top of page

The 3 Rules of Kitchen Lighting + Tips

Kitchens truly are the heart of the home and where most busy families start and end their day. How you choose to light your kitchen plays a huge role in not only how your overall kitchen looks but in how it functions on a daily basis... did I mention huge? In the design world, there are 3 rules to create optimum lighting levels for any room which are a blend of natural light, overhead light and task lighting. Most kitchens today include windows for natural light, recessed cans for overhead lighting, under cabinet task lighting and decorative hanging fixtures. Because not all kitchens are blessed with beautiful natural light, it is important that we get the the other parts of the equation right.

Hudson Valley Lighting Image

To begin with, let's talk about recessed can lighting. How many lights should your kitchen have? Too many can lights can be overwhelming and a waste of electricity and not enough OR poor placement can feel dark and create shadows. A good rule of thumb is to spread the recessed cans about 5' apart from one another. Do not place them directly over cabinets or you will create shadows. Most upper cabinets are only 1' deep except for over refrigerators, so usually placing them about 2' off the wall works well. There are many styles to choose from but the newer LED's have various lighting color or warmth options built right in the fixture so you can pick your favorite. In conclusion, the best number of can lights for your kitchen will depend on your plan but follow the above guidelines for good results.

LED strip lights have come a long way and make great countertop lighting when tucked under thecabinets above them. They can also be used inside cabinets, on top of cabinets and even under cabinets think bar top or toe kick. Easy to install, LED strip lights are literally a thin strip of wire that light and stick to the surface you put them on. They do need to be hardwired into an electrical source. The reason I prefer strip lights to puck style lights is because of the even consistency vs a spot light effect. Most moms prefer a whiter LED light for cooking

and cleaning in the kitchen every day!

Last but not least are decorative lights, the crown jewelry of your kitchen. Creating style and a punch of personality, most people include a table chandelier but far too many leave out pendants lights! Hanging pendants are a must have over islands, peninsulas or kitchen sinks. A few great tips to determine what size fixtures you need and how to hang them are below:

  • For a breakfast or dining table, simply add the length and width of 2 walls in the room. The answer is the width of fixture you want to use in inches. For example, a 10' wall + an 8' wall = 18 or 18" fixture width.

  • For a kitchen island, take the length and width of the island and add them together. For example 6' + 2' = 8 or 8" pendant width.

  • Finally, most decorative light fixtures hang about 30" above the surface they are over... table, island or sink.

The last thing I want to be sure to mention is the word dimmer ;) I am a huge fan of putting as many lights as you can on dimmer switches to create ambient lighting levels. For all the 2am wake up calls for bottles or fevers, you want dim lighting. For all the mornings when you've only slept 4 hours, you want dimmers. For all the evenings you are tired and just want to relax with a glass of wine, you want dimmers.

I hope this helps you out when thinking through lighting for an existing or new kitchen coming your way! Would love to have you join me in my new FB group Kitchen, Baths and Mudrooms by Design. Each week I will select one member's design challenge to solve on a FB live for the whole group to learn from. Get in early and see you there!

Also, if you are working on designing your own kitchen you definitely want to grab my free guide How to Design Your Dream Kitchen like a Pro!


Recent Posts

See All


Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
bottom of page