How to light a kitchen effectively and beautifully


Ensure your kitchen is both practically and gorgeously lit, with our guide...

It’s the heart of the home, especially if it’s a big open plan kitchen-diner. A place to cook and eat meals, entertain friends, do homework, conduct very important family meetings and ‘enjoy’ Zoom calls. Having the right lighting in your kitchen is essential – and not only for practical reasons. A well-designed lighting scheme can really help to make the most of your kitchen, adding depth and space, and making a sensational style statement.

What's the best kind of lighting for a kitchen?

Most kitchens are multipurpose spaces so you need lighting that’s both practical and flexible. The best kitchen lighting scheme will include a range of different types of lighting, which allow you to carry out practical everyday tasks while also creating the perfect mood and ambience for relaxing or entertaining.

How much light do you need in a kitchen?

Kitchens generally require a stronger level of lighting than a sitting room or bedroom. The exact amount of light required will depend on the size and layout of the space, but as a general rule of thumb, a kitchen will normally need around 70-80 lumens (units of light) per square foot. You can work out roughly how much overall light you need in your kitchen, by multiplying the length and width of the room to get the square footage, and then multiplying this figure by the number of lumens. (You can find out more about lumens in our guide: How much light do you need in a room?.)


Pooky's Thea pendant in kitchen by Herringbone Kitchens

Layering light in a kitchen

It’s not just the amount of light that’s important in the kitchen, but also the type of lighting. When planning your kitchen lighting, you need to think about the different ways in which you want to use the space. You can create a range of different moods and effects by mixing different types of lighting within your kitchen. Lighting is divided into three main types: ambient, task and accent lighting: Ambient lighting refers to the general level of available light in a room, including the main light (such as the ceiling light), any natural light from windows or skylights, plus light coming from other sources such as spotlights, lamps or wall lights. Task lighting provides stronger, more targeted light which allows you to carry out daily tasks, such as chopping food, preparing and cooking meals, or doing the washing up. Finally, accent lighting can be used to highlight certain features or areas within a room, and to create mood and atmosphere for a more relaxed and intimate atmosphere. By layering your lighting, you can make your kitchen a space that’s practical, welcoming and uber stylish. (Read our guide to layering light in the home here.)

Kitchen pendant lights: providing task lighting in a kitchen

Cooking - and other kitchen business - requires targeted task lighting in the key working areas. Pendant lights come in a huge range of styles and materials to suit any style of kitchen – from traditional glass and crystal, to cool ceramics, sleek and shiny metals, and industrial style concrete, so you can create exactly the right look and feel for your space. Aim to position your pendants so that the light is cast as evenly as possible throughout the space. To supplement your ambient lighting, you will need targeted task lighting in the main cooking and preparation areas. Think adjustable spotlights, recessed lighting and undercabinet lights fitted above the sink and cooker, over the counters, and any other areas where you’re preparing or serving food. These will provide effective, focused light and help to reduce any unwanted shadows, as well as contributing to the amount of overall light in the kitchen.


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

Lighting different zones within a kitchen

A good lighting scheme can help to define and highlight different zones within your kitchen space, such as a kitchen island or a dining area. The right lighting over your kitchen island can really make a bold design statement, which sets the tone for the rest of the space. Pendant lights are the best choice. As well as providing a great source of practical downlight, they look simply stunning suspended over a kitchen island! The right fitting will really set off your pendant lights beautifully too – you can view our range of designer ceiling light fittings here. You should aim to hang your pendant lights around 30-36 inches from the top of the island, and around two feet apart. Odd numbers also work particularly well – try a row of three or five pendants; or for a touch of drama try hanging your lights in a cluster, or placing them at different heights. (You can find out more about lighting a kitchen island in our guide.) Meanwhile, if your kitchen includes a dining area, some well-chosen lighting can create an attractive focal point which helps to define the area as a zone in its own right. To add interest and help draw the eye, try placing a striking low-hanging pendant light over the dining table – this works particularly well in a larger space, or a kitchen with high ceilings. Or why not make a real design statement, with a showpiece designer chandelier...


Kitchen by The Style Fairy, featuring Pooky's Luxor lanterns

Creating mood and atmosphere in a kitchen

As well as making sure you have enough ambient and task lighting, you also need to be able to dial things down when occasion demands. For example, a dining area within the kitchen will benefit from some softer, low level accent lighting for mealtimes and after-dinner chilling. A set of wall lights will provide a lovely, warm ambience: uplighters will help to wash light upwards along the wall and towards the ceiling, giving a more open feeling to smaller spaces, or those with lower ceilings, while downlighters will help to create a cosier feeling in a larger space. Meanwhile, placing some feature lighting on shelves, inside glass cabinets, or in alcoves or corners can be used to showcase architectural features or favourite pieces of artwork, as well as contributing additional background lighting. Finally, for extra flexibility, including some dimmer switches will allow you to vary the light levels according to the activity and time of day. Combining different sources and levels of lighting in this way will help to make your kitchen a beautiful and practical space.

Other ways of creating light and space in a kitchen

In addition to your chosen lighting scheme, for smaller kitchens, those with lower ceilings, or kitchens lacking in natural light, choosing a lighter colour scheme can also help to lift and extend the space. Meanwhile, using high gloss paints and finishes for the walls, floors, counters and units – and even the appliances – can help to reflect the light and make a smaller or darker kitchen feel bigger and more open. A few strategically placed mirrors are another great way of helping to maximise the available light. Place them next to or opposite windows or feature lights to help bounce the light around the space. Complete the look with a reflective copper pendant, a sparkling glass lampshade, or a stylish exposed filament lightbulb for designer kitchen heaven.


At Pooky, we make beautiful, affordable designer lighting for beautiful homes. Browse our range of lamps, pendants and shades here.

Image top: Lonike Chande