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Kitchen lighting buyer's guide

Lighting is important in any room of the house, but is especially so in the kitchen, which is often used for many different functions. Whether you want to set the mood for some intimate dining, illuminate the space for some work at the kitchen table or shine a bright light on food preparation areas, flexibility is key to your lighting options. This means working different lighting styles into the heart of your design.

Lighting should be one of the first things you consider when planning your kitchen, because it may affect the style of kitchen units and worktops that you choose. Light is absorbed by textured, soft surfaces and reflected by harder, glossy ones. So if you want to make a room feel bigger you should choose materials that will reflect light around the room.

Also, no matter how effective artificial light is, most people prefer the way natural light makes their home look and feel. You should therefore take a look at your windows and try and maximise the natural light by using reflective surfaces in the places where it rests, and adding more artificial lighting options to those areas in shade. So before you start ordering those cabinets and creating your bespoke worktop, have a look through our guide to presenting your kitchen in the best possible light.

Inspiration and Advice

Lighting styles

Ceiling Lights

Ceiling lights

Ceiling lights are the traditional lighting style, with a high-wattage bulb hanging from a - usually - central point in the ceiling space. While you may not enjoy having the ceiling light on at times, it is still useful to have one available. It's a quick way to illuminate the room and you don't want to be fumbling around in dim light when you're looking for something in a hurry.

Kitchen Style


Spotlights are ideal for tasks, providing a powerful focused beam on a particular area, you can combine this with your ceiling light for a series of spotlights which, when all turned on will illuminate the whole room, but can be used individually when necessary.

Alternatively, you can use your spotlights as recessed lights. Placing a small bulb in the bottom of your upper kitchen cabinets, for example, gives you concentrated task lighting for food preparation at the flick of a switch.


Uplighters are great for creating intimate moods, by directing light onto the ceiling; the light that fills the room is therefore the more delicate reflected light rather than that coming straight from the bulb. Uplighters can also be used as a feature, such as along the edge of bookshelves to provide soft accentuating lighting for books or vases.

Kitchen Down Lights


Downlights can also be used as a feature, and look especially striking when used along the overhanging edge of a kitchen island, softly illuminating the units down to the floor.

Another good way to achieve mood lighting is through wall lamps - two low-wattage bulbs in attractive lamps will sit beautifully over a dining area, providing a really intimate atmosphere. Desk and floor lamps are also useful for occasional use, although typically these must be turned on and off at the lamp itself; as this can make them inconvenient they should perhaps be a back-up to some of the other lighting styles discussed here.

Lastly, very-low-wattage bulbs can be used to provide illumination in tucked-away cupboards. These can be activated by a small sensor so then turn on and off automatically when the door is opened and closed.

Choosing your bulbs

Choosing your bulbs

Once you have decided on some lighting styles, you need to decide which types of bulbs to use in the various places. There are no right or wrong answers - it is down to personal taste - but here is a quick look at your options.

Tungsten bulbs are gradually being phased out for longer-lasting, more energy-efficient halogen bulbs. These give instantaneous bright light, while another advantage is that they can be used in conjunction with a dimmer switch, making them useful for ceiling lights and lamps.

For a bulb that will cut down on your energy usage and last up to four times longer than a halogen one, choose a compact fluorescent bulb. However, these can take up to a minute to reach full power and do not have a dimming function.

LED lights are the most advanced option, are very energy efficient and have by far the longest lifespan. They reach full illumination instantly and can be dimmed, while their small size means they are ideal for task lights recessed into units. The only drawback is that because they are so advanced, they are more expensive.

All these lightbulb types are available as either spot or strip lights - the former are usually preferred for task areas and the latter for accentuating feature lighting.