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How to choose kitchen lights

Brighten your home with modern kitchen lighting

Lighting is vital to a fully functioning kitchen. Your kitchen is everything, from the family dining area to where the culinary magic happens. It’s where you prep food, cook, clean, entertain – and it can even be a spot for homework. Much like a healthy balanced meal, your kitchen needs the right blend of lighting to achieve the perfect space that fulfils all your needs. With so much going on, it can be hard to settle on a kitchen lighting scheme that works for everything and everyone.

That’s where we come in. We’re here to explore all the different kitchen lighting options available. So, whether you’re redesigning your whole kitchen or just giving it a style refresh, we’ll explain all of kitchen light fittings and fixtures you can choose from.

Read on for advice on choosing the best kitchen lights for your space. From industrial kitchen lights to under cupboard lights, we’ve got plenty of kitchen lighting ideas to suit your style and needs.

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Before you begin

First things first. Think about what you need from your lighting, this will give you a better idea of what your lighting options are.

Kitchen update or a complete refit?

If you’re updating your existing lighting with something similar, this can be quite a simple job. We advise checking fittings before swapping them over.

However, if you’re adding new lighting as part of a complete kitchen revamp, this offers the exciting prospect of a blank slate. Create the lighting environment that you’ve always wanted and be creative with the available options. It can be easy to underestimate the impact of good lighting in the kitchen, but when you’re installing new kitchen cabinets, worktops and more, show a little love to your lighting and it could be a real showstopper.

Naturally, planning is required in both instances. Ensure you have accurate measurements before buying. And if you’re tackling the complete kitchen project, select your lighting before work begins. This is because the electrical and fitting work will have to be complete before other jobs, such as installing the kitchen cabinets.

Things to consider

It’s essential to get a sense of the space when creating a lighting scheme for your kitchen. Here are some key considerations:

  • What size is the kitchen? Dimensions are important. A compact kitchen doesn’t rule anything out, all options are still possible, but a very big space could benefit from one type of lighting over another. Or it could also mean a greater variety of lighting types would work well with distinct zones.
  • What is the shape of the kitchen? Again, whether it’s L or U-shaped, galley or island, there’s no wrong answer. Simply think over whether you want to accentuate the shape of the room through the lighting or not.
  • Is the kitchen a single room or is it open plan? This is more about how the space is used.
  • Is it just for cooking or is it a multi-functional space with room for dining, relaxing and after school study? Again, the latter offers the opportunity to introduce lighting zones.
  • How high is the kitchen ceiling? Low ceilings suit lighting closer to the ceiling to offer the greatest amount of coverage and avoid any accidents.
  • What’s the design style of the kitchen? Kitchen styles range loosely from classic to contemporary, though many combine elements of the two. Consider the overall look and feel of your kitchen when deciding how best to light it. Do you want it to complement or contrast? Or again, combine the two to create something truly unique to your home.

The 3 different types of lighting in your kitchen

Now that we better understand the kitchen, it’s time to think about how best to light it. There are three main ways to do so – generaltask and accent lighting.

General lighting

Also known as ambient lighting, this type of lighting illuminates the majority of the room clearly. Windows and glass doors offer general lighting, as well as light fixtures such as pendants, ceiling lamps, and recessed downlights.

Task lighting

This highlights key working areas, offering clear visibility for important kitchen jobs like cooking and cleaning. Vital around much-used areas like near your cooker or sink, task lighting ensures that you stay safe and can easily see everything that you need to.

Accent lighting

In contrast, accent lighting is about creating a mood through use of lighting. This might be private and romantic for intimate dinners or soft and subtle for easy unwinding. It’s not about function but feeling. Accent lights, also known as decorative lights, can also add to the look of the room, making more of a design statement through both the light fitting itself and the illumination it provides.

The good news is that you don’t have to choose one or the other. In fact, we suggest combing all three light types to illuminate different areas of the kitchen based on style, function, and ambience.

Choosing your kitchen lights

We’ve established that there are three ways to light your kitchen – general, task and accent lighting. Now let's explore how to achieve these through different types of kitchen lights.

General lighting options include pendants, ceiling lamps, and recessed downlights. Task lighting options include recessed downlights, counter and cabinet lighting, and spotlights. Accent lighting options include wall lights and strip lights.

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Kitchen spotlights

Decorative as well as functional, spotlights are one of the most versatile lights you can choose. Bar spotlights feature lights in a long series, whereas plate designs group the lights more closely together in a compact shape. With a number of lights to illuminate your kitchen, each bulb can be directed to focus the light just where you want it.

With only one light fitting, spotlights are easier and quicker to install than downlighting. And in many instances, it can be as simple as swapping your old light for a spotlight using the same fitting. This makes them a great way to update your lighting scheme and keep up with interior trends.

Sleek bar designs work brilliantly in galley kitchens and our range of stylish metallic finishes complement the industrial kitchen look. Look for unusual and unexpected shapes, such as bar, spirals, and a pop of vibrant colour for a retro, diner vibe. And for larger spaces, create coordinated zones with multi and single spotlights.

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Kitchen downlights

Set in the ceiling, recessed downlights lie flush against the surface. These kitchen ceiling lights are perfect for contemporary kitchens as they offer a clean, minimalistic look, blending in effortlessly in an unobtrusive way. Choose between fixed (flat) or adjustable ones that let you tilt the bulb.

When shopping for downlights, check their fire rating. As a hole is cut into the ceiling to fit a downlight, the ceiling’s fire integrity is compromised. To restore this, fire-rated downlights are designed to seal off the hole and work to delay the spread of fire. Our range of recessed downlights includes metallic-effect styles, such as chrome and on-trend brushed nickel, or classic white. Pick up as singles or in multipacks to get the exact number you need.

Install as many, or as few, as you fancy. We also offer a wide range of integrated LED recessed downlights. If you’re looking to add a number, it can become quite a big job. Seek help from a qualified electrician on how many to install and for fitting them in place.

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Under cabinet lighting

Lighting isn’t just for your ceiling. Illuminate your busy worktops with kitchen counter and cabinet lighting. Neatly tucked under your kitchen wall cabinets or wall shelves, they direct light just where you need it most for food preparation and other worktop tasks. When the food’s been served, enjoy as a more decorative feature that highlights the angles of your cabinetry. And if you have glazed cabinet doors, why not explore models that can fit inside your kitchen cabinets? These can add focus to pretty displays of crockery and make fast work of finding items.

Choose between small, individual counter and cabinet lights and strip lighting – or combine the two. Lighting strips can be added to any area you want, such as over worktops, beneath cabinets or added to alcoves. And they don’t need to have switches, we offer options including battery-operated, plug-in and even remotes to control them. We love ones with colour-changing technology for dinner party drama.

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Kitchen wall lights

Brighten your walls with some kitchen wall lighting. Perfect for illuminating a shelving display or for highlighting nooks and crannies. Choose a style that blends into the wall or pick one that stands out as gorgeous statement kitchen lighting. Choose from copper effect to black kitchen lights, in a range of styles, from industrial to modern.

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Kitchen pendant lighting

Make a style statement in your kitchen with a pendant light. Suspend over a table, breakfast bar or island to draw focus and create a zone; or simply hang in the centre of the ceiling for the entire room to enjoy. You could choose one showstopping pendant light, or a number in a line or grouped cluster. Hang high for a wider beam or low for a more private, intimate atmosphere thanks to ‘rise-and-fall’ pendants – there are plenty of creative options.

Our styles range from decadent multi-lamp chandeliers to hand-blown glass lamps, traditional domes to wire cages; detailed beading to sleek metallics. Explore and find the right pendant to add the finishing touch to your kitchen.

IP rating

When shopping for a kitchen light, it can help to consider its Ingress Protection (IP) rating.

IP ratings measure the effectiveness of an electrical item to seal against solid and liquid objects. This scale is especially important when applied to lighting in rooms that are prone to moisture – such as kitchens, bathrooms and wet rooms. All the cooking and cleaning of busy kitchens demands water-resistant lighting, so be sure to check your chosen light’s IP rating before buying.

Also known as the IP code or International Protection Marking, the rating is comprised of the initials IP followed by two numbers. The first number measures the protection rating against solid objects, while the more important second number indicates water-resistance. The higher the number, the more protection offered.

Here’s a breakdown of the scale for each of the second digit ratings.

Level Protected against
0 No protection
1 Dripping water
2 Dripping water when tilted at 15 degrees (°)
3 Spraying water
4 Splashing water
5 Water jets
6 Powerful water jets
7 Immersion, up to a depth of 1 metre (m)
8 Immersion, beyond 1m

 

Essentials & other ideas

Once you’ve chosen your lighting scheme, you may need a few final touches to complete your kitchen project.

buyers guide to kitchen lighting

Light switches

Pick up a light switch to complement your new lighting for a stylish and coordinated look. Consider:

  • The number of switches – you might have two or three-way switching that enables you to control one light from different locations
  • The type of switch – single, double, triple or even quadruple
  • Whether the light’s dimmable and so requires a dimmer switch
  • The shape of the switch
  • The profile – raised for greater prominence or flat for a sleek, contemporary feel
  • The finish and colour. Choose from effects such as metallics like nickel, brass, copper and steel in brushed and polished finishes, wood or high gloss in monochrome shades. Alternatively introduce some colour with moody blacks, warm mochas or just change the front plate for an instant pop of vibrant colour.
  • Framing like period detailing with an ornate frame or keep things simple without.

Light bulbs

Depending on your choice of light fitting, you might have to pick up a separate light bulb. Experiment with brightness (the number of lumens) or the colour temperature (for instance, warm versus neutral). It might be that you opt for different lighting states in different kitchen zones, such as warm and inviting in a dining area and sharp and energised in the cooking area.

For more information on light bulbs – from cap fittings to shapes, LED to lumens – head to our helpful light bulb buying guide.

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