Whether you’re swapping out some old fixtures or planning a complete remodeling project, the lights you choose for your kitchen can make a huge impact on how the room looks and feels. If you’re in the process of revamping your space, these kitchen lighting ideas will help guide you through the process.

How to Choose Kitchen Lighting

Deciding between ambient, task and accent lights is the very first step to choosing a kitchen lighting concept. In most circumstances, you’ll need multiple types of kitchen lighting in order to make the room as functional and stylish as possible. Commonly referred to as light layering, this strategic approach combines a mixture of ambient, task and accent lights to brighten your entire kitchen in the most efficient way possible.

Ambient Lighting

Ambient kitchen lighting is considered the primary source of light in the room and is typically positioned on the ceiling. Its main purpose is to provide a wash of even downlight throughout the space. Common types of ambient fixtures include recessed lighting, flush mount fixtures, track lights and chandeliers. Since the goal of ambient light is to add abundant illumination throughout the kitchen area, you’ll want to choose a fixture with a relatively wide light dispersion. You can then further brighten the space with task and accent lights as needed.

Task Lighting

When it comes to making your kitchen workspace as functional as possible, task lighting is absolutely imperative. These fixtures provide focused, directional light onto countertops and islands so that you can whip up your favorite culinary creations with ease. The most common placements for task lights are under kitchen cabinets and above kitchen islands. Mini pendants, pendants, strip lights and puck lights are just a few examples of commonly used task lighting options.

 Accent Lighting

Accent lighting is essentially a mix of ambient and task lighting, but it’s a bit more decorative in its overall presentation. While ambient lights and task lights have their own specific functions, accent lighting is generally used to supplement illumination as needed or lend extra style to the room as a whole. Accent lights such as pendants and sconces are typically found over kitchen tables, breakfast nooks and sinks. These lights offer the perfect opportunity to let your personal style shine, so don’t be afraid to choose a fixture that wows.

Kitchen Areas for Lighting

When adding light fixtures to your kitchen, it’s important to place them in the right areas to maximize their overall potential. Here’s a quick guide to four of the most common placements: under cabinets, and over islands, tables and sinks.

Kitchen Under Cabinet Lighting

Kitchen under cabinet lighting is a quick and affordable way to provide direct light when and where you need it. These kitchen essentials provide ample illumination for food prep while simultaneously showcasing backsplashes and other decorative details. When shopping for under cabinet kitchen lights, it’s important to consider your kitchen layout and what types of lights will work best in the space. LED puck lights are a popular choice for brightening your countertops, while tape lights and strips provide an even distribution of light that’s easy to hide. If you’re primarily interested in brighter food prep areas, you’ll want to place your lights near the front of your overhead cabinets to reduce glare. If you’re hoping to highlight your backsplash or other decorative features of your kitchen, try placing the lights further back instead.

Related Content: Under Cabinet Light Buying Guide

Kitchen Island Lighting

Kitchen islands serve as gathering spots and workstations, and they demand great lighting that accommodates both. Whether you use the space to cook or chat with family and friends, you’ll want it to have ample illumination. Evenly spaced kitchen island pendant lighting is an excellent choice that’s both functional and decorative, while linear pendants help to brighten these elongated countertops with even light distribution.

Related Content: How Many Pendants Should Be Placed Above a Kitchen Island?

Kitchen Table Lighting

If a kitchen table is included in the space, then kitchen table lighting is another must-have. While overhead ambient lighting can work well over these areas, you’ll typically need an accent light for more focused illumination. Pendants and chandeliers are great choices for kitchen table lighting, while mini pendants and mini chandeliers are ideal for smaller rooms and breakfast nooks.

When choosing a kitchen table light, it’s also helpful to mimic the table’s shape. Round pendants work well above circular tables, while linear chandeliers complement rectangular tables, etc.

Kitchen Sink Lighting

Minka Lavery One-Light Pendant in Brushed Nickel

Kitchen sink lighting is an absolute essential for cooking, cleaning and overall kitchen maintenance. Accent lights such as pendants are a favorite option above this area, as are recessed lights and under-cabinet lights (when applicable). You’ll typically want to place a brighter light above the sink since it’s such a frequently used part of the room, but look for shaded designs for optimal eye comfort.

Types of Kitchen Lighting

Galloway Kitchen Island Lighting

Kitchen Recessed Lighting

Recessed kitchen lighting is a great way to add downlight to dim areas. Made to fit inside the ceiling with no overhang, these lights offer streamlined illumination with zero fuss. They also work practically anywhere due to their discreet installation. Use them to brighten glass cabinets and open shelves, or line them directly above your countertops as needed.

Essentially a form of recessed lighting, can lights get their name from their can-like housings. These little spotlights are a particularly good option for small kitchens where overhead space is limited (although they also work well in closets). These fixtures are practically flush with the ceiling and can emit light either directly down or off to the side.

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Kitchen Track Lighting

When it comes to overall versatility, it’s hard to beat kitchen track lights. These flexible designs can be mounted anywhere you please—and the fixtures can be swapped as often as you like for total styling control. Track lights are also a smart choice for energy consumption, because you can limit the number of bulbs you use to suit your personal preferences. Another perk of kitchen track lighting? It’s usually so lightweight that it can be mounted to drywall.

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Hanging Kitchen Lights

Hanging kitchen lights are perfect for task-oriented areas (think islands, countertops, tables and sinks.) Place a pendant light over your farmhouse sink, line mini pendants above your kitchen island or position a chandelier over your kitchen table.

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Flush Mount Kitchen Lighting

Lighting a small to medium-sized kitchen? Flush mount and semi-flush mount lights may be your best bet. These designs don’t take up as much ceiling space as pendants and chandeliers, and they tend to provide more visual style than recessed or can lights.

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Popular Trends in Kitchen Lighting

The future of kitchen lighting is certainly looking bright thanks to new trends and innovative technologies. LED kitchen lights continue to gain ground in 2019 alongside smart home bulbs from brands like Phillips Hue. These long-lasting designs allow you to control your interior lighting via voice commands or your smartphone for ultimate convenience. Smart bulbs even let you adjust a room’s color temperature as you please, which is particularly ideal for entertaining. 

In the year ahead, look for kitchen pendants and chandeliers to move from traditional metallic finishes to bright, cheery color pops that command attention. 2019 is also seeing an increase in kitchen fixtures and appliances finished in matte black tones. That being said, organic elements like stone, rattan and wood are retaining their popularity, as are vintage-inspired luminaries and mid-century modern designs.

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