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Here Are The Types Of Kitchen Lighting You Should Know

by Debbie Wolfe

Forbes Advisor

Tuesday July 6, 2021

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Stock image  (Source:Getty Images)

Proper kitchen lighting will not only make your space look great, but it will also help you complete all of your cooking tasks with ease. Unlike most rooms in your home, a single fixture will not satisfy all the lighting needs in your kitchen. Using various types of kitchen lighting with different brightness and shades is indispensable for a balanced room. Read on to learn about the different types of kitchen lighting, how to use them effectively and which lighting fixtures to use to create your desired lighting.

General Lighting Types

Three basic types of lighting work together to illuminate your home: general, task and accent. A good lighting plan uses a combination of all three types to illuminate an area according to function and style. To properly determine which type to use, it's important to understand each one and its purpose.

Ambient Lighting
Ambient, also known as general, lighting offers the most light in a room. It provides uniform illumination throughout the space, independent of other lighting sources. Ambient light "bounces" off the walls to illuminate as much space as possible. For many rooms, windows or glass doors offer natural ambient light. However, there are also light fixtures that provide ambient lighting, such as:

  • Chandelier
  • Ceiling or wall-mounted fixtures
  • Track lighting
  • Traditional recessed fixtures
  • LED downlights
  • Floor and table lamps

    Task Lighting
    Task lighting provides increased light for specific tasks in a room that may already have ambient light. It helps you see small objects or objects with low contrast. Task lighting also provides increased light for tasks that require accuracy and helps reduce eyestrain. Standard fixtures used for task lighting include:

  • Pendant lighting
  • Under-cabinet lighting
  • Portable or desk lamp
  • Recessed fixture

    Accent Lighting
    Accent lights are used mainly to illuminate specific points of interest, such as artwork or architectural features. They are often decorative and complement the decor of the room. Accent lights can also be used to achieve a desired effect, such as making a room look bigger. Accent lighting can also double as task lighting, depending on where it's placed. Types of accent lighting include:

  • Under-cabinet lighting
  • Sconces
  • Picture lights
  • Track lights
  • Outdoor lighting

    Best Kitchen Lighting Options
    The kitchen is one of the most challenging rooms to properly light. Because of the cabinets and appliances, it's hard to find a one-size-fits-all light that will provide all the necessary lighting so you can cook, clean and showcase your kitchen. Here are the typical types of lighting options that you can find in most kitchens.

    Surface Lighting
    Surface lights are standard fixtures designed to provide ambient light. Sometimes they are single, mushroom-shaped fixtures that hold single bulbs or larger rectangular fixtures that contain multiple fluorescent tubes. These fixtures are mounted directly onto the ceiling and are capable of illuminating a large area.

    Recessed Lighting
    Recessed lights are installed directly in a ceiling, wall or other surfaces. The bulk of the lighting fixture is hidden within the wall or ceiling. These lights are unobtrusive and preserve a sense of openness and space in the kitchen. Recessed lighting requires enough open space above the ceiling for the housing and wiring to be installed. Ceiling joists limit the locations where they can be installed. However, they are an excellent option for ambient lighting.

    Cabinet Lighting
    Cabinet lights can function as both accent and task lighting. This type of lighting is becoming increasingly popular in home kitchens. Under-cabinet lighting includes focused light fixtures that provide task lighting over counters, sinks and prep areas. In-cabinet lighting is installed inside cabinets to offer better illumination when searching for dishes or pans or highlight a collection housed inside glass or open cabinetry.

    A pendant light is a fixture mounted to the ceiling and hangs down on a rod or chain. They are also a type of surface light but are not designed to provide ambient lighting for a large area. They are a cross between ambient light and task light. Pendants bring light closer to the surface of a table, sink, kitchen island or counter for increased visibility. Pendants are available in many styles and colors and can function as statement pieces in your kitchen.

    How to Choose the Best Lighting for Kitchens
    The right balance of lighting in your kitchen will help you accomplish everyday tasks. First, you must determine your needs. Most kitchens will have a central surface light, and some kitchens have windows that provide ambient light. Once you determine how much ambient light you have, you can decide if your kitchen needs more overall or just in specific areas.

    Light Up Prep Areas
    Kitchen islands or countertops where you prepare food can benefit from task lighting. Adding lighting over an island can be accomplished with a pendant light or a small track light. To increase lighting on the counters, consider battery-operated LED puck lights underneath cabinets that require no electrical wiring. Task lighting is an essential addition to a kitchen's design.

    Add Backlights
    If your kitchen is too dark and the main, surface or recessed lighting isn't illuminating it correctly, you can supplement with backlights. These lights offer extra visibility to the worktops. They are usually positioned behind certain surfaces or splashbacks. They can function as task lights too, but their primary purpose is to help brighten your kitchen.

    Play Up the Accents
    Your kitchen doesn't have to just be a functional space. Use accent lights to create mood lighting and guide the eye to points of interest around the room. Accent lights also add to the overall light level when combined with ambient lighting and task lights. Run LED lights under the rim of a kitchen island or highlight your impressive dinnerware collection in a glass-front cabinet. Accent lighting adds the finishing touch to your kitchen.