How Important is Kitchen Cabinet Lighting?

We all know that a well-planned, multi-layered lighting design is a critical component of every kitchen renovation.  This should include a combination of ambient, task, accent, and decorative lighting, incorporating a range of light fixtures perhaps accompanied by a dimmer switch.  While you are picking out the perfect pendant lights to hang over your island or the ideal recessed ceiling fixtures, why not also consider lighting that will complement one of the most dominant elements of your kitchen?

Kitchen cabinets provide crucial storage, and surround key work areas like the range and countertop.  These spaces require well planned and positioned lighting to ensure that all areas are properly illuminated while also setting the right mood.  Our guide below provides an insight into where this lighting can be positioned and what effect it will have on your overall lighting scheme.

Under the Cabinets:

Under cabinet lights are a key component of any kitchen design as they provide soft, ambient lighting as well as task lighting for cooking, food preparation, and reading recipes.  This area can be lit by puck lights, which provide a more targeted, adjustable light.  A string of lights gives off a softer illumination to your countertop.  A lighting bar on the other hand is a brighter light source that covers a larger area than puck lights.  Under cabinet lights should be installed so only the light is visible, and not the fixture itself, like the kitchen pictured to the right.

The LED options available for these lights are more energy efficient and durable than traditional light bulbs, so choosing LED can be good for the environment as well as your electricity bill! Add a dimmer switch and you gain even more control over setting the mood in your kitchen. 

Inside the Cabinets:

Lighting in the cabinets can serve either a decorative or practical purpose.  Glass front cabinets may include accent lighting, which is used to illuminate special glassware or china you want to display, like this kitchen shown below left. Internal lighting in your cabinets can also serve a very practical purpose when it is included in hard to reach spaces to shed some light on the contents.  The kitchen design in New Hope, PA pictured below right uses automated lights to make sure the contents of this handy corner cabinet pull-out are always visible any time of day or night.

Over the Cabinets:

These light fixtures are installed above wall cabinets that do not extend flush to the ceiling and provide a source of soft, ambient light.  Over cabinet lights can be useful, but they serve more to set the mood in the room by affording a warm glow on the walls and ceiling.  When these light fixtures are installed as an energy efficient LED version they could even be left on during the night as the bulbs do not get too hot and the cost is minimal.

Toe Kick Lights: 

The toe kick at the bottom of your base cabinets may be the last place you would think of installing lights, but this location can be an excellent extra light source.   Strips of LED lights installed at the top of the base cabinet toe kicks give off a warm glow that can be used as extra ambient lighting or as handy night lights.  These lights can even be sensor activated so that they only turn on when someone walks into the room, providing a low level of light to illuminate the way through the kitchen or perhaps to the refrigerator for a late-night snack.

Talk to your design professional to make sure you have all areas of your cabinets well lit by your kitchen lighting scheme, or find more inspiration in our kitchen design gallery here.