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A Guide to Lighting Every Kitchen

by Don's Appliances

Making sure your new kitchen has all the appliances, decorations, and comforts you need is always going to be the first big battle of your kitchen renovation. But what comes next? If your answer was anything besides “proper lighting,” stop right there and let us help you get your redesign plans back on track!

Lighting your new space should always be the next step after you’ve finalized your appliance and décor plans. It might not sound as glamorous as picking out the latest kitchen tech in all the trendiest colors, but it’s the key to a functional kitchen that works well and looks beautiful. Lots of novice kitchen designers approach lighting a kitchen as a one and done. But a single overhead lamp and a bit of counter lighting just isn’t enough to make the most of your space. Let’s break down how you can maximize your use of lighting in the kitchen and make your space both elegant and intuitive.

Use the Natural Light

Unless you plan to board up windows or knock down a wall, there won’t be much you can do to change your natural light, so make the most of what you have! Your windows are a powerful lighting tool, especially if you learn to use them correctly. If your windows don’t let in much light, avoid heavy drapery and shutters. Instead, get sheer curtains or a light, bamboo shade. That way you’re never fully blocking out the light and you’re not adding any heavy colors and shapes to the space – but you can still cut the glare when you need to.

On the flipside, if you have large windows that let in all the light you could possibly need, you’ll want a way to control and channel that lighting. Built-in shutters and thicker curtains can help soften that direct sunlight. You could even put shelving in front of your windows to illuminate potted plants or family treasures, all while keeping the sun out of your eyes.

Take Color into Account

Whether you want a dark-colored, contemporary kitchen or a light, airy Scandinavian-style space, you want to make sure your colors and your light go hand-in hand. Light reflects on, well, lighter colors, so you’ll want to make sure the areas you want to emphasize are painted a shade or two lighter than the rest. Light-colored kitchens require a bit less lighting for that same reason – or you could always put your lights on a dimmer switch and let white paint and an open window do what they do best. If you’re going for a sleek look full of greys and blacks, you’ll need to compensate with extra lighting to keep the space functional.

Layer Your Lighting

When it comes to lighting your kitchen, it’s not just about throwing as many watts as you can around the space. It’s important to use different types of lighting for different functions. There are three main types of lighting to keep in mind, and layering them properly is a vital step to making sure your kitchen is illuminated in all the right places.

Ambient Lighting

Ambient lighting is the first and perhaps most important type of lighting to think about when you’re remodeling your kitchen. Also called general lighting, these lights evenly illuminate a space and set the tone for the whole room. There are many ways to lay a solid foundation of ambient light – from recessed lighting, to track lights, to a single, bright ceiling lamp – all depending on the size and layout of your kitchen. You’ll want to make sure that whatever type you choose is strong enough to evenly light the space without making any particular area too bright or too dark.

Task Lighting

Task lighting steps up your space from just plain easy to see, to comfortable to use. This type of lighting gives extra illumination to areas that might fall between ambient lighting sources or those which require better visibility. Countertops and cooktops, for example, are the work hubs of your kitchen, but often, ambient lighting from above is blocked by cabinets or by humans using the space. Adequate task lighting under cabinets and vent hoods keeps your workspace well-lit and makes cooking and prepping food much easier.

Accent Lighting

This is probably the first type of lighting that comes to mind when you think of lighting your kitchen – chandeliers, decorative sconces, and pendant lights all typically fall into this category – but it should actually be the very last type of lighting you plan. Accent lighting doesn’t need to be functional (although it certainly can be) – instead, it helps draw the eye to the parts of your kitchen you most want to showcase and balance the room. It can also provide a little extra light in the important places, not to mention a healthy dose of style.

Consider Light Placement

This is where accent lighting really comes into play. Using light is a great way to create a focal point in your space, or let the less exciting parts of the kitchen blend right in to the background. A few simple pendant lights that suit the style of your room are a great idea for illuminating your gorgeous island countertops, while bold lighting fixtures and chandeliers can visually balance a sprawling dining room table, all while highlighting the beautiful place settings. Make sure your lights hang high enough so as not to blind your guests, but low enough to properly illuminate working and eating spaces.

Picking Your Perfect Lights

Bulbs and fixtures, lamps and sconces – all those decisions will depend on your space, your style, and your kitchen’s needs. Consider the atmosphere you’re trying to create, as well as the practical needs of your space. This is especially important when picking out light bulbs. Softer, warm-colored light typically works best for general or ambient lighting, while bright LEDs and halogen bulbs provide the crisp, white light you’ll want as task lighting.

Chandeliers are perfect for adding some drama and refinement to a traditional-styled home, and pendant lights give your space a clean, contemporary look, while still adding some visual flair. Or, you could go bold with vintage lanterns for a rustic look, or take an industrial-style space to the next level with exposed bulbs and reclaimed wood. Play with your style! It will take some testing to see what works in your kitchen and how you can make your lighting best complement your space.

The proper lighting can do wonders to make your kitchen design sparkle, and no kitchen is complete until you’ve thought long and hard about how you can light it up best. So, go ahead, showcase those stunning designs and special appliances! Let that stainless steel sparkle! You’ve worked hard on your kitchen, now show it off the way it’s meant to be seen.