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6 Design Ideas for Functional and Decorative Kitchen Lighting

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Functional and decorative lighting in a kitchen is important if you are planning a remodeling project. Designing a lighting plan for a kitchen considers five layers of light: natural light, general lighting, task lighting, ambient lighting and accent lighting. The light fixtures selected for a kitchen can add an aesthetic element to the room. Therefore, the design plan should also take into account the décor preferences of homeowners and address “decorative kitchen lighting” when determining fixtures that will be used.

To provide some ideas for your home, we’ve selected projects from our portfolio that show lighting installations, features and fixtures Central New York homeowners have included in their recent kitchen remodeling projects.

Natural Lighting

Many kitchens have a window that provides a view of the backyard where a sink is often placed. This is by design. The sink is the most used fixture in a kitchen and a natural light source is beneficial in that work area.  

If your kitchen is centrally located within the floor plan of your home, you may not have a window in the room that provides a direct source of natural light. A skylight or sun tunnel could be used as an alternative source.


In the photo above, the scenery outside their kitchen window was important to the owners of a lakefront home. They wanted to optimize the panoramic view when renovating their kitchen. They selected three large windows to be placed over the sink area to illuminate the kitchen during the day. The arched center window is stationary but the side windows crank open to provide ventilation and to allow a cook to interact with people in the yard.

The décor of the room which includes wood-stained cabinetry, dark soapstone counters, earthy green painted walls and a glass mosaic tile backsplash that reflects light to make the kitchen sparkle. These elements echo the lakefront as seen through the windows.

General Lighting

Recessed lights are commonly used to provide general lighting in kitchens. Recessed lights come in many sizes are and can be installed closer or further apart depending on lighting needs.  


This kitchen is filled with light. Recessed lights line the perimeter and were installed in the center of the room as well. There is a window over the sink and a glass paned door that bring natural light into the room. Under cabinet lights illuminate the counter work areas. Light is also reflected by the white painted cabinets and the counter surfaces.

Task Lighting

Illumination of kitchen work areas is essential. There are five main areas to consider when planning task lighting:

  1. Counters
  2. Over the sink
  3. Corners, especially areas where small appliances will be used
  4. Over the cooktop or range
  5. Over an island or peninsula

Task lighting can be installed on the ceiling and directed toward a work area. It can also be installed under cabinets to illuminate counters or it can be included with appliances such as a range or cooktop vent hood.  


In the photo above, suspended track lights provide task lighting in this contemporary kitchen. Lights are directed to illuminate work areas – sink, perimeter counter and the large island. A vent hood over the island lights the cooktop. The industrial look the lighting creates is a fundamental element in the décor and style of the kitchen.

Ambient Lighting

Ambient lighting is subtle illumination in a room that appears to have no visible source. We use ambient lighting with tray ceilings, ceilings with beams and trusses, or above cabinets without soffits to create a soft glowing light effect in a kitchen.


Ambient lighting installed on the ceiling beams of this Country French style kitchen makes the room glow. Recessed lights provide general lighting, under cabinet lights are used in the perimeter and three suspended downlights are used over the island. French doors leading to a deck provide natural light for the kitchen.

Accent Lighting

Accent lighting is used to highlight objects and features or set a mood in a room.  In kitchens, accent lights illuminate cabinet interiors or can be installed to accentuate collections and artwork. Accent lights are also functional and make it easy to see contents of cabinets and shelves. Dimmer switches can be used with accent lights to create ambient lighting in a kitchen.


This transitional-style kitchen does not have a direct source of natural light. A sunroom addition was built onto the home in the 1980s and the kitchen window became a pass-thru. Lighting was important to the owners because prior to the remodel, the lighting in the room was inadequate. In addition to recessed lights; under cabinet lights and task lights over the sink, they included accent lights inside the glass door cabinets to display their collection of pottery and glassware.

The accent lights and other lights in this kitchen are on dimmer switches. A three light hanging fixture was used over the island. They also considered reflective lighting in their choices of cabinets, backsplash tile and counter surfaces. Two ceiling mounted glass dome fixtures light the pantry in the back of the kitchen.

Decorative Light Fixtures

Decorative lights define the style of a kitchen and add interest to the room. Consider size, form, shape, colors, finishes and function when selecting decorative lighting for your kitchen.  


Three blue glass globe lights placed above the peninsula add flair to this open transitional-style kitchen. The shapes of the windows create architectural interest and bring natural light into the room. Note the transom window over the sink and the half-round window used above the open wall that separates the kitchen from an adjoining dining/family room space. Two spotlights were mounted above the sink to illuminate the work area. Under counter lights are used in areas where the homeowners have small appliances.