The Best Lighting for Your Kitchen, According to Interior Designers

published Dec 25, 2022
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There are very few things a kitchen really needs that you can’t hack in some way. Short on counter space? Use your window sill! Or your stovetop. Or your sink. (You get the idea.) No cabinets? Rolling carts, pegboard walls, and even your oven to the rescue! But when it comes to lighting, you’re probably want to get it just right.

There’s a variety of factors to consider — including the size of your kitchen, any natural light you already get, and how you want your kitchen to feel. That’s why we called on two interior designers to share their best kitchen lighting advice.

1. Choose the right type of lighting.

Lisa Kanegae, principal and founder of LHK Interiors, says that there are three main types of lighting — ambient, task, and decorative — and each plays an important role. For task lighting, Kanegae says that recessed lighting is ideal. If installing high hats isn’t an option, Anita Yokota, interior designer and author of Home Therapy, has an alternative suggestion. “Under-the-cabinet lighting is always helpful, especially in the evening when you are in the kitchen winding down for the evening,” she recommends.

If the function of the lighting is more decorative and ambient, Yokota likes pendants and sconces. “They add that special touch — much like accessorizing and adding jewelry to your favorite outfit!” she says. Kanegae agrees and says that her favorite place to add a sconce is above the highest shelf. This creates “a quaint yet distinct design element,” allowing any decor or dinnerware on display to get their due spotlight.

2. Choose the right size.

Lighting comes in all different sizes, and choosing the right size comes down to the size of your kitchen, the size of any main features, and any challenges or limitations. “A good oversized pendant over a kitchen island actually tricks your eyes and makes a space look bigger,” says Yokota.

“If you have a kitchen with a small square island, using a chandelier versus one pendant can make a greater impact visually,” Kanegae says. Challenged with low ceilings? Try a linear chandelier. “They tend to take up less vertical space,” she says, adding that this style can help make a space feel sleek and modern if your kitchen is more minimalistic.

When in doubt, Kanegae suggests always going bigger than you think. “Anything larger in scale always feels more luxurious,” she explains.

3. Maximize natural light.

Illumination doesn’t just come from fixtures and bulbs. Natural lighting is just as impactful, says Yokota. “For rooms with little natural light, adding a large mirror will help reflect the light and make the space feel brighter and larger,” suggests Kanegae. “Using brighter bulbs can help enhance the light in the space as well.” 

If you have a bigger budget, Yokota also recommends adding windows or skylights. “It might take some more effort and money, but making a room symmetrical with windows on a wall (no lopsided windows, please) — or adding skylights if we can’t add windows on the walls — completely changes the game.”