different situations.
Types of lighting
There are three main types of lighting to consider in your kitchen: ambient lighting, task lighting, and feature lighting. Each brings something to the overall look of your kitchen, and achieving the correct combination requires careful consideration.
This form of lighting is often referred to as general lighting. It is the non-specific lights that provide the kitchen with a basic level of light.
The most important thing to get right here is a nice even spread of light fixtures across the ceiling. This will provide your kitchen with an evenly distributed, uniform level of light; a base from which to add a task and feature lighting.
You’re not limited to the ceiling though, and wall lights can provide ample ambient lighting while doubling as an attractive feature that adds a touch of class to your kitchen.
Task lighting refers to the lights most often found underneath your kitchen cabinets which shine down onto the work surface and hob, allowing you to see what you're doing when preparing meals and cooking. They must be bright, so LED lights are a great option here.
Numerous individual spotlights can be used under cabinets, providing the flexibility to switch on only those you need. Or, LED strip lighting can run along the full length of the underside of your cabinets, providing a brighter option.
For many, especially in recent times, their kitchen table also doubles as a workspace, so they require task lighting here too. Standing lamps with additional, adjustable spotlights are a great option. Alternatively, rise and fall pendant lights can be positioned high above the kitchen table for mealtimes, then be pulled down low to focus their light for when you’re working at the table.
Of course, you could get away with just ambient and task lighting. However, to really bring your kitchen to life feature lighting is a great way to add some style and personalise your kitchen.
But what is it?
Well, feature lighting does exactly what it says on the tin — it is placing lights strategically to highlight certain special features of your kitchen.
For example, a popular option is to have a strip of coloured LED lights running around the underside of the bottom kitchen cabinets, just above the skirting board. This provides a rim of light around the full kitchen and looks fantastic at night time. Complete the look with similar lights shining up from the top kitchen cabinets. Often, you can control such lights to change through a range of colours.
Adding lighting to particular areas, such as in glass-fronted cupboards or shelves, can accentuate these areas you want to show off by drawing the eye to them.
Feature lighting doesn’t always have to be on to be noticed. Well-designed, large pendant lights or beautiful standing lamps can be impressive in themselves.
Other forms of lighting
When planning your kitchen lighting, you should embrace the opportunity to get creative and add a personal touch to your home.
For example, why not create your own neon sign and make it a centrepiece on a feature wall. This will add something unique to your kitchen while giving a splash of retro quirkiness.
Alternatively, there are a huge range of candle holders coming in all shapes and sizes, which can be positioned around your kitchen for a cosy, homely feel.
The final say
It’s no use spending all that money doing up your kitchen to then light it poorly so no-one can see it. Your kitchen deserves to be shown off in its best light, and that means taking the time to plan your kitchen lighting properly.
Get the basics nailed with ample ambient lighting and some bright task lights, really enhance the style with some well-placed feature lighting, then round it off with one or two more personal lighting features and your kitchen will look fantastic!