Bright Ideas: 6 Must-Have Kitchen Lighting Solutions

by Penglight | Date: 22th June 2024

6 Must-Have Kitchen Lighting Solutions - Penglight

Lighting can make or break the ambiance and functionality of your kitchen. Whether you’re dealing with inadequate task lighting, outdated fixtures, or simply want to refresh the look of your cooking space, finding the right kitchen lighting solutions can be a daunting task. In this comprehensive guide, we’ve curated 6 bright ideas – the must-have kitchen lighting solutions that will elevate your space and make meal prep a joy.

Layering Kitchen Lighting

Before we dive into the 6 must-have kitchen lighting solutions, it’s important to understand the different types of lighting that can be used in a kitchen. Choosing the right combination of lighting types is key to creating a well-lit and functional cooking space. In other words, you need to layer your kitchen lighting with multiple types of lighting fixtures to achieve the best lighting effects and create a well-balanced, functional space.

In order to fully illuminate a kitchen and create the desired ambiance, it’s crucial to layer diverse lighting fixtures. Relying on a single lighting source simply won’t provide the depth, versatility, and functionality that a modern kitchen requires. By incorporating various lighting types, you can achieve the perfect balance of task lighting, ambient lighting, and accent lighting.

Here’s why layering kitchen lighting is so important:

Ambient Lighting

Ambient lighting, also known as primary lighting or general lighting, often provided by recessed ceiling fixtures or flush mount ceiling light, casts a warm, even glow throughout the kitchen. This creates an inviting atmosphere and can make the space feel larger and more open.

Accent Lighting

Accent lighting adds visual interest, depth, and drama to the kitchen. It’s used to highlight architectural details, decorative elements, or specific features like artwork or cabinetry. Wall sconces, pendant lights, undercabinet lights, and track lighting are great accent lighting solutions.

Task Lighting

Strategically placed task lighting, such as under-cabinet lights or pendant lights over the island, ensures you have ample illumination for meal preparation, cooking, and cleanup. This targeted lighting eliminates shadows and improves visibility in key work zones.

By layering these three key lighting types – task, ambient, and accent – you can achieve a well-rounded, professionally designed look in your kitchen. The right combination will not only improve functionality, but also elevate the aesthetic and ambiance of the space.

Striking the Right Balance

The key to a well-designed kitchen lighting plan is striking the perfect balance between task, ambient, and accent lighting. Each type of lighting serves a distinct purpose, and by layering them appropriately, you can create a highly functional and aesthetically pleasing space.

As a general guideline, the ideal kitchen lighting plan will layer these three elements in a cohesive way:

  • Task lighting should account for 50-60% of the total lighting
  • Ambient lighting should make up 30-40%
  • Accent lighting should comprise the remaining 10-20%

This balanced approach ensures you have ample light for work zones, a comfortable overall glow, and strategic highlights that elevate the kitchen’s aesthetic. However, the optimal proportions can vary depending on factors like:

Kitchen Size: Larger kitchens may require a higher percentage of general lighting to ensure even, consistent illumination. Smaller kitchens may be able to allocate more to task and accent lighting.

Ceiling Height: Kitchens with higher ceilings often benefit from increased ambient light to fill the vertical space, whereas kitchens with lower ceilings may rely more on task and accent lighting.

Natural Light: Kitchens with generous natural light from windows or skylights may need less ambient lighting, allowing you to focus more on strategic task and accent lighting.

Design Style: Contemporary or minimalist kitchens may skew towards a higher percentage of ambient lighting, while traditional or industrial styles may incorporate more accent lighting.

Personal Preference: Ultimately, the right lighting balance comes down to your own aesthetic preferences and how you use the kitchen space.

6 Types of Kitchen Lighting Solutions

Now we know the principle of how to layer the kitchen lighting, let’s review the specific lighting solutions we can use to create that perfect balance in the kitchen.

1. Recessed Ceiling Lighting

Recessed lighting is the must-have lighting in the kitchen. It is essential as the foundational ceiling lighting solution in almost every modern kitchen. Recessed ceiling lights cast an even, ambient glow throughout the entire kitchen space. This helps eliminate dark corners and creates a bright, welcoming atmosphere. When used as the foundational lighting layer, recessed fixtures ensure the kitchen is illuminated evenly and adequately. You can then build upon this base by adding targeted task lighting, decorative pendants, and accent lighting as needed.

Recessed Ceiling Light for Kitchen

Ensenior 6 Inch Dimmable Recessed Ceiling Light

This is the most common and popular recessed ceiling light used in the kitchen. It’s available in 2 sizes: 4-inch with 9w and 6-inch with 12w. The main feature of this light is its practicability in changing color and dimming the light.

It has 5 color temperatures: 2700K, 3000K, 3500K, 4000K, and 5000K to adjust, and it’s compatible with most Lutron dimmers for smooth dimming of brightness from 5% to 100%. All in all, this ceiling panel light is the standard configuration that you must have in your kitchen lighting portfolio.

2. Under-Cabinet Lighting

As the name suggests, under-cabinet lighting is installed underneath your kitchen cabinets. This provides valuable task lighting for food preparation areas and cooking activities, making it easier to see what you’re doing on the countertops. Under-cabinet lights also help brighten the overall space.

While recessed ceiling lights are excellent for providing ambient, overall illumination, under-cabinet task lighting is crucial for making the kitchen workspace truly functional and usable. The two lighting types work best in concert, with under-cabinet lights complementing and enhancing the broader coverage of the recessed fixtures.

Under cabinet lights is the second must-have kitchen lighting, why? You may want to check further on Why Under Cabinet Lighting Is Required For the Kitchen. 

ASOKO 3 Colors Under Cabinet Light USB Plug-in

ASOKO 3 Colors Under Cabinet Light USB Plug-in

The Asoko under cabinet light is sturdy, easy to install, movable, and versatile. It comes with small metal adhesive brackets, and the light is magnetized on the ends, which makes it easy to connect to the metal brackets and also easy to remove if you want to move it.

We also like the adjustable 3 color temperatures: warm white 2700K, daylight white 4500K, and cool white 6000K. It’s more comfortable for our eyes to use daylight in the daytime, and warm light in the nighttime. The brightness is dimmable too. It has a memory function, when you turn on the light next time it gives off the same brightness.

Compared to the battery-powered under cabinet light, USB plug-in power ensures the light has uninterrupted working time, letting you concentrate on your cooking.

3. Pendant Lights

Pendant lights can be used to create a focal point and add visual interest to the kitchen. Hang above the kitchen island or over the dining areas, they come in a wide variety of designs that can drastically impact the overall look and feel of a kitchen. The pendant light style you choose should not only complement your kitchen’s overall aesthetic but also contribute to the layered lighting design. For example, you may opt for a sleek, minimalist pendant over the island for task lighting, while using a more decorative lantern-style fixture to provide ambient lighting elsewhere in the space.

KLSS Clear Glass Pendant Light for Kitchen Island

KLSS Clear Glass Pendant Light for Kitchen Island

The clear glass cylinder pendant light is one of the favorite types to install above the kitchen island. Its minimal and modern design makes it the most frequently used kitchen pendant lighting. Usually, this pendant light can be installed in a single as a kitchen sink light or 3 sets in a group as pendant lights hung above the kitchen island or bar counter.

It has 3 metal color options: brushed nickel, brass, and black, and in addition to the cylinder glass shape, it also has a cone type. You have many options to choose the lamp style that matches your kitchen’s overall theme.

As the light has a clear glass cover, we suggest using the 2700K warm soft light for a comfortable visual experience. It works well with any E26 base LED bulb, smart WIFI bulbs, triac dim A90 bulb, and dimmer.

4. Track Lighting

Track lighting consists of a continuous track mounted to the ceiling with adjustable light heads, which allows you to position and aim lights where needed, such as over the countertops, islands, or specific zones. They can also be used to create accent lighting by highlighting cabinets or shelves.

Track lighting can be a great choice for kitchens that need highly flexible, customizable task and accent lighting. But it’s not necessarily a must-have in every kitchen design and should be evaluated alongside other lighting solutions based on the specific needs and design goals of your kitchen.

Globe Electric 4-Light Adjustable Track Lighting

Globe Electric 4-Light Adjustable Track Lighting

This Globe electric track lighting features 4 movable track light heads that allow you to point the light exactly where you need it. It includes a 56″ long track rail, one power feed for plug-in, and 4 track heads. The track light uses replaceable light sources – 4x GU10/Twist and Click Base MR16 Bulbs, for easy maintenance. It also has several color options – brass, white, and black color to choose.

5. Undercounter Lighting

Undercounter lighting is installed underneath the main countertops, they are often used to create a soft, ambient glow along the toe kick area or to highlight the counter’s edge. The main purpose of under counter lighting is to provide accent lighting and decorative illumination along the base of the counters. LED strip lights are a popular choice for under counter lighting, as they can be easily installed in a continuous run. For your further comparison, we have written an ultimate guide on various under cabinet lighting: 15 Best Under Cabinet Lights (Ultimate Guide).

WOBANE Under Counter LED Strip Lighting kit

WOBANE Under Counter LED Strip Lighting kit

Under count lighting is usually installed beneath the counter where the light fixture is not visible or it needs to be hidden, so the appearance of the lamp itself is of little amount. The installation position is also limited, normally installed to the edge of the counter, therefore, we suggest using the slim and flexible LED strip lights.

This WOBANE LED string lighting comes in 6 PCS pre-cut strips, a total 9.8ft. Each strip is a connection option, enabling you to connect them flexibly according to the actual length of the counter or cabinet. It’s a remote control for On/off and stepless dimming within 60 feet control distance.

6. Decorative Lighting

Decorative lighting includes fixtures like chandeliers, wall sconces, or statement pendants, they are used to add decorative elements and enhance the kitchen’s aesthetic. By sprinkling in these decorative lighting solutions alongside your functional task and ambient lighting, you can craft a kitchen that is not only highly practical, but also visually captivating. This design approach allows you to seamlessly merge functional and decorative lighting for a cohesive, high-impact result.

YISDESIGN Dimmable Wooden Linear Pendant Island Light

YISDESIGN Wooden Linear Pendant Island Light

Decorative lighting used in the kitchen space has various designs and options, everyone has different preferences. If you’re looking for a clean, environmentally designed light to fit your kitchen island or dining table, we highly recommend this Yisdesign wooden linear pendant light. It’s made of real wood material, with four-time surface treatment processing, and the wood is not spliced.

You can use the remote to adjust color and brightness to create your favorite ambiance. The remote covers every range of color temperature and dims beautifully. It has 3000k, 4000k, and 6000k options, and the highest brightness is up to 36w, CRI>85. This wooden pendant light is also the #1 Best Seller in Island Lights.


Crafting an effective kitchen lighting plan requires thoughtfully integrating task, ambient, and accent lighting. By carefully balancing these three essential elements, you can create a highly functional and visually appealing space. As a trusted authority in the residential lighting industry, Penglight has shared hundreds of expertise to guide our customers through this process. So, whether you’re undertaking a kitchen renovation or simply looking to optimize your existing lighting, we will be here to help you fulfill it.