Modern kitchen lighting ideas – ways with spotlights, pendants, LEDs and more

Good lighting is so crucial in a kitchen – for setting the mood, for cooking and so much more

A versatile modern kitchen requires a layered and responsive lighting scheme that can keep up with changing demands as day turns to night. That's why our modern kitchen lighting ideas are worth investigating.

Expansive glass doors and skylights in a spacious kitchen extension will flood the space with natural light but you will still need shadow-free task lighting over prep areas as well as ambient light for social spaces as darkness falls.

The best schemes combine all the key lighting types – general, task, ambient and decorative – creating depth, marking out different zones and to help with clear and safe passage through the space.

One or two switches won’t be enough. Put different types of lighting on separate circuits and, if budget allows, opt for pre-programming on a system such as Crestron or Lutron, putting a change the mood at the press of a button. ‘Increasingly, our clients are opting for self-adjusting lighting systems that activate in response to the amount of natural light available, ensuring the balance of lighting is always right,’ says John Butler, designer at Elements Kitchen Design.

Finally consider the warmth of the bulb. The cooler end of the spectrum gives brilliant task lighting while warmer whites will make a seating area feel inviting.

MODERN KITCHEN LIGHTING IDEAS

1. LAYER LIGHT

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(Image credit: Harvey Jones)

A complex room such as a living-kitchen will demand different light levels for a range of activities. In this design, track lighting washes walls with soft light by evening and has more focused spots, pendants and task lighting where needed.

‘There is nothing worse than a dimly lit work area,’ says Melissa Klink, Head of Design at Harvey Jones. ‘Make sure to position spotlights or pendants directly above key areas to ensure the light isn’t blocked when you stand at the sink, hob or work top.’

Enquire online: Harvey Jones, kitchens start from £20,000.

2. TACKLE TASK LIGHTING

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(Image credit: Day True)

Task lighting can be discreet and hidden under wall cupboards or shelving but you can also make a feature of it with designer wall lights that can be angled to direct brightness where it is needed.

Enquire online: Day True, kitchens start from £25,000.

3. STEP INTO THE LIGHT

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(Image credit: DSL)

LED strips provides a soft low light that is useful for backlighting splashbacks and shelving, but it can also be useful for directing traffic through the kitchen space. It’s human nature to gravitate towards light, so put a subtle glow beneath a counter with bar-style seating to encourage guests to pull up a seat.

Enquire online: DesignSpaceLondon, kitchens start from £25,000.

4. PUT ON A SHOW

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(Image credit: Cesar)

The trend for glass-fronted cabinetry brings display back into the kitchen and an opportunity to create pockets of soft diffused light that can create a focal point and brighten darker corners of the room.

Enquire online: Cesar, kitchens POA.

5. WASH IT DOWN

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(Image credit: Holloways of Ludlow)

Use spots, track lighting and uplights to wash surfaces with soft reflective light.

‘Never place downlights in a grid,’ advises Sally Storey of John Cullen Lighting. ‘Place them only where light is required as part of your lighting scheme. Use a low glare directional downlight to direct light to wash the front of your kitchen units – it will also light inside your cupboards when they are open.’

Enquire online: Kitchens by Holloways, kitchens start from £30,000.

6. PLAN IT IMMEDIATELY

The lighting scheme should be planned as soon as the kitchen design and layout is confirmed. Think about how your chosen light fittings will interact with your design when the lights are off as well as on, their overall style and the way they occupy the space.

Enquire online: LochAnna, kitchens start from £3,700.

7. ASK A SPECIALIST

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(Image credit: Lighting scheme by Sian Baxter.)

Lighting design is a specialist field and a good designer will be able to balance a range of sources into a cohesive scheme to enhance your space. In this contemporary kitchen, designer Sian Baxter has used almost entirely ceiling lighting, choosing different forms to provide task, general and ambient light. She didn’t want two sets of pendant lights so used recessed ceiling lighting to cleverly mirror the shape of the island.

8. TAKE TIME TO REFLECT

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(Image credit: Wren)

The bulb is just one part of the story – the surfaces the light falls upon are just as influential. Pale colours and reflective surfaces will amplify the glow while dark shades absorb light, dampening it, which can be advantageous when creating mood. Consider pale worktops in a darker kitchen, especially in the prep zones – or at least opt for large, pale chopping boards.

Enquire online: Wren, kitchen prices from just £500 for basic furniture.

9. KEEP IT BRIGHT

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(Image credit: Harvey Jones)

Skylights and walls of glass offer stunning natural light and a great view by day but they can turn into black holes at night. Consider running strip LEDs in skylight recesses and adding good outdoor lighting to create a light show in the garden beyond the glass.

Enquire online: Harvey Jones, kitchens start from £20,000.

10.BE DISCREET

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(Image credit: Buster+Punch)

Spotlights aren’t the only solution for directional light. The Exhaust light from Buster + Punch has a smart tubular design that is available in a choice of two colours for the powder-coated casing and four metallic for the trim. Matching pendant lights are also available. Spotlights from £130.

WHAT TYPE OF LIGHTING IS BEST FOR KITCHENS?

Most residential lighting is now LED as it is energy-efficient and long-lasting. It is also compact so you can buy tiny lamps on a flexible strip to run along shelf edges, under counters and plinths which can significantly lighten the look of a hefty island.

LED downlights have replaced the halogen bulbs of old. Look for directional options that let you shine light where you need it. Broadly, there are four types of lighting to consider: task lighting to illuminate worktops, sink and hob; general lighting to give overall brightness; ambient lighting to add a soft glow to sociable spaces and decorative lighting to create focal points and display areas.

Controllability is key. ‘Lighting is the most important element to bear in mind when zoning in a kitchen,’ explains Tom Howley, Design Director at Tom Howley. ‘Spotlights in the ceiling should always be dimmable, so you can adjust the mood in the kitchen when you have guests. Task lighting is essential over the most used worktop areas. This iskey when prepping food in the evening, allowing you to keep the atmosphere relaxed elsewhere with the dimmable lights.’

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(Image credit: Tala)

Buy now: Voronoi III pendant lights, £165 each, Tala

A large room with a high ceiling will be crying out for a generous light fitting to fill that space. The trend is for clusters of organic shapes made from mouth-blown glass, and for modern molecular lighting with multiple bulbs on multiple arms, shining their light in all directions. Install over an island or dining table or to create a focal point.