Do You Really Need Under-Cabinet Lighting in a Kitchen? Luxury or Necessity — Designers Decide

Does under-cabinet lighting really add practical value to the kitchen? We ask experts whether its style over substance

A kitchen with undercabinet lighting
(Image credit: Gabriel Volpi. Studio credit Bea Interiors Design)

While working in the kitchen preparing a meal or washing a pan, have you ever wished you had a little extra light to make sure you can see everything properly? That's when you realize that perhaps the kitchen lighting scheme doesn't just end with a pendant and a few light bulbs. It's equally important to invest in under-cabinet lights.

To understand the importance and the full functionality of this fixture, we reached out to designers to help us understand this kitchen lighting idea. Take a look and find out how important the under-cabinet lights are.

Do you really need under-cabinet lighting in a kitchen?

A corner cabinet holding spirits, with undercabinet lighting

(Image credit: Gabriel Volpi. Studio credit Bea Interiors Design)

For the most practical kitchen lighting, the short answer is yes. While kitchen ceiling lighting such as chandeliers and pendants are showstoppers, the more subtle under-cabinet lights are your kitchen's workhorses. These provide crucial and focused illumination for food prep and, if installed with a dimmer, can work well as a nightlight once the kitchen is closed for the evening. 

'Under-cabinet lighting in the kitchen elevates both functionality and aesthetics,' says Bea Pernia, founder and lead designer of Bea Interiors. 'By providing a soft illumination on countertops, it enhances task visibility and adds a warm ambiance, making the space more inviting. This subtle lighting complements various design styles, visually expands the kitchen, and can boost property value.'

What is the best type of under-cabinet lights?

A modern Italian style kitchen

(Image credit: Anthony Basheer. Design: Das Studio)

The perfect kitchen cabinet lighting would offer seamless and uniform illumination and not create a glare. 

'I enjoy utilizing LED strips installed within a channel behind an opaque diffuser,' says Kashi Shikunova, director at Yam Studios. 'This channel can be recessed into the cabinet, offering a sleek appearance. LED strips provide a uniform flow of light, creating a seamless look and adding a sense of ambiance to the space. The wattage of the LED strips depends on the intended usage, for areas requiring task lighting, a higher wattage that can be dimmed as needed is preferable. Additionally, I prioritize selecting LED strips with a color temperature of around 2700 Kelvin for a warm white glow.'

An under-cabinet outlet strip can also be integrating in a way the gives you plenty of electrical outlets to use — and always one right where you need it — without a line of sockets all across your lovely kitchen backsplash

Are there any disadvantages of under-cabinet lights?

While under-cabinet lights are one of the best to elevate your kitchen, you need to be careful about how you install these. 

These typically come as a system with multiple individual components, which include drivers, outlets, lights, and more, so you may need to do a bit of research before attempting the installation. It's essential to know where their optimal placement would be before you start the project. 

'More often than not, under-cabinet lighting has more advantages, however when it comes to placing it under a shelf where the lights might need to be flexible with moving up and down, these strips can make it challenging to maintain that flexibility since hard wiring is typically required,' says Kashi.

3 types of undercabinet lights to buy

Design Editor

Aditi Sharma Maheshwari is the Design Editor at Livingetc. She is an architecture and design journalist with over 10 years of experience. She's worked at some of the leading media houses in India such as Elle Decor, Houzz and Architectural Digest (Condé Nast). Till recently, she was a freelance writer for publications such as Architectural Digest US, House Beautiful, Stir World, Beautiful Homes India among others. In her spare time, she volunteers at animal shelters and other rescue organizations.