Stylish Lighting Options for Your Kitchen Cabinets

Jacqueline Zenn
Written by Jacqueline Zenn
Updated September 24, 2021
The interior of a modern kitchen with black cabinets
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Take your kitchen from good to great by installing inside kitchen cabinet lighting that best suits your needs and space

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If you want to improve your kitchen’s organization and efficiency, installing lighting inside the cabinets can help keep things in order. By lighting up the interior, you’ll be able to see exactly what you have in your kitchen.

Organizing your kitchen cabinets—and maintaining that level of organization—can be a tough task in any circumstance. However, it’s much harder if you literally can’t see what you’re doing. That’s why one of the most surprisingly useful upgrades to your kitchen is adding lighting inside your cabinets to accent what’s inside or illuminate workspaces.

Best Kitchen Cabinet Lighting Fixtures

There are a variety of creative cabinet lighting options that you can use in and around your kitchen cabinets. Plus, it can be fairly simple to customize one or more of the various options in order to perfectly light up your kitchen.

Task Lighting vs. Accent Lighting Inside Cabinets

When designing your kitchen and inside cabinet lighting scheme, keep the purpose of the lighting in mind. Do you need the light for accents or ambiance only, or do you need to shed some light on the tasks at hand? 

If you want to showcase or accent what’s inside an open cabinet or highlight a space, you may not need especially bright bulbs or serious illumination. On the contrary, for task lighting, you’ll likely want to choose something bolder and brighter to help you see what you’re doing in the kitchen (or anywhere else).

1. Puck Lighting

A modern white kitchen with puck lighting
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These small canister lights resemble miniature spotlights that can be mounted to nearly any surface or recessed for a more seamless appearance. You can use puck lights to light up a countertop or the inside of cabinets. Place them 8 to 12 inches apart below your cabinets or center them behind a cabinet door to light up your kitchen with a scalloped or spotlight effect.

Puck lighting inside or around your glass-front or open kitchen cabinets is an excellent way to showcase some of your favorite pieces, such as a unique serving platter or glassware collection.

2. Strip Lighting or Bar Lighting

A modern open space kitchen with strip lighting
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Strip lighting or bar lighting is exactly what it sounds like: strips of light designed to fit your cabinets. This kind of lighting provides a wide and even beam of light, making for an excellent way to illuminate open or glass-front cabinets.

Bar lights or strip lights are typically used for under-cabinet lighting but they also work well to light up the interiors of cabinets for ease of use and organizational purposes.

3. Rope Lighting, Ribbon Lighting, or Tape Lighting

A modern kitchen with ambient lighting
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These are long clear flexible tubes covering a string of incandescent or LED light bulbs that illuminate areas with a soft wash of ambient light.

Often used for accent lighting, since they are not as bright as puck lights or strip lights, rope lights are available in a variety of lengths and are fairly simple to place. In fact, LED tape lights or ribbon lights typically have a peel-and-stick backing that allows you to affix them to kitchen cabinets (or anywhere else) quickly and easily.

This aspect, along with their relative affordability, makes tape lighting, ribbon lighting, or rope lighting popular with homeowners, interior designers, and remodelers. However, the plastic tubing used in rope lights may become discolored over time and can be difficult to wire in place. 

With ribbon LED lights—as in most things home improvement related—you get what you pay for, with high-end LED lights lasting longer and shining brighter. Tape lights with incandescent bulbs are also often bright and may be easier to wire and more customizable.

Best Light Bulbs for Kitchen Cabinet Lighting

Once you have the fixtures for your inside cabinet lighting in place, you need to consider the type of bulbs that work best for your kitchen situation and the amount of illumination you prefer. 

You should also consider the amount of heat the bulbs emit since that may affect the contents of your cabinets, as well as whether you need them for accent lighting or task lighting.

1. Fluorescent Light Bulbs

Cabinets and utensils in a kitchen with fluorescent lighting
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While fluorescent lighting fell out of popularity due to the annoying flickering and humming accompanied by unnatural brightness, these cool-toned bulbs have been improved and are now cost-effective, energy-efficient, and easy to install. 

However, you can’t dim fluorescent lights, but their brightness does make these bulbs suitable for task lighting.

2. Halogen Light Bulbs and Xenon Light Bulbs

The natural glow of these incandescent light bulbs has made them preferable to fluorescents. You can dim both xenon and halogen light bulbs, resulting in a warm, flattering light. 

Halogen bulbs give off a lot of heat and use more electricity than alternatives, but they are fairly inexpensive. On the other hand, xenon bulbs cost more but last significantly longer (around 6,000 to 10,000 hours versus halogen’s 2,500+ hours) and use less electricity, making them a good choice for both task lighting and accent lighting.

3. LED Lighting

Homeowners and designers are choosing LED lights with increasing frequency because they are both long-lasting—many are rated for 50,000+ hours or six years of continuous light—and energy-efficient.

They do not emit significant amounts of heat and you can dim them to various levels. While LED inside cabinet lights may cost more than alternative options, this price can be offset by savings on electricity and infrequent bulb replacements.

LED lights are available in pucks, strips, or ropes (also referred to as tapes or ribbons), and they range in color from classic white to fun colors like red, blue, pink, or anything else you might want.

Best Kitchen Cabinet Lighting Installation Methods

A bright vintage kitchen with pumpkins on the countertop
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Once you have your cabinet lights picked out, you need to install them. If you’re relatively handy and inclined to DIY, you can certainly install inside cabinet lighting yourself. Battery-powered strip, tape, or puck lighting is particularly easy to install. However, if you’d rather leave things up to the professionals, a general contractor or home maintenance professional near you can likely do the job for a few hundred dollars.

1. Hardwired Inside Cabinet Lighting

Hardwiring your lights is often the ideal way to set up lighting in your cabinets since there are no dangling cords to contend with and no batteries to replace, and you can use nearly any sort of bulb or fixture. 

While you can easily change the bulbs in existing hardwired fixtures yourself, if you need to install new hardwired lighting in your cabinets, that’s a project best left to professional electricians or cabinet contractors in your area.

2. Plug-In Inside Cabinet Lighting

This DIY solution for inside cabinet lighting is simple as long as you have readily accessible outlets. You can get plug-in lights in nearly every style of fixture and type of bulb and they don’t require cutting holes in your walls or otherwise dealing with the electrical wiring in your home. 

While you will have visible cords, if you have electrical outlets inside your cabinets or behind the counter, you can disguise the cords with cord covers and use small clips to secure them neatly in place. Placing the cord behind countertop appliances like espresso makers or stand mixers also helps.

3. Battery-Powered Inside Cabinet Lighting

Battery-powered cabinet lighting is generally only available in the form of LED or incandescent puck lights. This makes it a solid option if you only need a couple of lights and don’t want to spend too much time, effort, or money on inside cabinet lighting. 

You will need to place each light separately (they usually have stick-on backing) and deal with replacing batteries on a regular basis, but the ease and efficiency of installation is undeniable and you can add a battery-powered puck light just about anywhere.

What Is the Best Inside Cabinet Lighting for Your Kitchen?

The sort of lighting you need in your cabinets depends on your goals for the kitchen’s appearance and your needs for task lighting or similar improvements. What’s more, different types of inside kitchen cabinet lighting may be required in various areas of the kitchen. 

Consider whether you need task lighting to help you get things done or simply accent lighting to highlight your style or a combination of both to best illuminate your cabinets. Brightness, the complexity of installing various fixtures, power usage, energy efficiency of the lighting, and cost should play into the final selection.

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