Choosing kitchen lighting

The modern kitchen is a hub of activity where we do more than just whip up the family’s meals, so your lighting has to be flexible: illuminated work stations for cooking and a warm, welcoming glow for dining and entertaining. However, don’t attempt the electrics yourself – this is one area that requires the services of an accredited professional. This is also the perfect time to have an electrician fit extra sockets and get a plumber in to do any necessary work.

Tips for a well-lit kitchen

  • Install a pull-down ceiling pendant over a dining table to control the pool of light thrown over it; make the space bright at breakfast time and intimate in the evening. How to install a pendant light
  • Exposed light fittings collect grime from cooking, so opt for recessed or semi-recessed fittings. Also, if the bulb is well recessed the object, rather than the light source, will become the key focus.
  • Avoid creating lines of downlights in the ceiling as your kitchen could end up looking more like an office. Think of what you want to light and focus the downlight over a dining table or work island.
  • Don’t just think practically – have fun with lights too. See our ideas for statement lighting.
  • Think about investing in a retro neon sign that casts a blue or pink glow over your room, or look for fairy lights that add cast a twinkling light over your kitchen.

Task Lighting
Safety must come first in any kitchen as you’re constantly using sharp knives, scalding water and hot pans. For high activity areas where you prepare food you'll need plenty of illumination in the form of task lighting – focused, directional, bright light. To avoid task lights throwing shadows over your work surfaces, position them directly above or slightly in front of your food preparation areas – the best place is on the wall or below cupboards. For more flexibility in your lighting scheme, install your task lighting on a different circuit from your mood lighting.

Downlights provide a light that washes over your kitchen, providing a general ambient glow. If you like clean, sparkling white illumination choose halogen lights and put them on a dimmer switch so you can adjust the brightness to change the mood of the kitchen. If you install more than one dimmer, you can create a variety of lighting effects to give warmth and depth to your kitchen. Have a look at our lighting design ideas.

Light at different levels
Use lighting as a design tool to emphasise or detract from good or bad features in a room. So if you have a really high ceiling which looks gloomy, use it to its best advantage by installing uplights on the top of kitchen cabinets to throw a general ambient light over the whole room. This will also reduce your need for downlights.

If your kitchen is galley-style or cramped, choose downlights such as John Cullen’s Polestar - this gives a warm glow to the room and bounces light around, creating the feeling of space. Think about using light down near the floor too, to wash a glow over it. If you have a central kitchen island, install lights in the plinth so it appears to float.

Light for decoration
If you have particularly attractive features in your kitchen, show them off using light. Draw attention to shelves by installing lights underneath; fit downlights into glass display cabinets to show off a china collection; or use picture lights on the wall to draw the eye to a beautiful print or poster.

More design ideas for kitchen lighting
Be brave and make your kitchen unique with statement lighting. For more ideas, see the following articles:
Making the most of natural light
Kitchen lighting ideas
Light and bright kitchen ideas