Kitchen Lighting Guide

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A well done kitchen lighting layout can really jazz up a regular looking kitchen without breaking the bank. The key to a good Lighting design is a layered effect of many different kinds of lighting. In this kitchen lighting guide the lighting categories will be divided up into Main kitchen Lighting, Cabinet Lighting, and Decorative Lighting.


                                             Main Lighting

The main lighting in a kitchen is the lighting that is turned on as someone first walks into a room. Yes the big oak wooden fluorescent light boxes are out of style.

Many people use recessed cans in a kitchen for main lighting especially in 8' or lower ceiling situations. The typical recessed can light is 6" round but there are can lights of many different shapes, sizes and bulb types. The round sizes go from 2 inches up to 8 inches. There are cans meant for specific bulb types that come in regular incandescent, fluorescent, LED, and line/low voltage halogen and xenon. With the regular incandescent cans a fluorescent, or LED light bulb could always be used. There are descent working dimm-able LED bulbs out there.

Recessed Can Main Lighting, Accent in Ceiling and Cabinets


Monorail track lighting can also be used as the main lighting in a kitchen especially if the ceiling is higher than 8' or angle vaulted. Monorail really can be a nice decorative and useful main lighting option. Decorative small low hanging Pendant lights, high hung large general lighting pendant lights, as well as directional task lighting head lights, can hang from monorail. Monorail is bendable and connect-able allowing for many interesting shapes to be created to fit a kitchens shape.

Monorail as Main Lighting monorail picture 2Monorail for Vaulted Ceiling


                                                    Cabinet Lighting

Cabinet Lighting is divided in to under cabinet task lighting, inside cabinet show piece lighting, and over cabinet ambiance lighting.

There are different lighting types that will work in an under cabinet lighting situation, but to me the best most useful type to use is the linear bar style under cabinet lights seen in the picture below. The Linear style Lights come in different lengths to fit the bottom of different cabinet widths, which helps put out a nice general useful light pattern. Linear under cabinet lights come in different finishes, bulb types and sizes to fit different sizes of cabinets. 

The typical finishes are white, black, bronze and stainless steel in case you want to match your appliance finish.

The bulb types for under cabinet lights are LED, Xenon, Halogen, and fluorescent. For me there really is only a choice between LED and Xenon; Fluorescent light quality and bulb life is no good, and halogen lights get really hot. Led under cabinet lights would be my first choice because there is very little heat generated, the bulbs last forever, and the light quality is great. The xenon under cabinet lights are more cost effective, do generate a fair amount of heat, but are dimm-able.

Inside cabinet lighting is show piece lighting and is best done with puck lights. Puck lights come in different finishes same as under cabinet lights, different bulb types, and can be low voltage or line voltage.  As in under cabinet lights my first choice would be the LED puck lights, and second the xenon for the same reasons as the under-cabs. Not a huge amount of light is needed inside of an enclosed space like a cabinet.

Over cabinet lighting can be done with puck lights or with LED rope lighting that provides a general light.

Cabinet Lighting Pucks and Linear Under Cabinet Lights


                                                Decorative Lighting

Decorative lighting in this article will describe trim lighting, and decorative pendant task lighting.

An example of trim lighting can be seen in the picture at the top of this page, and below where LED tape lighting, can be mounted behind the trim to provide a dramatic effect. Trim lighting is often done in a split level tray ceiling situation.


Decorative pendants over an island or peninsula can add some flair to a kitchen. Pendants come in many colors and shapes to fit anyone's style. The smaller pendants usually are halogen,xenon, or LED all fine choices since heat output is less of a factor. The larger pendants can be incandescent, or fluorescent.

The higher end pendants will have imported hand blown glass where no two pendants look exactly the same. In some cases like in the pictures below giant pendant lights can serve as a rooms general lighting.

If just planning a new kitchen then add some lighting in some of the places that have been discussed in this article. For a little extra cost lighting can go a long way to spice up the look of a kitchen. Make sure there is a detailed lighting design plan to help the electrical contractor.

For more general information visit the web site Kitchen Lighting Ideas.

Author, Max Wall  ABC Kitchen and Bath.


Very Large Pendants for Main Lighting

Triple PendantTriple Pendant Over Island


colorful glass pendantsLarge Colorful Glass Pendants