Kitchen Lighting Tips

Achieve functional, practical and creative lighting effects in your kitchen

When it comes to kitchen lighting, practicality is the single most important consideration. To that end, task lighting tends to take precedence over accent lighting and ambient lighting, though the latter two may also be used to fill in the space in creative ways. Dimmers are commonly used in kitchens to give you the option of increasing or decreasing the intensity of the light as needed, and lighting layouts are often layered to customize the space and give you maximum flexibility.

Some approaches to DIY kitchen lighting include:

  • Under-cabinet lights. Just as it sounds, this technique places lights beneath cabinets to illuminate counter space. It's an excellent technique to use if you want to increase your countertop lighting but don't have the space for an overhead fixture.
  • Rope lighting. This is an excellent way to boost your kitchen's ambient light. You can extend a rope around the top or bottom of your cabinets or around your kitchen walls, then suspend small lights at regular intervals to achieve a kind of "halo effect."
  • Sconces. Because space is at such a premium in the kitchen, wall sconces can be used for both task lighting and accent lighting without getting in the way.

Your Kitchen Lighting Strategy

Many DIY experts recommend layering your kitchen lighting on separate circuits, and using dimmers to control the intensity of each layer. This approach lets you ramp up your lighting for practicality's sake as well as create ambience and specific moods. Here's a closer look at the three main types of kitchen lighting:

  • Task lighting. With task lighting, you illuminate work spaces with high-intensity overhead lights. This is especially important in the kitchen's food prep areas.
  • Accent lighting. If you have decorative features in your kitchen such as china or silverware displays, you can use accent lighting to draw attention to them.
  • Ambient lighting. Fill in with dimmer-controlled ambient lighting to create a range of moods, from bright and cheerful to subdued and muted.

How you combine these three techniques will depend on how your kitchen is laid out and where its primary work spaces are placed. However, it is recommended that you prioritize task lighting and fill in with ambience and accents on an as-needed basis.