6 kitchen lighting mistakes and how to avoid them

When it comes to lighting, kitchens can be tricky spaces to get right. These days, kitchens are often multi-purpose places – used for everything from preparing and cooking food, to entertaining guests and even working from home – so there’s a lot to think about in lighting terms.

Here’s our guide to some of the most common kitchen lighting mishaps, together with some top tips for kitchen island pendants and for making your kitchen lighting scheme work for you...


Kitchen lighting mistake #1: Overlighting your kitchen

There’s no disputing that you need plenty of light in a kitchen. However, it’s actually possible to have too much light – or more specifically, too much of the wrong kind of lighting – in your kitchen!

Downlights and recessed lights can be particular culprits here. While they provide good general – or ambient – lighting, having too many downlights in a kitchen can lead to your space feeling harsh and clinical, while some areas will still be insufficiently lit or cast into shadow. To get a good balance of ambient light in your kitchen, you need to make sure that the light is cast as evenly as possible throughout the space.

So try holding back on those grids of recessed downlights and instead supplementing them with other forms of ambient lighting, such as pendant lights, wall lights and under-cabinet lights. These will reflect light off the ceiling and walls and create a more balanced effect.

To find out more about getting the right amount of overall light in your kitchen, see our guide: How much light do you need in a room?

Pooky’s Cookie pendant lights in kitchen by The Wedding Present Co


Kitchen lighting mistake #2: Forgetting about task lighting

As well as considering how much ambient light you need in your kitchen, it’s also important to take into account the practical requirements of the space. All too often, a kitchen has plenty of overall light, but not enough targeted practical lighting – or task lighting – in the areas where it’s most needed.

Relying too much on general ambient lighting can result in shadows and contrast where you least want them. Overhead cabinets can block the light from above, leading to dark worktops, and placing a single pendant or a set of downlights directly above the counters or sink can create shadows when you’re working in those areas.

When creating your kitchen lighting scheme, you should think about how you’ll be using each part of the space and light it accordingly. It’s essential to have enough task lighting in the key cooking and food preparation areas, including the counters, the cooker and the sink.

With some well-positioned task lighting, you can help eradicate contrast and dark spots and make sure your kitchen works for you. Including a range of wall lights, spotlights and under-cabinet lighting will help to provide a functional, well-lit working space.


Kitchen lighting mistake #3: Using the wrong size light fittings

Another common kitchen lighting faux pas is choosing disproportionate light fittings. When you’re choosing lighting for your kitchen, it’s important to think about the size and dimensions of your space. Otherwise, you could end up with a light fitting that not only looks wrong, but won’t provide the best light for the space.

While a statement pendant light can look fabulous in the right place, that beautiful oversized chandelier may not have quite the same effect when it’s hanging over the kitchen sink! Equally, suspending a single small pendant light over a large table will leave the space looking both underlit and underwhelming.

As a handy rule of thumb, you can work out the right size of pendant or chandelier for a kitchen island or table by measuring the width of the narrowest part, and opting for a light fitting that’s a foot smaller in diameter. So with a bit of forward planning, you can still make a stunning style statement.

Kitchen lighting mistake #4: Getting the colour temperature wrong

As well as choosing the right light fittings for your kitchen, it’s also important to take into account the ‘colour temperature’ of your lightbulbs. There’s nothing like walking into a lovely kitchen and being greeted by a sea of harsh fluorescent lighting, which can be both unwelcoming and uncomfortable.

Light is measured on the Kelvin colour temperature scale (K), which refers to how ‘warm’ or ‘cold’ the light appears. Warm, yellowish light is found at the lower end of the scale (2700-3000K), while cooler bluish white light is found at the higher end (over 5000K).

In a kitchen, you need plenty of functional lighting, but equally you don’t want the room to feel cold, harsh or overly bright. As a general rule, it’s best to aim for lightbulbs with colour temperatures of around 3500-4000K. These will provide plenty of good quality lighting for carrying out practical tasks, without being overwhelming or making your kitchen feel soulless.

Read more about choosing the right lightbulb in our guide.

Beautiful light layering by @strikeme_pink, featuring Pooky's Larger Scallop glass pendants and Zeus chandelier


Kitchen lighting mistake #5: Not layering your light

As we’ve seen, when lighting a kitchen you need to have plenty of good quality ambient and task lighting. However, people often overlook the third main type of lighting – accent lighting. While practical lighting is essential, it’s also important to be able to create the right mood and atmosphere within your kitchen space.

In fact, the most effective kitchen lighting schemes include a combination of these three types of lighting – this is known as layering light. By creating different layers of lighting, you can benefit from brighter, more targeted ambient and task lighting during the day, and then introduce a layer of softer, low level accent lighting when it’s time for relaxing or entertaining.

A set of wall lights will provide lovely warm accents and a cosy, intimate feel that’s perfect for a dinner party or family get-together. Meanwhile, some feature lighting on shelves or glass cabinets can showcase any favourite pieces. Finally, a set of decorative table lamps or floor lamps will provide atmospheric background lighting while adding some extra wow factor!

Kitchen lighting mistake #6: Disregarding dimmers

Dimmers are an easy and effective way of providing multiple lighting options in a room, but when it comes to kitchens they’re often disregarded.

We’ve already seen how important it is to provide the right amount of light in the right places, and how layering your lighting can help to create mood and atmosphere. Dimmer switches offer you ultimate flexibility and control of your kitchen lighting scheme, allowing you to dial things down as the mood requires.

Installing a set of dimmers will enable you to create different zones within your kitchen space, adding depth and character and ensuring that you have exactly the right amount of illumination where you need it at any one time, for the perfect atmosphere.


Pooky make beautiful lights for lovely homes. View our kitchen island pendant lights here and browse our full range of pendant lights here.


See also:

How to light a kitchen effectively and beautifully

How to light a kitchen island