Kitchen Lighting Guide

With so many different types of activity in a kitchen, the space becomes most effective with a combination of light sources. From general conversation to cooking, prepping, and cleaning up, it is important to select lighting that makes it easy to move about and perform tasks. Effective kitchen lighting can be put into three categories: ambient, task, and accent lighting.

Ambient (ceiling) lighting

This "fill-in" lighting brightens the overall space. It is most often supplied by a central fixture that can range from a surface-mounted ceiling light to a pendant to a ceiling fan to a chandelier.

Task Lighting

This lighting helps illuminate specific activities such as cooking, prep work, dishwashing, etc.

  • Under-cabinet lighting

    provides task lighting for countertop activities. Shadow-free, it can also emphasize the shape and contour of the kitchen.

  • Recessed downlights

    offer a good option for directional lighting, particularly over islands.

  • Track lighting

    provides the ability to point lamps in multiple directions, offering additional flexibility with task lighting.

Accent Lighting

Accent lighting can enhance the visual interest of the room drawing the eye to a particular area. It can be used to highlight architectural features like a coffered ceiling or arches, or artwork and special collections on display. Cove lighting, such as above cabinets, provides soft, indirect light.


When selecting bulbs (or fixtures that may dictate certain types of bulbs), keep in mind that the quality of the light will affect the atmosphere in the room and even the color of your walls, cabinets, appliances, and accessories. Incandescent light provides soft, warm yellowish light which is often more appropriate for ambient lighting. These are now being replaced with LED lights, which have a long life and low energy use. They come in a wide variety of color shades from warm to cool, so be sure to look for the one that best fits your environment. Halogen lights produce a crisp white light that fits better with task lighting.