Often, kitchen wall lighting ideas play second fiddle to pendant lights – the latter considered an easy way to make a design-forward focal point in your kitchen. But, this needn't be the way, and as some of these real spaces go to show, wall sconces can sometimes be the star of the show.
Yet, wall lights need to meet the practical demands of a kitchen while contributing to its aesthetic appeal, meaning the considerations for this type of kitchen lighting idea are numerous.
'Careful positioning of wall lighting is very important to create the right atmosphere and make sure there is enough functional lighting to carry out the important task of cooking,' says Katie McCrum, the interior designer behind London-based McCrum Studio (opens in new tab), 'while also avoiding visual clashes with other items in the room, such as the pendant lighting.'
From the best sconces to suit your needs to creative layout suggestions, explore these inspiring real-life spaces that put kitchen wall lighting ideas center-stage.
10 kitchen wall lighting ideas to try
1. Use walls lights to create a symmetrical focal point
Symmetry is a tool often used by interior designers to create rhythm and structure in a space, and this is something that wall lights in particular can be useful for in a kitchen, even if the overall space isn't symmetrical.
Effective use of symmetry in a kitchen design hinges on a focal point to create balance. As a kitchen idea, this could be any number of elements, from the kitchen sink, an island, or even your cooker and hood.
'The impact of a dramatic hood and range is only heightened by the addition of sconces to either side,' says Ben Marshall, Los Angeles-based interior designer and creative director of the Hudson Valley Lighting Group (opens in new tab)
2. Think of sconces as art for your kitchen walls
While kitchen wall lighting ideas can provide your space with useful task lighting, this isn’t to say they can’t and shouldn’t be more decorative designs. Flush wall sconces, in particular, give you an opportunity to add in interesting forms and exciting materials that contribute to your kitchen's overall interior design scheme.
‘We love to spend time sourcing unique beautiful fittings that are seen as art pieces and that work in harmony and connect with the overall design and architecture,’ says interior designer Katie McCrum. ‘In this Cotswolds project, these stunning wall lights were chosen from US brand Allied Maker (opens in new tab) for their handcrafted look and feel. They are offset against a soft tadelakt wall and are a key feature of the room.’
By arranging these wall lights at irregular intervals along the kitchen wall, Katie disrupts the sense of functionality associated with lighting, making these sconces seem like they may just be carefully chosen kitchen wall décor rather than practical lighting for this marble and wood kitchen idea.
3. Try this notch design for a characterful detail
This thoughtful kitchen wall lighting idea was designed by And And And Studio (opens in new tab) –creating a small, but very purposeful detail that adds charm to this modern kitchen idea and frames the wall light.
'The material combination in this kitchen, Douglas fir, and Carrera marble, isn’t an unexpected pairing,' explains Annie Ritz, Principal of And And And Studio, 'but by notching out the light where these materials meet, they each take on a different shape, creating a visual surprise and adding a hint of playfulness to the kitchen.'
4. Position adjustable wall lights over windows
While kitchen countertops underneath stretches of glazing might offer you all the natural light you need for food prep during daylight hours, come evening, it's likely to be a darker spot unless your kitchen ceiling lighting ideas have been designed to compensate.
However, as Heidi Woodman, the Indianapolis interior designer behind Haus Love (opens in new tab), suggests, wall sconces can be added above windows to not only offer additional task lighting after dusk, but also create a design feature that neatly frames your kitchen's glazing.
5. Opt for a goose neck lighting for better work surface coverage
There are many forms of wall light to choose from for lighting your kitchen, each bringing a different functionality to your space. However, when you're choosing sconces over open kitchen shelving, it's important to consider how it functions as task lighting alongside good looks.
A directional flush wall light over a shelf will just illuminate your shelf, which may be fine for accent lighting, but won't help when using the worktop for food prep. By choosing gooseneck lighting or some alternative that's semi-flush to the wall, your directional lights will contribute useful task lighting without creating shadowy spots on the worktop.
6. Incorporate lighting within open shelving
Combining wall lights and open shelving can be tricky, especially where you want to incorporate multiple over your kitchen worktop. For their Los Angeles showroom, Aker Interiors (opens in new tab) chose not to shirk away from this challenge, rather commissioning this bespoke floating shelving idea with sinuous forms that could house semi-circular wall sconces from Allied Maker.
'We wanted open shelving in the kitchen to display the many talented ceramists we love, but also wanted to come up with a more creative approach to conventional floating shelves. Insert the genius of Aker Studio who figured out how to make these ceramic wall sconces fit perfectly within the curves.'
While this kitchen wall lighting idea takes the concept to the extreme, it's simple enough to build shelves around wall lights rather than feeling confined by the standard 'open shelf with wall lights above' combination.
7. Use characterful lighting as part of shelf styling
As we've already covered, installing wall lighting over open shelving is common practice, but for successful kitchen styling, you'll need to consider what your shelves will be displaying when both specifying and installing your kitchen sconces.
Wall lights tend to be positioned around 65 inches from the ground, so where kitchen shelving (or their contents) might interact with wall lights, you'll need to consider sconces as part of your shelf styling landscape.
This gorgeous grey kitchen by Red Deer (opens in new tab) showcases how lighting and shelving can bring forth magic when combined together thoughtfully, with this decorative glass beaded sconce adding a peak of height and filling negative space as part of this styling set-up.
8. Consider accent lighting for your kitchen walls
Kitchen wall lighting ideas don't have to be limited to providing task or ambient lighting for the space – they can also be used effectively for accent lighting.
‘Picture lights above art in the kitchen or open shelving areas provide accent light that completes the space,' suggests Hudson Valley Lighting Group's Ben Marshall, but accent light can be used to uplight a kitchen too, which can be especially effective when you have a feature ceiling or glazing overhead.
Up and down wall lights are worth considering too, with the down element providing your task lighting and the uplighter creating accent lighting for walls and ceilings.
9. Bring textiles into your scheme through wall lighting
Textile light treatments aren't used as regularly in kitchen spaces as the fabric can absorb cooking smells and are harder to clean than solid surface finishes. However, in the right part of your kitchen, introducing textiles through sconces with lampshades can add a softness that can often be missing in this part of the house.
This rustic kitchen idea from British Standard by Plain English (opens in new tab) combines a fabric lampshade that adds pattern and an invigorating shot of yellow to this earthy space. Wicker touches and a fabric cupboard skirt play up the cottagecore aesthetic while keeping these textile components a distance from the main prep areas of the kitchen.
10. Use a swing arm wall light in place of pendant lighting
A long-armed wall lamp can take the place of traditional pendant lighting over the likes of kitchen peninsulas and dining tables in open plan kitchens for an unexpected twist. There are practical benefits too, especially when using a swing arm light that you can adjust to suit how you're using the kitchen to get your task lighting right.
This works particularly well as a small kitchen lighting idea, as demonstrated in this design by Australian design practice Studio Esteta, which uses a mid-century Lamp De Marseille wall lamp to illuminate the marble peninsula.
Can I use wall lights in a kitchen?
Sconce lighting can certainly be used in kitchens. While you don't have to be quite as concerned about the NEMA or IP rating as when specifying bathroom lighting, it's still worth being mindful of the positioning and risks attached.
For wall lights in most areas of the kitchen, a standard IP11 or NEMA 2 rating should suffice which many wall lights will be as standard. Around the range or the sink, you may want to consider a higher rating to protect your lighting from condensation from steam — an IP rating of 20 or the NEMA equivalent would be ideal for this.
Hugh is the Deputy Editor of Livingetc.com. From working on a number of home, design and property publications and websites, including Grand Designs, ICON and specialist kitchen and bathroom magazines, Hugh has developed a passion for modern architecture, impactful interiors and green homes. Whether moonlighting as an interior decorator for private clients or renovating the Victorian terrace in Essex where he lives (DIYing as much of the work as possible), you’ll find that Hugh has an overarching fondness for luxurious minimalism, abstract shapes and all things beige. He’s just finished a kitchen and garden renovation, and has eyes set on a bathroom makeover for 2022.
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