When it comes to designing a new kitchen, I always emphasize the importance of the kitchen layout as the key factor. However, once you have finalized your layout, another crucial aspect that significantly impacts the functionality of your kitchen is the kitchen lighting.
In this comprehensive kitchen design lighting guide, I strongly recommend incorporating abundant light in layers and ensuring that each layer of lighting can be controlled independently. By doing so, you can create a well-lit and versatile kitchen space.
In this detailed guide, I will discuss the main types of kitchen lighting, providing practical and aesthetic considerations for each. Additionally, I will explore various other considerations and options available when it comes to kitchen lighting. Get ready to dive deep into this informative guide!
Kitchen Lighting Types
I categorize kitchen lighting into three main groups:
- Ambient Lighting: – Ceiling lights (Recessed/Pot Lights)
- Task Lighting: – Under Cabinet Lights / Pendant Lights
- Decorative/Accent Lighting:– In-Cabinet Lights / under-countertop lights / Plinth Lights / Pendant Lights
Confirm Your Kitchen Layout
Before diving into planning your kitchen lighting scheme, it is crucial to have your kitchen layout finalized and confirmed. The location and type of lighting you choose will heavily depend on the layout of your kitchen within the room as a whole. Factors such as the placement of cabinet runs, the presence of an island or peninsula, and the positioning of tall or wall cabinets will directly impact your lighting scheme.
So, make it a priority to finalize your kitchen layout before delving into the exciting world of lighting design!
Top Tip: Ensure that you finalize your kitchen layout before proceeding with your lighting design.
Ambient lighting serves as the primary source of illumination in your kitchen, typically provided by recessed LED downlights or pot lights. It is designed to evenly flood the entire room with light, creating a well-lit and comfortable environment without overwhelming brightness.
The number and placement of these lights should be carefully considered to ensure optimal coverage and avoid excessive overlapping, ensuring a pleasant and balanced lighting experience.
When it comes to determining the number of ambient lights needed, there are three key factors to consider.
First, it is important to take into account the size and shape of the room, as well as the kitchen layout, to determine the optimal placement of these downlights. Ensuring that both the main kitchen layout and the entire room are adequately covered is crucial.
Second, the size of the downlights themselves should be taken into consideration. Larger diameter downlights provide wider light coverage, which means that you may require fewer lights or can space them slightly further apart while still achieving the desired coverage.
Lastly, the ceiling structure, including the location and direction of joists, as well as any architectural features like skylights or beams, should be considered. These factors may impact the physical installation of the downlights.
By keeping these factors in mind, you can confidently position the ambient lights in your kitchen to create a well-illuminated and visually appealing space.
How Far From The Wall Should Recessed Lights Be In The Kitchen?
A reliable guideline for positioning recessed lights in the kitchen is to align them with the edge of your countertop, typically around 60cm or 24 inches away from the wall. This placement ensures optimal illumination throughout the kitchen space while avoiding shadows and providing a balanced lighting effect.
This positioning is crucial for two main reasons:
- It ensures that the light is positioned in front of any wall cabinets, providing ample illumination for the entire inside of the cabinet. This prevents the issue of only lighting a part of the cabinet, as the top may block the light.
- The light is not positioned too far off the wall, which could create shadows while working at the countertop. By having the light source behind you, it ensures that you have a well-lit workspace without any obstructions.
Therefore, the ideal distance to position the lights is approximately 60cm or 24 inches. This sweet spot guarantees optimal lighting conditions for your kitchen.
How Far Apart Should Downlights Be Placed?
Kitchen downlights should be placed between 90cm-1.5m (3-5 feet) apart from one another, ensuring that no light is closer than 60cm or 24 inches to any wall.
A helpful guideline to determine the spacing is to divide the ceiling height in half, resulting in the recommended distance between lights.
For example, with an 8 ft ceiling, the lights should be spaced 4 ft apart.
In my opinion, the size of the lights, the shape of the room, and the kitchen layout are crucial factors to consider. While the rule suggests placing the lights 4ft apart, you might find that this spacing doesn’t provide sufficient coverage or may not align well with your specific room or kitchen design.
Therefore, I consider this rule to be a helpful starting point, but it’s important to adapt it based on your individual requirements and preferences.
Spacing Downlights Across A Kitchen
After determining the spacing between your downlights, you can replicate the same pattern on the opposite side of the room to ensure a consistent distribution of lighting across the ceiling.
Next, position additional layers of lights in the room, spacing them approximately 3-5 feet apart. Consider adding one more run of lighting in the middle of the room or two runs if the room is larger. However, if it’s a narrow room, you may not need any additional runs of lighting.
Depending on the kitchen layout, you can omit some downlights in the run if there is an island or peninsula underneath and you desire pendant lights, which we will discuss further later on.
While it is generally preferable to maintain a uniform alignment of lights, there may be instances where it becomes necessary to position them in a non-linear manner based on the shape of the room and the layout of the kitchen.
For example, if a full-height cabinet is present in the lighting run and the light fixture needs to be placed in front of it, a distance of 60cm from the wall may not be sufficient due to the cabinet’s width of 60cm, resulting in blocked light.
In this case, it is recommended to position the light between 6-12 inches further forward from the cabinet front (depending on the size of the light) to ensure sufficient separation for the light to shine down without obstruction.
Moreover, if there is a run of tall cabinets, it is advised to position the lights further away from the wall than the typical 60cm or 24 inches.
What Size Recessed Lights Should You Use In Your Kitchen?
The most popular sizes of kitchen recessed lights are approximately 90mm / 3.5 inches wide (70mm hole cut-out size) or 115mm / 4.5 inches wide (90mm hole cut-out size). However, sizes can vary from 50mm to 300mm depending on the type of light fitting and desired aesthetic. Opting for larger recessed downlights can provide increased brightness and potentially allow for wider spacing, resulting in a reduced quantity of lights required to illuminate your kitchen effectively.
The aim is to achieve a comprehensive and uniform distribution of light throughout the main room, avoiding excessive illumination that may cause discomfort when the lights are turned on.
I categorize two types of lighting as task lighting: under cabinet lights and pendant lights. While pendant lights can also have a decorative function, I believe their primary purpose should be to serve as task lighting.
Under Cabinet Lights
Under-cabinet lighting is essential for a fully functional kitchen as it provides the additional light necessary for everyday tasks such as food preparation and cooking.
While ambient lighting positioned above the kitchen adequately illuminates the space, it tends to be softer and more diffused by the time it reaches the countertops.
By incorporating under-cabinet lighting, you can enjoy a focused and purposeful illumination directly on the countertops, enhancing their practicality and usability.
Types Of Under Cabinet Lighting
There are various under-cabinet lighting options available on the market, such as LED color-changing strip lights, fixed lights at the back of cabinets, or recessed spotlights cut into the bottom of wall cabinets.
The choice of lighting ultimately depends on what is available for your specific kitchen and your personal preference.
In my opinion, LED strip lighting is highly recommended as it provides a more uniform and expansive coverage of light, unlike individual lights or spots that may create isolated pockets of light.
Where To Position Under Cabinet Strip Lights
In order to achieve a more even distribution of light across the entire countertop, it is recommended to position the strip light towards the front of the bottom of the wall cabinets. This placement ensures a superior spread of light, avoiding the limitations associated with lights positioned at the back of wall cabinets.
When lights are positioned at the back, they effectively illuminate the back of the countertop and extend up the wall or backsplash, but may not adequately illuminate the specific area of the countertop where you are working.
Top Tip: Under cabinet lighting is highly recommended in kitchen design. If you’re designing a new kitchen, it is advisable to plan for under-cabinet lighting early on so that your electrician can install the necessary wiring. For retrofitting purposes, you may consider surface mounting some wiring or even opting for battery-operated lighting that can easily clip on underneath the cabinets.
Installing pendant lights above a kitchen island or peninsula, specifically in areas where there are no wall cabinets above, enhances the lighting intensity and brings it closer to the work surface, providing practical and efficient task lighting.
How Far Should Pendant Lights Be Above The Countertop?
Position the bottom of the light fixture between 75cm – 90cm (30 – 36 inches) above the countertop as a general guideline. However, adjust the height based on your individual needs and preferences to ensure optimal functionality and convenience in your kitchen.
The positioning of pendant lights relative to the countertop or ceiling height may vary based on individual preferences and the overall ceiling height. It is important to ensure that the pendant lights hang at an appropriate distance from the ceiling to provide practical task lighting and create an attractive focal point.
However, it is equally crucial to avoid obstructing sightlines through the kitchen or having the light fixtures positioned too close to the face when standing at the island.
Indeed, pendant lighting serves not only as a decorative element but also as an excellent means to enhance the visual appeal of your kitchen and achieve a specific aesthetic or style with confidence.
When it comes to pendant lights, there are no strict rules. It ultimately depends on your personal preference and style. Whether you prefer a single large pendant or a cluster of pendants, or even a series of individual pendant lights, the choice is yours to make.
However, in my professional opinion, if you opt for individual pendant lights rather than a single statement fixture, I would recommend using either two or three pendant lights for a balanced and visually pleasing arrangement.
How Far Apart Should You Position Pendant Lights for Kitchen Island?
The spacing between your pendant lights will be determined by factors such as the size of the pendant lights, the number of lights being used, the size of the kitchen island or peninsula they are being hung above, and, most importantly, what feels visually balanced in the space.
For two pendant lights, ensure they are evenly spaced both from the edge of the island and from each other.
To achieve this, divide the size of your island into three parts and position the pendant lights along these lines. This technique, known as the rule of thirds, is commonly used by photographers to create visually appealing compositions.
For optimal symmetry, position three pendant lights by centering the first light over the island and evenly spacing them from the center light to the edge of the countertop.
Depending on the size of the light fitting, you may consider adjusting the lights further out from the center while ensuring they remain at least 15cm / 6 inches from the edge.
Top Tip: We aim to achieve excellent light coverage for our pendant task lighting while maintaining a perfect balance from an aesthetic standpoint.
I would consider decorative or accent lighting to be things like:
- In-cabinet lighting – such as glass-fronted cabinets or inside a larder cabinet
- Drawer lighting
- Under-shelf lighting – such as a floating shelf
- Wall lights / Sconces
- Up-Lights – lights on top of wall/tall cabinets
- Strip lighting underneath your countertop overhang
- Plinth lighting
Decorative lighting is an essential addition to your kitchen design, as it adds a stylish and aesthetic touch that elevates the overall ambiance. While these lighting options are more focused on style, they play a crucial role in enhancing your kitchen’s visual appeal and creating a delightful user experience. There is no right or wrong choice when it comes to decorative lighting, as it ultimately comes down to your personal preference and what you find visually pleasing.
So don’t hesitate to incorporate these details into your kitchen design to achieve a wow factor and make your kitchen a more enjoyable space.
Kitchen Lighting Design Considerations
Now that we have explored the three primary types of kitchen lighting, let’s delve into other important considerations to keep in mind when designing your kitchen lighting scheme.
Individual Lighting Control
One of the most crucial aspects, as mentioned earlier, is to ensure that you have dedicated controls or switches for each type of lighting.
It is essential to have separate control over each layer of lighting in order to create a dynamic and customizable lighting experience. Avoid relying on a single light switch that turns all the lights on and off simultaneously.
I strongly recommend creating a separate switch for your ceiling ambient lighting, potentially even two switches depending on the room size and number of lights. Additionally, it is advisable to have separate switches for pendant lights, under-cabinet lights, wall lights, and any other decorative lighting elements, such as plinth or under-countertop strip lights.
You have a wide range of options to create different lighting environments and moods in your kitchen, allowing you to tailor the lighting to suit your specific activities and preferences.
For example, when you’re in full cooking mode, you can have both the main ambient and task lighting on to create a practical and efficient cooking environment.
On the other hand, when you’re winding down in the evening with a glass of wine, you can selectively turn on some decorative lighting to create a softer and more relaxing ambiance, setting a different mood for your kitchen.
Having more control and lighting options in the kitchen is of utmost importance, allowing you to effectively manage and customize the lighting according to your needs and preferences.
It is highly recommended to install dimmable lighting wherever possible. Adding dimmable lighting throughout your kitchen or specifically to your pendant lights allows you to have ultimate control over your lighting environment, providing you with the flexibility to adjust the brightness and color temperature to create the desired ambiance. Having this extra control can be incredibly useful and enhance your overall kitchen lighting experience.
Top Tip: Ensure that all lamps or bulbs, especially LEDs, are dimmable and that you have the appropriate dimmable switches installed.
Light Fixture Finishes
Recessed downlights or pot lights are available in a wide range of finishes, including stainless steel, brass, black, and more. If you find these options appealing and they complement your desired aesthetic, feel confident in choosing them for your kitchen lighting design.
I strongly recommend opting for a plain white finish for your recessed downlights. Considering that you will most likely be painting your ceiling white and choosing the white finish for the downlights, it will effectively blend them into the ceiling, creating a seamless and almost invisible appearance.
Choosing a different finish for the under cabinet lights can make them stand out and draw attention to the ceiling, creating a visually busy room and potentially making the ceiling appear lower.
Introducing other finishes and textures into your kitchen lighting scheme can be effectively achieved through the use of pendants or wall lights. These fixtures provide the perfect opportunity to incorporate specific finishes that enhance your desired kitchen style or aesthetic.
The color temperature or lighting temperature of any light is measured in kelvins (°K). A lower number, around 2000 K, represents a warm, orange hue similar to candlelight. On the other hand, a higher number, like 7000 K, indicates a cooler, bluish-white light often referred to as daylight color. The middle ground, around 4000 K, represents a more natural and neutral color of light.
What Colour Light Is Best For The Kitchen?
I highly recommend using a more natural or daylight color temperature, around 4000-5000 Kelvins, for your main ambient lighting and any task lights. This color temperature provides a clearer light that helps to improve focus.
On the other hand, warmer, more orange light can be used to create a calmer environment, which you may prefer for some of your decorative lights. There are even smart lights or bulbs available that can change their color temperature, some of which can be controlled with an app or remote control. Another option to consider is installing dim-to-warm lights, which transition from a natural light of around 4000°K to warming candlelight of around 3000°K as you dim the lights down. This gives you ultimate control and the ability to adjust the mood of the room.
So, carefully consider the color temperature of your lights and choose what you like and what you believe will work best for your kitchen.
How Many Lumens Are Needed To Light A Kitchen?
In general, kitchens typically require approximately 7,000-12,000 Lumens, depending on the overall size of the kitchen and the amount of countertop that requires task lighting.
As a guideline, it is recommended to aim for 30-40 lumens-per-square-foot for ambient kitchen lighting and 70-80 lumens-per-square-foot for task lighting on kitchen countertop areas.
What Are Lumens?
The measurement of the total quantity of visible light emitted from a lamp (or light source) is called a Lumen (lm). When a product specifies the number of lumens it produces, such as a downlight or bulb, it indicates the light output it has.
For instance, a typical LED recessed downlight usually ranges between 400 and 600 lumens, depending on the size of the light and the wattage of the bulb.
Good To Know: A 60-watt incandescent bulb produces approximately 800 lumens, while a typical LED bulb that produces the same 800 lumens only consumes around 9 watts. This makes LEDs an excellent choice for energy efficiency, allowing you to save on both energy consumption and your utility bills.
How Many Lumens In Total Are Needed For A Kitchen?
To calculate the appropriate lighting for your kitchen, it is important to determine the overall square footage of the space and the square footage of the task areas, specifically the countertop area.
For example, if you have a kitchen with a total area of 200 sq. ft and the countertop area accounts for 70 sq. ft, you can allocate 130 sq. ft to the ambient lighting (with a recommended range of 30-40 Lumens per sq. ft) and the remaining 70 sq. ft to the task lighting (with a recommended range of 70-80 Lumens per sq. ft).
Based on the upper limits for our calculations, we can confidently say that…
130 x 40 = 5200 lm
70 x 80 = 5600 lm
Total lumens = 10,800 lm
This serves as a guide to help you get started in the right direction. However, determining the precise amount and type of lighting for your kitchen will ultimately depend on your individual preferences and requirements, as well as the factors we discussed earlier.
It’s always a good idea to check the overall lumen output of the proposed kitchen lighting scheme to ensure it aligns with your desired lighting levels.
Kitchen Lighting Design General Rules Of Thumb
- Design your kitchen lighting based on your layout with confidence.
- Illuminate the room using a layered approach, incorporating ambient, task, and decorative lighting.
- Ensure individual control of each lighting layer for maximum flexibility.
- Consider installing dimmers to adjust the lighting intensity.
- Carefully select light fixture finishes to complement your kitchen design.
- Choose the perfect color temperature to create the desired ambiance.
- Verify the lumens levels to achieve adequate brightness.
Warming Close Thoughts
So there you have it! The ultimate kitchen lighting guide.
Remember, the key to successfully lighting a kitchen is to add ample light in layers and ensure independent control over each layer. And, of course, don’t forget to have fun with it!
Enjoy your kitchen lighting design journey!