Layering isn’t just for your wardrobe. When it comes to choosing kitchen lighting fixtures, you must also think in layers.
From task lighting to functional and mood lighting, the kitchen enjoys a diverse set of fixtures because it is the hub of the home. We don’t just cook and eat there, we also entertain, pay bills, finish homework, play board games and more. Each area around the kitchen — the ceiling, over the sink, under the cabinets — needs a lighting solution. That means each layer of lighting provides a specific function.
Figuring out the right kitchen lighting isn’t about running to Home Depot and buying the exact same style of lights for the entire space. It’s about coordinating style in the kitchen and adjacent rooms, especially if you have an open-concept layout in your home.
Let’s dive into how to make your kitchen lighting functional and decorative without getting all matchy-matchy.
Different lighting solutions for your ceiling, island, table and countertops
If you thought onions had a lot of layers, just think about the kitchen when you break everything down. It’s a space for pretty much every task in the home, and you need the lighting to match.
For cooking, that means light and bright fixtures overhead, such as recessed can lights. This is the first layer you should look at when you start designing a space.
Next up, under-the-counter lighting for all that prepwork. You want to be able to see what you’re doing — and avoid cutting off a finger in the process.
Finally, there’s island lighting, which we typically consider to be more decorative but it’s also functional, allowing you to sit at the island to eat, pay your bills or help your kids with their homework.
We highly recommend putting each of these on their own switch and making all the switches dimmable. That will allow you to play with all three light sources whether you want to create a mood while entertaining or simply dim the lights while you eat your dinner.
Your kitchen light fixtures should coordinate, not match
When you’re picking out those decorative lights for your island, they must coordinate with any other lighting in eyesight, such as your eat-in breakfast area, adjacent dining room or even front entryway, depending on the layout of your home.
That doesn’t mean you should run out and buy five of the same pendant lights for all the spaces, or even buy the chandelier that is an exact match of your pendant fixture. It also doesn’t mean you need to match metals — shocker!
However, it does mean you need to choose similar styles. Let’s put it this way: They don’t need to be sisters, but they should be cousins. This is where hiring a designer can really help. We can coordinate lighting in your kitchen and other rooms while still keeping it interesting.
As with the rest of your home, it’s important to stick with a similar style and decor so that each room flows seamlessly into the next. You don’t want to combine an ultra contemporary kitchen with a super rustic living room with a mid-century modern office. Every space in your home should coordinate to tell the same story.
All those final touches
Whether you’re looking to spice things up in the kitchen or keep things simple, there are some finishes touches to consider.
Let’s start with other additional lighting in the room. If you have glass door cabinets, you might want to add lighting inside the cabinets, though not necessarily all of them, for a decorative touch. You can also add lighting at the base of the lower cabinets on the toe kick, which provides both design and function — aka seeing where you’re walking.
If you have an open concept kitchen, we often recommend glass pendants for lighting above the island. These are slightly or fully see-through and make a huge difference by making the room feel larger and avoiding blocking your view.
Another fun thing to add is sconce lighting. These make great accents lights, especially over the sink or even over a prep area where you don’t have overhead cabinets.
If you’re lucky enough to have a double island kitchen, avoid the temptation to put pendants over both islands. It will look like you’re walking into a lighting store and make the space far too busy. Pick one island and stick with it.
The kitchen is a great place to make big, bold statements when it comes to lighting: Just make sure you’re not sacrificing design for function. If lighting is going to block the view, make the room feel smaller or simply feel out of place, then it’s not worth it.
One thing that is worth it? Hiring a designer to make this complex task of coordinating but not matching while also combining function with design a whole lot easier.
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