Kitchen Lighting Tips

Gone are the days when kitchens had a single overhead light fixture and that was it. In today’s homes kitchen lighting is an important element that contributes greatly to the look and functionality of the space.

Well-designed kitchen lighting with different options and controls will add great value to your kitchen and offer a very good ROI (return on investment). So whether you’re redoing your entire kitchen or you just want to make some minor improvements, consider upgrading your lighting scheme.

Scott McGillivray Lighting Collection – Alton

The Three Types of Lighting


General lighting is just that – it provides a room with overall illumination. General lighting is also sometimes called ambient light. In a kitchen the general lighting is usually provided by pot lights or an overhead fixture.


Task lighting is lighting that’s focused on a specific area in order to help you preform specific tasks. In a kitchen this is usually at the sink, over the counters, over the stove, and around any other work surfaces.


Accent lighting is light that’s focused on a specific area in order to highlight it. In a kitchen accent light could be used to highlight the items in glass cabinet. While not as important for illumination in a kitchen, the right accent light can help draw attention to specific areas and set a particular mood.

Best Lighting for Kitchens

Pot Lights

Pot lights are ideal for kitchens, but proper planning is essential. Each light should be 20-23” away from the perimeter of the walls so that they shine on countertops but are not blocked by upper cabinets and crown moulding. (The number of pot lights you need will depend on the size of your kitchen.) These lights will offer a good amount of general light but some task lighting will still likely be needed.


Valance (under cabinet) Lighting

Since countertops are usually 25 inches deep and 12 inches are covered by upper cabinets, extra lighting is often necessary. Valance, or under-cabinet lights are a great solution. These will put light where you need it most. Just be sure to have the valance lights wired in if possible, otherwise the cords hanging down will ruin the look of your kitchen. You can see a tutorial on how to do it on my YouTube channel.

Under Cabinet Lighting

Pendant Lights

Pendant lights are great for hanging over islands to create even more task lighting. They’re also great from a decorative perspective. Typically pendants should be placed 30″ to 36″ above the countertop, or 72″ above the floor. As a general rule you should install one pendant for every two feet of counter space.

Scott McGillivray Lighting Collection – Newport


Chandeliers are becoming increasingly popular as a decorative element in kitchens. The general rule for hanging is the same as for pendants – the bottom of the fixture should hang between 30″ and 36″ from the tabletop. If it’s hanging in an area with no table underneath you’ll want to go higher. Make sure it’s at least 7’ off the ground so people can walk freely underneath it.

Scott McGillivray Lighting Collection – Alton 

Lighting Tips

  • Install dimmer switches on every single light in the kitchen. It allows for greater flexibility, altering the amount of light in different areas at different times.
  • Look for range hoods that have lights built into them. It’s a great way to illuminate the work area over and around the stove.
  • Add extra lighting over the sink. Even though many sinks are built under windows you’ll still need light at night.
  • Careful if you’re using halogen bulbs in your recessed lighting (either in low ceilings or under the cabinets) as they can get hot and make you uncomfortable.
Range Hood Light

Lighting is an important part of any kitchen design and should be given the proper amount of thought and consideration. When your lighting isn’t up to par it can be dangerous and it can look less appealing to prospective buyers. If you’re concerned about getting top dollar when selling your home, a well-lit kitchen is a must.

The Scott McGillivray lighting collection is available through Home Hardware stores across Canada.

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