Kitchen Lighting Guide

The kitchen is the heart of the home. Whether you spend time there for every meal of the day or use it mostly for special occasions, you carefully consider its design. But many forget about an essential detail when designing their dream kitchen — the lighting.

Your lighting design can transform your kitchen for better or worse. To add stylish and functional illumination solutions to your home, consult this kitchen lighting guide. Learn the best lighting for a kitchen and how to pick the right fixtures for your home below.

Importance of Lighting in the Kitchen

The kitchen involves a lot of prep work throughout the day, and the right lighting is essential for that. You need to be able to see what you’re doing, especially for safety purposes. That’s where task lighting — intense illumination that’s brighter than ambient light — is helpful. Whether slicing and dicing or checking that your food is fully cooked, adequate task lighting makes everything easier.

As you’re wondering how to light a kitchen, you shouldn’t only focus on task lighting. Ambient lighting is ideal for using the kitchen as a gathering space rather than working. Enjoying breakfast in the morning and meals later in the day will be more comfortable with softer lighting than what you use to prep food and clean up.

Adding lighting is also essential to compensate for the lack of natural lighting. Whether it’s a cloudy day or the sun has gone down, you’ll need light in your kitchen. If you have cabinetry on your kitchen walls, you may have limited natural lighting from the windows. That could create darker corners of your kitchen, which you may find yourself avoiding in favor of well-lit areas. Using the best lighting for a kitchen maximizes your workspace.

Types of Kitchen Lighting

With lighting being such an essential consideration for a kitchen’s style and function, you must choose the right fixtures. In many cases, a kitchen lighting scheme that combines ambient and task illumination is ideal. Install these options with dimmers if possible, or control them with different switches. That gives you flexibility when you turn on the lights, and you can set your kitchen illumination to meet your needs.

Using different types of kitchen lighting for the room will also help. Consider the best lighting for a kitchen based on where it goes.


Ceiling lights use vertical space and save other areas of your kitchen for practical elements, like cabinetry and counters. When you hang kitchen lighting from above, you need to consider your ceiling’s height, the length of the ceiling light fixture and the fixture’s location. Some light fixtures have a more eye-catching design that you won’t want obstructing walking paths, while other options are out of the way. Install ambient and task lighting with ceiling fixtures like these:


  • Pendants: These sleek ceiling light styles work well over islands and peninsulas. If your counter is long, space out multiple pendants for a statement addition. Select a statement chandelier to hang in the center of your kitchen for a more dramatic pendant style.
  • Mini pendants: If you have a smaller kitchen, consider mini pendants for effect on a smaller scale. Use a mini pendant above a smaller sink for task lighting or over a small island or peninsula.
  • Flush mounts: flush mount ceiling light takes up less vertical space than pendants. These fixtures can be sleek, low-profile options or minimalistic lights that still add an eye-catching accent.
  • Recessed lighting: These light fixtures are a popular choice for kitchens. Recessed lights go into the ceiling and don’t alter the sight line into your kitchen. Instead, they provide practical task lighting you can accent with statement lights in other areas.
  • STRUT: At WAC Lighting, our innovative STRUT light fixtures add overhead lighting in statement styles. Choose from suspended and surface STRUT options, which make the perfect additions to a modern kitchen.



Depending on your kitchen’s layout, you can use wall lights almost anywhere. Install them above the sink, counters, entryways and shelving, or use them along the top of the wall. Wall lights could illuminate the far corners of your kitchen and areas your cabinetry obscures. Add functional task lighting and comfortable ambient lighting with wall fixtures such as:

  • Sconces: These light fixtures come in styles ranging from sleek and modern to vintage and classic. Sconces are a stylish addition to your lighting scheme, so carefully consider where you’d put them. Use symmetry and select fixtures that complement other lighting solutions in the kitchen, like the pendants.
  • Wall lights: Wall lights are similar to recessed lighting, but instead of being integrated into the ceiling, you install them into the walls. Use them in combination with a backsplash to add lighting behind countertops.
  • Backlighting: If you have open shelving or decorative kitchen elements you want to illuminate, consider backlighting. These unique lighting fixtures often appear within islands or backsplashes to highlight details. The result is a dramatic touch that turns any area into an illuminated statement.


Under Cabinets

What is under cabinet lighting? As the name implies, these fixtures can go under upper and lower cabinets. This lighting style adds extra illumination to your countertops and workspaces when used with your upper cabinets. Under lower cabinets, you add unique lighting fixtures that transform your kitchen into a modern space. Lower cabinet lighting shows off the shape of your kitchen and floors and creates practical lighting on cloudy days or evenings.

Upper cabinet lighting is the more common under cabinet illumination choice for its combination of practicality and style. Whichever under cabinet lighting option you choose, implement it with fixtures like:

  • Strip and tape lights: For continuous lighting under your cabinets, use strip and tape lights. These systems adhere to surfaces under cabinets for a discreet lighting solution. Install strip lights to the back of the upper cabinets to focus the light on the backsplash. If you want to highlight the cabinets, use under cabinet lighting toward the front. For task lighting, use rows of strip lights toward the front and back of the cabinets.
  • Puck and button lights: Select puck and button lights to illuminate specific areas of lighting under your cabinets. These fixtures are typically smaller, circular styles that suit small spaces. Space them out according to their size and how much illumination you want.
  • Bar lights: Use a bar light to create a focal point under a specific area of your counters. These fixtures are more visible than strip lights and can add extra illumination to your counters. Install them at a section of counter space you often use or as a bar space to create a statement with task lighting.

What Type of Lighting Is Right for Your Kitchen?

To determine the best LED light fixtures for your kitchen, you must consider your unique needs and the kitchen itself. Every kitchen is different, so there’s no singular lighting solution that will work for all. Instead, you can select from various kitchen lighting applications and fixture styles. To help you decide the best lighting for a kitchen, evaluate the following aspects.

Room Size and Shape

Every kitchen is unique, from size to layout. That makes your kitchen’s shape an essential consideration for choosing the right fixtures. In general, you can choose different types of lighting depending on your kitchen’s size and layout, whether you have a:

  • Large kitchen: If you have a large kitchen or one connecting to a dining space, ensure you have enough lighting. Use enough fixtures to fill the space from corner to corner and the dark areas in between.
  • Small kitchen: Lighting for small rooms should also be on the smaller side, like subtle recessed lights or a statement mini pendant. You don’t want to overwhelm the space with large fixtures, so use slim styles or flush mounts.
  • Unique-shaped kitchen: If your kitchen has a unique shape, use enough lighting fixtures throughout the space to illuminate it properly. Perhaps you have a wall or pantry breaking up the flow of the space. Install lighting on either side of these features to avoid having darker areas of your kitchen.

Ceiling Height

When selecting ceiling light fixtures, think about your kitchen’s ceiling height. Lighting for tall ceilings can extend down longer without obstructing any views or walkways. If you have a shorter ceiling, you should avoid longer fixtures: opt for shorter pendants, flush mount lights or recessed lighting.

Ceiling height can also determine the distance you put between recessed lights. Divide the ceiling height by two to decide how far apart these ceiling fixtures should be.


Depending on your kitchen’s size and layout, you may have some areas you use more than others. Think about where you often work in the kitchen and ensure you have adequate lighting throughout the space — but especially in these areas. You’ll also want to focus on using task lighting in these workspaces to add enough illumination:

  • The sink
  • Countertops between the refrigerator, sink and stove
  • Islands or peninsulas

Natural Lighting

See where you have natural light sources in your kitchen to help you decide where to add artificial light. Illuminate the sides of the room where the natural lighting doesn’t hit. Even if you have plenty of windows and natural lighting in your kitchen, you still need artificial lights. Evaluate the room in the evening or on an overcast day to determine what areas of the room need the most light.

Cabinet Styles

Consider the shelving and cabinets in your kitchen to know how to use under cabinet lighting. What you select will vary with your kitchen’s cabinetry and storage, whether you have:

  • Open shelving: If you have primarily open shelving, you may use tape lights or backlighting to show off what you display on the shelves.
  • Closed cabinetry: Cabinetry will block overhead lighting more than open shelves, meaning you’ll want under cabinet lights.
  • Glass cabinet doors: If you can see into your cabinet doors, put your items on proper display. Use backlighting in the cabinets or add button lights inside under the shelves.


Kitchen Style

Your kitchen and home’s style will influence which type of lighting fixtures you pick. The material, finish and color of your fixtures, kitchen hardware and appliances should complement each other.

Consider the overall style as well, whether your kitchen is:

  • Minimalist or modern: Select sleek and simple varieties for a minimalistic or modern kitchen.
  • Eclectic: If your style is more eclectic or you want a statement for your kitchen, consider unique lighting fixtures with statement shapes or finishes.
  • Industrial: If you have an industrial or loft home, use track lighting or the WAC Lighting STRUT system to illuminate your kitchen.
  • Traditional: Traditional kitchens and similar styles suit ornate, detailed light fixtures.


Lighting Intensity and Type

When selecting lighting for your kitchen, think about more than just the fixtures’ appearances. Choose the correct type of light to get the right intensity and color temperature. LED lights, along with offering a longer life span than other solutions, come in various intensities and color temperatures, which are measured in different ways:

  • Correlated color temperature (CCT): Measured in Kelvins (K), CCT represents how cool or warm a light appears. Lower numbers mean a warmer light that creates ambiance. For ambient lighting, consider a CCT between 2700K and 3000K. Task lighting is on the scale’s cooler end, with higher numbers often between 3000K and 5000K.
  • Color rendering index (CRI): A light’s CRI describes how accurately a light source shows color compared to natural lighting. The scale goes from zero to 100, with natural light at the -higher end. Choose task lights, like under-the-cabinet fixtures, with a CRI between 80 and 90 for accurate lighting.

Benefits of LED Light Fixtures for Kitchens

Consider LED lights when selecting fixtures for your kitchen lighting applications. You’ll have the most versatility for finding the intensity and color temperature you need for your kitchen, and you’ll also enjoy these benefits of LED light fixtures:

  • Energy efficiency: No matter where you put lights in your home, you want them to be energy efficient. And because you will likely add multiple fixtures to your kitchen, it’s essential to have energy-efficient light sources. LED lights operate with 75% less energy than other lights, which saves you money even if you spend a lot of time in the kitchen.
  • Longevity: Maybe you spend every meal prepping and eating in your kitchen, or you might only be there for dinner time. LEDs are a smart choice regardless of how often you’re in your kitchen. These lights can last 25 times longer than other lighting options.
  • Color-changing options: For original and modern kitchens, you could add unique lighting fixtures with different lights. Under cabinet lighting, in particular, adds a distinctive touch when you can change the lighting colors. While this is more for style over function, it will transform your kitchen into a unique hangout spot in your home when you aren’t cooking.

Contact WAC to Learn More About Kitchen Lighting

When you have to determine the best LED light fixtures for your kitchen, WAC Lighting can help. At WAC Lighting, we have over 35 years of experience in the lighting industry. During that time, we’ve honed and shared our expertise, becoming a world-class lighting solutions brand. As a design-and-build manufacturer, we create illumination technology accessible to an array of budgets and needs.

If you’d like to learn more about the best lighting for a kitchen, contact WAC Lighting today.