By Hebe Hatton
Kitchen lighting ideas are key to creating a space that's functional. Sure, maybe it's not as exciting as choosing your cabinet color or picking out your worktop material, but planning your kitchen lighting is just as important. In fact, lighting should be something you consider all the way through the planning and design process.
We ask so much of kitchens nowadays, they are no longer just a place to cook, they have become rooms we eat in, socialize in and more recently even work in. So your lighting choices need to reflect all these functions. Every area of your kitchen should be properly lit in a way that suits and works with the task that part of the space is used for.
Of course, lighting can be beautiful too and needn't always be purely practical and can be a gorgeous focal point of your space. It's not all about spotlights and downlights. Statement pendants, chandeliers, and ornate sconces can have just as much of an impact as your cabinet color or worktop material. Plus, if you are looking for kitchen ideas to update your current space, lighting can be a lovely way to refresh your space.
What the best type of lighting for a kitchen?
The key to getting your kitchen lighting scheme right, as with most rooms, is to have plenty of different sources at different levels and make sure you cover the three types of lighting too – take, ambient, and accent.
'Kitchens are often the central hub of the household and are as much entertaining and family spaces as they are functional spaces. You need two types of illumination: shadow-free task lighting for cooking and prep, and ambient lighting for when you simply want to unwind or entertain.' explains Charlie Bowles, Director, Original BTC.
'Most kitchens will benefit from a central lighting source plus a combination of practical, space-saving wall lights and spotlights. If possible, make sure your lights are controlled separately so you can create different moods at the flick of a switch. Asking your electrician to install several circuits means you’ll be able to introduce texture and depth.'
'A dimmable pendant – or, for a dramatic look, a row of pendants - is useful for switching from functional to relaxation mode, whether over your dining table or central island. Consider also accent lighting to highlight areas of interest – it’s a great way to showcase a collection of china, or wall art.'
1. Layer your kitchen lighting
In a kitchen, one or even two sources of light isn't going to cut it. For a successful lighting scheme, you need to layer your lighting, pairing different types of lighting so all the kitchen's functions are catered for. See even in this small kitchen that a pendant light provides a more focus light above the kitchen island but there's also track lighting above, angled to light up each side of the space.
'Lighting a room takes careful consideration, no more so than in the kitchen. Often considered the hub of the home, the kitchen has to play host to home office, classroom, social hub and cooking preparation. As such, it needs flexible lighting to make the space suitable for every situation at every time of day. Kitchen lighting therefore not only needs to be beautiful but highly functional.' says Alex Main, Director of The Main Company.
'Layering lighting is key to achieve this. Pair ceiling spotlights for full illumination with pendant lighting over the island for dramatic effect. Soft dimmer lighting around the kitchen table will help create a more intimate feeling for guests, whilst under cabinet, strip lighting will help zone worksurfaces for food preparation.'
2. Light up architectural details
How beautiful is this kitchen lighting idea? It makes a statement but also provides a lovely all-over glow to the space and really accentuates the architectural details of the room and the loftiness of the ceilings. Recreate something similar in your own space by running subtle LED strip lighting along beams, around alcoves, or even just around the edges of your room – it's a simple idea with a really dramatic effect.
3. Choose sculptural shapes
Proof that kitchen lighting needn't always be practical! Pendant lights are ever-popular in kitchens, and we do love the symmetrical look they give, but why not buck the trend and go for a single statement light? Something quirky and unexpected that will be the focal point of the space.
As Jo Plismy, Founder of Gong says, 'In a kitchen, while you clearly need a certain amount of practical task lighting, don’t forget it is still a space you should feel comfortable and able to relax in. All of your interior choices should be an extension of your personality and your lighting choices give you the perfect opportunity to experiment and create some statement spaces.'
'My advice is to not be afraid to go big and bold with your kitchen pendant lighting. Contrary to popular belief, oversized lights look fabulous in smaller rooms, as well as in larger spaces. I often advise my clients to see their lighting choices as pieces of art. Bold designs, tactile textiles and sculptural shapes will provide interest over an island unit, even when the light is turned off.'
4. Create symmetry with pendant lights for a classic look
And really you can't go wrong with the classic, low-hanging pendants above a kitchen island. It's practical, as it provides task lighting should you use the surface to prep and cook, it looks lovely and it defines the island from the rest of the kitchen. Plus, if you put the lights on a dimmer switch you can change the mood from task to ambient in an instant.
'When it comes to kitchen island lighting, decorative pendants are very popular as people want to make a statement and feature, but it’s important to be careful not to create shadows over the cooking and prep area.' Piero De Marchis, Director of Detail Lighting explains.
'To make sure this doesn’t happen, we would normally advocate decorating lighting ‘filled-in’ and supplemented with focused spotlights to eliminate any shadows or dark spots. By opting for this combination, you will then have a ‘cooking mode’ where all the lights are on and then a more relaxed mode when you can turn off the spotlights and dim your decorative lights.'
5. Make wall lights a focal point
If you don't have a kitchen island to hang pendants above opt for statement wall lights instead. They can add just as much style and interest and are equally functional for lighting up your workspaces. Plus they are flexible too. Choose a design that you can pivot so you can move the light as you need to.
'In terms of kitchen lighting trends, flexible wall lights particularly in brass have recently taken off in the kitchen space. These are great as they can be angled down or up to bounce light off the wall to create less directional ambient light, or slant down for tasks. Either way the wall light in itself adds point of interest to your kitchen walls, a really pretty alternative to a regular downlight.' says Rohan Blacker founder of Pooky.
6. Add extra task lighting where you need it
Small, subtle wall lights can be ideal for adding extra lighting in areas you often need it too, like above the sink or next to the cooker. And they don't always need to make a big design statement either – in this already bold blue kitchen, compact steel lights sit on either side of the hob adding symmetry and a task light for both the work surface and the hob.
7. Illuminate under cabinets and shelving
Integrated kitchen lighting, wether it be under wall cabinets or beneath shelving are a sleek and minimalist way to add in task lighting. They create really focused lighting over worktops and a smart alternative to wall lights. They can be easy to install in your current space too, as you can simply run flexible LED strip lights under your shelving or cabinets with out having to have spotlights built in.
8. Go minimal with exposed bulbs
This industrial look just never dates. It's a simple and chic kitchen lighting idea that suits any kitchen style from uber-modern to country rustic. And exposed bulbs can make just as much of a style statement as an oversized pendant, especially if you group them together or hang them in a line above an island or worktop.
With exposed bulbs, you do have to be choosy about your bulbs. The wrong bulb could create a very harsh light and intense shadows. So opt for a tinted LED bulb, with a warm light that will create a lovely glow. And if you can, fit lights with dimmer switches so you can always adjust the brightness.
9. Hang a chandelier for a luxurious touch
Does it get more decadent than a chandelier in a kitchen? Hang a chandelier as your centerpiece, and keep the rest of your lighting simple and minimal. This mixing of old and new will add a ton of character so embrace the clash through the rest of your kitchen too. See how in this space sleek marble cabinets sit with vintage finds and quirky collections. The chandelier just brings the whole vibe together.
10. Install track lighting (with a stylish twist)
Track lighting has always been popular in kitchens, it's a practical choice that almost just blurs into the background. But this kitchen has given traditional track lighting a stylish twist by installing an exposed galvanized conduit (a metal tubing system used to protect electrical wires) on the ceiling and finishing it with classic filament light bulbs to match the raw industrial vibe of the kitchen.
11. Pick a subtle linear pendant
Simple and yet striking, a linear pendant light floats above the island in this kitchen, blending in perfectly with the surrounding cabinets. This suspended design works particularly well if your home has high ceilings and you want a more focused pool of light at eye level.
Note the mix of lighting in this kitchen too. The LED lights in the ceiling cover the ambient lighting as well as ensuring other areas of the kitchen are well lit. Sam Hart, Designer at Roundhouse says, 'LED dimmable ceiling spots and beautiful, stylish, decorative pendants over the island will make a kitchen stylish and practical. Go for task lighting under wall cabinets – circular LED spots or strip lighting. Spots throw down pools of light and a strip gives an even wash of light.'
12. Add a pop of color
Lighting is a lovely way to bring color into your kitchen without being too bold. The dark kitchen is uplifted by the splash of yellow, and see how the yellow-tones veining of the marble pops now too? These sunny hues really warm up the deep charcoal cabinetry, livening the room without overwhelming it.
13. Bring in warmth with brass fixtures
Brass is a really popular choice in kitchen light fittings, warmer than silver but not as flashy as gold it works with any style and any color scheme. Just be sure to get the same tones of brass across all your light fixtures. To ensure this you're best sourcing all your lighting from the same brand. Or you could even mix metallics, try a brass ceiling light and silver wall lights, for a very on-trend on look.
14. Create a quirky look with antique glass
If you have forgone wall cabinets and have the space to hang pendants above your worktops, it's a nice alternative to wall lights. How cute are these colorful glass shades too? They are subtle and yet as a hint of color and quirky shape to the room. The perfect balance between statement and classic.
'You can easily tire of statement pieces and of large bold themes that dominate your room, lighting is a big one! We see so many lighting schemes and it’s always the discreet and understated ones that catch our eye and that we don’t tire of.' says Helen Parker, Creative Director of deVOL.
'Having said that, a statement light can look stunning if carefully chosen, chandeliers are about as bold as you can get but they look great because they have some character (go for faded glory not bling!). It’s usually the pendants over islands where people go crazy and buy three huge pendants, then some wall lights to contrast and then a few different pendants over the dining table and it feels more like a lighting showroom than a kitchen.'
15. Add softness with fabric lanterns
Fabric lamp shades aren't something you see all that often in kitchens, but if you have a spacious kitchen diner, so you can hang them well out of the way of the kitchen workspace, they can add a lovely softness to a space. Kitchens are usually made up of a lot of hard surfaces and clean lines, so having this tactile addition creates lovely contrast and can really distinguish between the practical part of the kitchen and the more laid-back dining space.
Hebe is the Digital Editor of Livingetc; she has a background in lifestyle and interior journalism and a passion for renovating small spaces. You'll usually find her attempting DIY, whether it's spray painting her whole kitchen, don't try that at home, or ever changing the wallpaper in her hallway. Livingetc has been such a huge inspiration and has influenced Hebe's style since she moved into her first rental and finally had a small amount of control over the decor and now loves being able to help others make decisions when decorating their own homes. Last year she moved from renting to owning her first teeny tiny Edwardian flat in London with her whippet Willow (who yes she chose to match her interiors...) and is already on the lookout for her next project.
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