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  • CBK Staff

Lighting Up the Heart of the Home: Kitchen Lighting 101

Updated: 6 days ago

The cabinets are ordered, the new appliances are installed … now all you need is light! In today’s kitchen, the right lighting in the right places is essential for providing beauty, warmth, and efficiency. But where do you start? Here are some tips from the lighting experts at Urban Lights to make sure your kitchen shines for years to come! Kitchen Lighting 101 will be your guide.


Modern kitchen with clear glass pendant lights of different shapes and sizes

Layer Your Lighting

“When considering kitchen lighting, it’s important to think of all the activities you’ll be doing in the space,” explains Deborah Arca, Marketing Director at Urban Lights. “Whether it’s cooking, homework, or catching up with a friend over your favorite beverage, you want to ensure all the spaces you work and relax in are appropriately lit.”

Today’s best kitchens optimize several layers of lighting, a strategy that mixes three types of illumination for a look that’s functional, beautiful, and mood-enhancing. The three layers are ambient, task, and accent.

kitchen with diffused pendant lighting and wall sconces

Ambient lighting is the general overhead lighting in your kitchen that will deliver a broad amount of diffused light to the room. Think of recessed lighting, flush or semi-flush fixtures, sconces, and ceiling fans with lights. Whatever you choose overhead, set the tone with dimmers and bulbs with a warm hue.

Task lighting provides light where you need it in a more concentrated form, such as over islands, counters, and sinks, or inside a pantry closet. This category includes pendants and under-cabinet lights available in a number of different configurations.

Kitchen lighting, pendants hanging over a kitchen island

Pendant lights often double as accent lights, providing both the practicality and the pop to a kitchen. The experts at Kichler Lighting have these helpful suggestions for choosing kitchen island pendants:

  • The number of pendants depends on the size of your island and the size of your pendants. Generally, pendants look best in odd numbers but…

  • If you’re using larger pendants over a larger island, 2 could work.

  • As a rule of thumb, pendants should be hung with the bottom 36” from the countertop.

Under Cabinet LED lighting.

Equally important in the task lighting category is under-cabinet lighting. Choose from self-contained under-cabinet lighting, LED tape and channels, or LED pucks and disks to shine a light on preparing ingredients, reading a recipe, and filling the coffee maker.

TIP: Install a motion sensor for your under-cabinet lighting for a no-touch, easy entry into your workspace.

Accent lighting creates drama in the kitchen by illuminating special objects or unique areas. Use it in glass cabinets to light up vases or art pieces or over cabinets to highlight architectural details.

TIP: Install accent tape lights under your island countertop for a soft glow from the center of the kitchen.

A newer feature in kitchen lighting is toe kick lighting. Placed under floor cabinets or cupboards, toe kick lighting can really show off cabinetry, defining its baselines and creating the illusion that it’s “floating.” Toe kick lighting also doubles as a nightlight, which comes in handy for those midnight snack runs!

Beyond the basics, customers today are asking for more and more sophisticated features in their kitchen, such as backlighting stone, outlet-free backsplashes, and up-lighting cocktail bars. And the lighting industry is responding creatively with ever-new technology.

“Lighting technology is so advanced now, there’s almost nothing you can’t do,” notes Arca. “But it’s absolutely essential to work with an experienced lighting professional to come up with the best solutions and make sure you get it right the first time!”

Work with an experienced designer at Urban Lights and your perfectly lit dream kitchen is just a click away!

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