16 Bright Ideas to Upgrade Your Kitchen Lighting

Dina Cheney
Written by Dina Cheney
Updated October 29, 2021
A modern kitchen with an island and a skylight
John Keeble/Moment via Getty Images

These bright ideas for kitchen lighting will instantly upgrade your home

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Lighting is often an afterthought in kitchen renovations, but it’s a crucial aspect of your home’s style. After all, illumination is crucial to the design and function of the space. You can always pursue a traditional lighting plan, like a chandelier over the dining nook, pendants over the island, and recessed lights over the remainder of the space. Or you can get creative and opt for unexpected choices. 

To come up with a practical and stylish plan for your kitchen lighting, read on for ideas and inspiration.

1. Skylights

When considering kitchen lighting ideas, don’t forget natural light. A dramatic way to flood your kitchen with sunlight is to install a skylight. This strategy is especially smart for smaller kitchens, as it can make the space seem more expansive.

2. Hydroponic Lights

An indoor hydroponic system in a kitchen
Vidu Gunaratna - stock.adobe.com

Interior living walls and indoor vertical gardens are becoming more popular. If you install a hydroponic garden in your kitchen, you can grow herbs or small vegetables without soil, all year round. 

In addition to producing your own food, you’ll be adding color and illumination to your space. To simulate sunlight in your indoor garden, you’ll need to install grow lights (also called hydroponic lights). Although many of these lights look industrial, it’s now possible to find stylish options.

3. Atypical Fixtures

When it comes to kitchen lighting, some obvious choices are recessed lights and undercabinet lights. To make more of a statement and have some fun, try an unexpected fixture. Articulated lights or spotlight sconces are two fresh kitchen lighting ideas to highlight artwork on the walls or collectibles on shelves.

4. Fixtures in Unexpected Locations

A cozy kitchen with a chandelier in the background
Johner Images via Getty Images

Normally, pendants are hung over islands and chandeliers over breakfast nooks or dining spaces. Instead, try a chandelier over your island and a series of small ceiling pendants over your sink. If you currently have recessed lights over your sink, it’s easy to replace them with a pendant using a recessed light converter kit.

5. Colorful Accents

 A waterfall kitchen island with pendant lights above it
bmak - stock.adobe.com

Make your light fixtures accent pieces. Try a mint green, royal blue, or dramatic gold pendant over your island or an orange chandelier over your dining nook. Just be sure that the hue fits into your overall kitchen color scheme.

6. Natural Materials

Light fixtures often feature metal and glass. For a more organic, soft look, consider purchasing fixtures with natural materials, like jute or shells. These boho chandeliers and pendants are especially ideal for kitchens in coastal or woodsy settings.

7. High-Tech Features

Lighting has become more sophisticated technologically. For your kitchen, consider an advanced system with mobile device-connected, motion sensor, or voice-activated lighting.

8. Interior Cabinet Lighting

Interior cabinet lighting displaying glassware
denisismagilov - stock.adobe.com

If you plan to display collectibles, like blue ware or crystal, in your upper cabinets, light their interiors. This smart kitchen lighting idea will add drama and illumination.

9. Mixed-Up Fixtures

For a dynamic, slightly adventurous look, install two different pairs of pendants in your kitchen. Try one set above your sink and another over your island. When going this route, choose fixtures in different materials, such as one set in glass and another in metal or jute.

10. Under Cabinet Lighting

Under cabinet lighting in a modern white kitchen
alexandre zveiger - stock.adobe.com

New trend alert: 60% of kitchen designers surveyed by The National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) predict that under cabinet lighting will be extremely popular over the next three years. 

This subtle approach provides helpful task lighting and can showcase backsplashes that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. As an added plus, under cabinet lights are easy to install.

11. Recessed Lighting

 Recessed lighting in a spacious kitchen
opticalearth - stock.adobe.com

Recessed lights or downlights are fixtures installed in ceilings, which concentrate light in a downward direction. Since they’re almost invisible (unless you look up at the ceiling), they’re a stealth light source. Because of the extremely low profile, this type of lighting works in any space, but especially in contemporary and modern rooms.

12. Pendant Lighting

These lone light fixtures (also called drop lights) hang from the ceiling by a cord, chain, or metal rod. Either hung singly or in multiples, these fixtures typically include one or two light bulbs. Since pendant lights come in so many styles, they can work in any room and often appear in kitchens (over islands) and bathrooms.

13. Chandeliers

A luxurious kitchen with a chandelier
Galina Zhigalova - stock.adobe.com

These branched ornamental light fixtures typically hang from the ceiling by a cord, chain, or metal rod. Hung singly, they include multiple light bulbs and come in a variety of styles. Chandeliers are often placed in foyers, over dining tables, and in primary bedrooms and can serve as the focal point of a room, making this a stylish kitchen lighting idea for your home.

14. Track Lighting

With track lighting, small fixtures are attached to a continuous track or rail device containing electrical conductors. Similar to recessed lighting, track lighting is installed on the ceiling, but is a bit more visible. Although there are multiple style options, track lighting tends to work best in contemporary or modern spaces.

15. Floor and Table Lamps

A table lamp on the dining table in the kitchen
adpePhoto - stock.adobe.com

These standalone light sources work well in traditional, country, or cottage-style homes. Many look like pieces of sculpture and can make a real design statement. They’re also extremely functional, especially in cozy spaces where you often don’t want bright light, like bedrooms, dens, or offices. Since they shine light in a smaller area, they illuminate rooms in a more soft, subtle way.

16. Surface Lights

The last kitchen lighting idea on our list is surface lights, which are mounted to the ceiling or wall. If they barely protrude, they’re described as flush-mount (or semi-flush mount if they protrude slightly more).

Surface lights mounted to the wall are sometimes called sconces and usually direct light upwards and outwards. Both types of fixtures are available in styles to suit any room. That said, ceiling-mounted fixtures look best in contemporary spaces and sconces shine in formal, traditional rooms.

Still not sure what type of kitchen lighting would look best in your home? Consult with an interior lighting design pro in your area.

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