Lighting is important in every area of the house, but the kitchen is perhaps the most susceptible to lighting mishaps. As one of the most used rooms in a house, the kitchen can’t be too dark or too bright or you may end up feeling like you’re stuck in a house belonging to three bears. Kitchen lighting is perhaps the most complex, requiring a variety of techniques to achieve the right amount of light.

Each of the main lighting groups – natural, aesthetic, ambient, task, and accent serve a definitive purpose in terms of design and function. There are certain rooms where specific lighting is crucial. For example, natural light in a home office, ambient light in a dining room, and accent lighting in a hallway.

Kitchen lighting is often overlooked, yet it’s just as important to your kitchen design as countertops and flooring – primarily because lighting enhances the allure of these expensive installations. The kitchen must be bright enough to serve functions like cooking (task lighting), be comfortable when eating or hosting company (aesthetic), and be versatile as the entry way into the house (accent) depending on floor layouts. Here are some tips on how to use the various types of lighting as it pertains to the kitchen.

Layering: The First Rule of Kitchen Lighting

Layering of lights is especially important in the kitchen because the room serves so many different purposes. You don’t always want the light to be as bright as it would be while cooking but at the same time you need good light when doing meal prep or reading the paper or helping with homework. Layering the lighting not only helps the room look warm and inviting, it is also the best way to add versatility to the kitchen.

Ambient Lighting

The first layer of illumination for a kitchen is ambient (or general) lighting. Ambient lighting is intended to create a consistent level of the same brightness over the entire room, important for avoiding dark sections of the kitchen. Ambient lighting comes in a variety of sources but is generally controlled from one central light switch. For example, flipping the light switch in the kitchen entry way may turn on can lights, hanging fixtures, or wall sconces but it generally does so in a uniform fashion across the entire kitchen. Simply put, ambient lighting is a must-have in kitchens.

Task Lighting

Most kitchen layouts have dedicated ‘work zones’ such as by the sink or on food prep counters. Task lighting is centralized in these locations, controlled for when work is done in the area. Lighting under a cabinet can serve as task lighting for a countertop while a hanging fixture serves a center island. Even countertop lamps are a form of task lighting – individually controlled in cordoned zones.

Accent Lighting

Accent lighting either serves as subtle background illumination or to draw attention to a specific object. Accent lighting in kitchens as somewhat of a background effect can be found to add sparkle to backsplashes, for light above cabinets, for recessed lighting in a ceiling, in rope lighting under countertops, or as individual wall scones. Accent lighting is also utilized to highlight a particular piece of art, an elaborate shelving, or some sort of other object that wants to serve as a focal point.


What Not To Do

One of the biggest lighting mistakes in a kitchen is overkill. Many times, the kitchen is an area is a place to kick start the day or a spot to wind down in the evening. A bright light like you’re in an interrogation room isn’t exactly the most relaxing feeling. Kitchens also need to have focal points so that the lighting serves a purpose. This could be something as easy as installing a painting or the light itself could serve as a focal point in the form of a hanging fixture but it’s important to add depth and dimension to the room. Having options with the lighting is also important whether that be in the form of a dimmer switch, zoned lighting, and other features.