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Bright Ideas: A Guide to Kitchen Lighting

In terms of kitchen design priorities, kitchen lighting is right up there with the kitchen triangle. It needs to be functional and flexible; setting the right mood for all the different activities happening in your kitchen, drawing attention to the right areas.  As many of us have our kitchen in a multifunctional room we not only have to plan for the kitchen zone, but also all the other activities happening in the room; for example designing lighting to create the right mood for a dinner party, or busy family breakfast. This guide will equip you with the basics to help you design a layered lighting scheme that brightens your kitchen for every task and sets the scene for a great dinner party.

Planning Your Lighting Scheme:

  • Consider Your Kitchen Layout:  Identify key work zones like the sink, hob, prep area, and island. Plan your lighting placement to ensure these areas are well-illuminated.

  • Pendants: Add a some design interest with pendant lights over a breakfast bar or sink.  If you know exactly where your dining table will be positioned, then consider a downlight over the table.

  • Downlights: Say 'no' to a downlight 'grid' The starting point for your lighting design should not be a grid of downlights. Downlights can have a valuable role in your kitchen lighting scheme but they should be positioned appropriate to what's happening underneath them. In the absence of any instruction, many electricians will propose this for your room.

  • Embrace Dimmers:  Dimmers offer ultimate control over the ambiance. You can have bright light for food prep and a soft glow for intimate meals.

  • Lighting circuits: Think carefully about the position of your light switches, and which lights turn on with each switch (a lighting circuit).

The Art of Layers:

Forget a single, harsh overhead light.

Kitchens work and look at their best with a combination of lighting types, each serving a specific purpose.

  • Ambient Lighting: This sets the overall brightness of the room. Consider recessed downlights, flush-mount ceiling fixtures, or even pendant lights for an open feel. Opt for warm white or daylight-coloured LED bulbs for optimal task visibility and energy efficiency.

  • Task Lighting: This focuses intense light on specific work areas. Under-cabinet lights are perfect for worktops, while pendant lights can illuminate sinks or islands. Choose adjustable task lighting to direct the light where you need it most.

  • Accent Lighting: This adds visual interest and highlights decorative features. Showcase artwork or cabinets with strategically placed wall lights or strip lights. Play with warmer tones to create a cosy atmosphere.

Think about all the activities happening in the room and think about how your lighting scheme will work for each activity: for example:

  • food preparation

  • congregating round the island for drinks (party)

  • doing homework/crafts

  • eating

  • working

Keep it simple:

Don't be tempted to say 'yes' to all the kitchen lighting options available - e.g. underplinth lights, cupboard lights, backsplash light etc. You will end up with a huge number of switches and won'

Choosing the Right Bulbs:

  • LEDs are King: Opt for LED bulbs throughout your kitchen. They are energy-efficient, last a long time, and offer a variety of colour temperatures to suit your needs.

  • Colour Temperature:  The colour temperature of your bulbs can totally change the feel of your kitchen. Think sleek, cool and modern for cool white lights and warm white; comforting and cosy.  

Pro Tips:

  • Think Vertical: Utilise wall lights or track lighting to illuminate backsplashes and artwork.

  • Natural Light is Your Friend: Make the most of natural light by maximising window space and using translucent window treatments.

  • Match Your Style: Choose fixtures that complement your kitchen's overall design theme.

By following these tips and incorporating a layered lighting approach, you can transform your kitchen into a space that's both beautiful and functional.


How The Calder Consultancy can help:

  • Lighting plan Working together, I can come up with a lighting plan to give to your electrician. A clear plan with measurements, showing lighting circuits (which lights turn on when you press a switch) is the best way to let your electrician know what you want. If you are confused about the optimum position for lights (e.g. over an island) this is a great service for you.

  • Lighting coaching I can spend an hour with you, to help you pin down which lights you want where.

  • Lighting products I know how long it can take to find the 'perfect' light. I have spent a LONG time looking at lights and can help you speed up the process and make sure you really do find the perfect light for your space to match your style.

  • Pinterest My Pinterest boards are always evolving. If you want to see some curated lighting selections, linking to some of my favourite suppliers have a look at my lighting boards for ideas.

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