10 Brilliant Ways to Improve Your Way-Too-Dark Kitchen

updated Dec 12, 2022
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(Image credit: Cathy Pyle)

The kitchen is the worst place in the house to have lousy light. It’s where you have to deal with sharp knives, fire, and hangry people, for crying out loud! So if you’re suffering from Cave-Like-Kitchen Syndrome, we have a few suggestions for you. And, no, we are not going to tell you to demo your entire kitchen and rebuild a minimalist white space complete with floor-to-ceiling windows. Instead, here are a few easy, low-lift ways to brighten up your dark kitchen space.

And the Kitchn said, Let there be light. And there was light.

(Image credit: Melanie Rieders)

1. Add a mirror.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Hang a mirror in your kitchen. Mirrors are the oldest trick in the book to create an illusion of more light and space. If you don’t already have one in your kitchen, the time is now.

(Image credit: Cambria Bold)

2. Hang a clamp lamp.

What are you supposed to do when overhead lighting is super minimal? Embrace the clamp lamp. As the name suggests, you can clamp them anywhere, or screw them into the wall. We love the RANARP spotlights from IKEA (pictured above), but you can also find different styles at Bed Bath and Beyond, Target, and even Land of Nod.

(Image credit: Sandra Regalado)

3. Use brighter bulbs.

What a bright idea! Check the wattage on the lightbulbs you’re currently using. If they’re 60 watts or below, they’re not bright enough. Experts recommend at least 80 to 100 watts in your kitchen.

(Image credit: Lisa Diederich)

4. Turn recessed lights into pendant lights.

Another trick to add light to a dark kitchen? Bring lights closer than the ceiling. If you have recessed lighting, this solution from Home Depot is for you: The hardware in this Pendant Conversion Kit screws into the recessed lighting bulb mechanism, with a cord hanging down to give you a pendant where you previously did not have one.

(Image credit: Reagen Taylor)

5. Stick up some under-cabinet lights.

Under-the-cabinet lighting is the best fix for a dark and cramped kitchen. Choose from puck lights, fluorescent light bars, or LED light bars to brighten up your space.

(Image credit: Natalie Jeffcott)

6. Add pops of color.

If you feel as if your too-dark kitchen is past the point of no return, channel your inner Bob Ross and add a few happy splotches of color. This might be a bright vase, a curtain, lights, a backsplash, or a piece of art. This visual distraction will brighten up your space.

(Image credit: Jacqueline Marque)

7. Create contrast with an accent detail.

Choose one place in your kitchen that you want to make the focal point. This can be, say, your island, a block of cabinets, your backsplash (again), or even your sink. Give your eye something fun to look at!

(Image credit: Jacqueline Marque)

8. Add something metallic that will reflect light.

See how the light is just bouncing off of this silvery, textured backsplash? Get the same effect with metallic details like a stainless steel fridge or even just a brand-new teapot.

(Image credit: Diana Paulson)

9. Paint dark wood cabinets.

A majority of people who update their cabinets choose to paint them white, according Houzz. Why? It’s a way to literally bring light into your kitchen by brightening up the space.

(Image credit: Emily Johnston)

10. Add a light backsplash.

You might have noticed us mention the backsplash a few times already, so it really deserves its own item in this story. If you don’t want to commit to a total cabinet makeover, settle for a light backsplash instead. This will create visual contrast and is a much lower lift!

Got any other tips to add? Leave them in the comments below!