How-To Articles

How to Light a Kitchen


In most homes the kitchen has the honour of being both the heart of the home and the most multifunctional room in the house.

The right lighting is essential to both these appropriations and ultimately means the difference between a space that is merely functional and one that is fun to be in. It's important for kitchen lights to be decorative and ambient, while sufficiently illuminating the key work areas such as the stove and work surface. 

There are five main types of lighting to consider for a kitchen:
Central lighting, including downlighters
Track lighting
Under-counter lighting
Lighting cupboards (inside, and from the outside in)
Pantry/scullery lighting

Central lighting

A single, central light fitting is the most conventional way of lighting a kitchen. The advantage of having just one light is that it is easy to clean, especially in a kitchen where lighting fittings tend to get dirty quickly because of the steam and dust in the space. An extractor fan helps to remove some of the dirt from the air, making this a worthy investment in every kitchen. 

Central light fittings in glass or Perspex with glossy fittings work well in kitchens with extractor fans but are best avoided in kitchens without because of the dirt that accumulates on the fittings. Fluorescent fittings or downlighters are an effective alternative in this case. 

Downlighters also work because they can be positioned above work surfaces and angled as needed, as opposed to a single central fitting that will cast a shadow on the work surface as the light source will be behind you when you face it. 

Track lighting

Track lighting is a popular option for the kitchen, with a similar effect to downlighters but with much lower installation costs. 

Track lights are installed on a flexible cable, which means they can be directed at any angle, except for a curve. They're wonderfully versatile because they can be installed from room to room, as well as across ceilings of varying heights and down walls or columns. 

The light fittings are then attached onto the track wherever they are needed. You may opt to have a spotlight above the main work surface and select an interesting pendant for above the breakfast nook. 

Under-counter lighting

The softness of under-counter lighting is great for creating ambience in the kitchen. It is especially ideal if the kitchen is used for entertaining or next to an entertainment space where a bright shining kitchen light may be too harsh.

If function is the first priority here then opt for a fluorescent light that will give a cool, broad pool of light. Downlighters, on the other hand, offer warm, ambient light for an appealing atmosphere. Do note though that downlighters generate heat so can't be installed underneath cupboards that contain perishables. 

Cupboard lighting

Anybody that has ever reached for their cellphone light to reach the rice at the back of the kitchen cupboard will understand the importance of having lights inside kitchen cupboards! 

There are two options for this type of lighting: 

One way is to light the cupboard from the outside in so that when the cupboard door is opened the light shines in. Adjustable downlighters fitted around the perimetre of the kitchen cupboards will achieve this, or to have the downlighters fitted on a track system. Bear in mind that the larger the cupboard and the higher the ceiling the further away the lights need to be positioned. 

The other option is to install the light inside the cupboard. This is an attractive option for cupboards that double up as display units for glass, crockery or ornaments. Downlighters work best here and should be positioned inside the cupboard, at the front and not towards the middle or back as this will create shadows that will dilute the effect. 

Pantry and scullery lighting

A dark pantry and scullery just won't do. As two of the most functional and practical areas of the kitchen it is important to have sufficient light. Here you want to opt for a bright light, though not something too harsh. Spotlights are a great option for these spaces as they can easily be directed to shine where they are needed at a given time. 

The ideal combination of lights for your kitchen is determined by the main function of the space, though it is important to strike the right balance between function and ambience.