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Choose the right lighting for every spot in your kitchen

The right lighting can make or break your kitchen. For both functionality and decor, you must incorporate several types of lighting, including task lighting, accent lighting, ambient lighting and finally decorative lighting. Feeling overwhelmed? Let us help with tips to find dual-purpose lighting that creates the right atmosphere and mood for good food and great memories in the kitchen.

A well-lit kitchen has the right mix of task lighting, to allow you to dice and slice, as well as ambient and accent lighting to give your kitchen that cozy feel. If your kitchen only has task lighting, you feel as if you have a spotlight on you at all times — and if you only have ambient and accent lighting, then you feel like you are cooking in the dark. The secret is finding the right blend.

Task lighting

Task lighting is the most important component as it is the bright light that allows you to see while cooking or reading recipes. This type of lighting needs to be wherever you are preparing food. Interior designer Nicole Sassaman, author of 100 Sassy Tips, says that a bright light over the kitchen sink that operates on its own switch is a good idea. “White light which is the brightest and is best for the kitchen. You can even switch yellow bulbs to white halogen ones and really brighten things up a bit,” she says.

You should also consider task lighting over the kitchen island or over the cabinets, as well as in the pantry. Some great task lighting options include puck lights or strip lights. The picture above shows strip lighting over the island and near the range to allow plenty of light when whipping up tasty dishes.

Ambient lighting

Ambient lighting creates that cozy and welcoming feel of a kitchen and is found over the island and near the countertops. After all, no one likes to enjoy a meal sitting under bright lights. Especially with today’s open floor plans where the kitchen is open to the living room, ambient lighting is even more important.

Your task lighting actually can be ambient lighting by simply putting those lights on a dimmer switch, which allows you to lower the lights. Other examples of ambient lighting include pendant-hung light fixtures (like over the island or table), wall sconces, track lighting or flush-mounted ceiling fixtures.

Accent lighting

Accent lighting takes the look and feel of your kitchen up a notch and really gives it that custom or designer look. Track lighting or recessed light fixtures can draw attention to art fixtures, tile work or decorative work on the ceiling.

The LED accent lighting in this kitchen gives the whole space a clean, modern look.


Decorative lighting includes a beautiful chandelier, rustic wall sconce or funky hanging light fixture that brings out the character of the kitchen. This is the perfect way to set the theme of your kitchen, from modern to rustic to retro.

Making it all work together

Make your lighting multi-functional by having your task lighting also work as ambient or accent lighting. Your accent lighting, such as a cool wall sconce, can also create a nice decorative touch if a chandelier or hanging pendant is out of your budget.

“The best way to create a cozy feeling with lighting in your kitchen is through using the right switches to be able to set different dramatic moods with the lighting,” says Sassaman. “Choosing the center of the kitchen, or over a bar or island to add decorative chandeliers or pendant lighting is another great way to create style and warmth.”

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