Layered Lighting in Kitchen Design

modern country kitchen with dark Wooden floors and stainless steel accents and black benchtops

From setting the mood for a dinner party to highlighting the kitchen island when the kids are doing their homework, lighting has different functions in the home and doesn’t just belong in the ceiling.

A lighting plan should include layers and feature different colour temperatures, from bright white lighting that makes your kitchen safe and functional to warm and soft tones that allow you to relax while still being able to see your way around.

Let’s talk about lighting and its functions — from ambient to accent — and why layers and bulb type are crucial. This guide discusses all the different sources of lighting you should consider incorporating into your lighting plan and examples of each.

Why is Lighting in a Kitchen so Important?

Good lighting makes your kitchen a safe place to prepare meals, and it can also be used to highlight special features. From natural light to task lighting, illumination of your workspaces and kitchen details adds depth and life using different lighting shades.

Layering is essentially using a variety of different light sources to make your kitchen not only safe and functional but also a place that people are drawn to. Your kitchen is the heart of the house, so why not draw attention to it and illuminate its best features?


Hampton style kitchen with shaker cabinetry and dark wood floors

The Impact of Ambient Lighting

Ambient lighting helps set the mood in your kitchen and provides a welcoming atmosphere. Think of it as ‘backdrop lighting’ that illuminates your kitchen as evenly as possible. There are a number of ambient lighting fixtures that can be used in the kitchen, including:

  • Pendant lights: Pendants are essentially hanging lights available in thousands of different styles to suit your decor. They can cast light up onto the ceiling or down onto workspaces.
  • Chandeliers: A classic lighting solution, chandeliers don’t have to be used in a dining area, nor must they be of the traditional style with many modern interpretations available.
  • Dimmer switches: A switch that will allow you to adjust the brightness; lighting controls are an inexpensive way to add ambience.
  • Under-cabinet lighting: From stand-alone lights to LED strip lighting, under-cabinet lighting can run along the top edge of benchtops or, from the bottom, they can illuminate the inside of cupboards or highlight open shelving.
  • Wall sconces: A growing trend in bathroom lighting, this traditionally themed light source can also be used effectively in kitchens, especially if they have a contemporary feel.

Hampton Kitchen with shaker style cabinetry and stainless steel fixtures

Task Lighting for Functionality

Task lighting helps you get the job done. Whether you’re cooking, washing dishes or looking for spices in your pantry, task lighting ensures shadows are not a problem in any work zone. Adding to the functionality of your kitchen, task lights help you illuminate the areas you frequently work in.

  • Under-cabinet lighting, such as strip lights, increases food preparation visibility.
  • Recessed downlights or adjustable downlights in the ceiling over different work zones.
  • Pendant lights over the sink or kitchen island.
  • Rangehood with lighting over the stove.


modern Kitchen with backlit glass splashback

Accent Lighting for Visual Interest

Accent lighting helps you achieve that designer kitchen look. Accent lights are intended to illuminate focal points, frame a space, or highlight special elements. For example, designers might suggest lighting to accentuate part of your kitchen walls or dining space. This type of lighting should improve the ambience of your kitchen, adding a layer that can be enjoyed even when sitting in other rooms of the house. Popular ways to incorporate accent lighting and improve aesthetics include:

  • Using directional track lighting.
  • Wall sconces.
  • Pendant lights.
  • Recessed lighting above open shelves.


Modern shaker style kitchen white cabinetry with gold handles and square island bench

Integrated Cabinet Lighting Trend

While ceilings tend to be where your primary light sources are located, taking steps to illuminate your kitchen cabinets adds to your kitchen’s functionality and is also suitable for aesthetics.

Under-cabinet lighting at your work level makes for safer chopping and slicing, allowing you to get a better look at the food you’re preparing. But don’t stop there. Integrated cabinet lighting can be used in a range of ways.

  • Strip lighting above cabinetry, such as wall cabinets, to cast light on the wall and ceiling.
  • A downlight or strip lighting to illuminate shelves in a pantry.
  • Cabinet lights with sensors that switch on when cupboards and drawers are opened.
  • Lighting panels that run under the entire surface of upper wall cabinets.

Creating a Cosy Atmosphere

Yes, you can use table and desk lamps on your benchtops as a part of a layered lighting scheme. More than just decoration, they can help create a cosy atmosphere and are easily moved or removed.

Other ways to gently illuminate your space after-hours include installing a dimmer switch, integrated cabinet lighting, wall sconces or a chandelier.

renovated kitchen with white waterfall island bench statement lighting and wooden floors

Practical Tips for Implementing Layered Lighting

With the rise in popularity of open-plan living, kitchen lighting can also impact the atmosphere in the rest of the home. For example, the living room is often situated close to the kitchen, and the ability to adjust the brightness of lighting can make for a calmer, cosier feel once the kitchen is ‘closed’ for the night but before the lights go out entirely.

A lighting plan for a functional and good-looking kitchen requires a range of lighting options. It also should take fixture placement, lighting control and colour temperature using different types of bulbs into consideration.

Custom-Designed Kitchens for Your Lifestyle and Budget

Having different layers to your kitchen lighting scheme can elevate your kitchen design from simply functional to a stunning showpiece. Whether your kitchen renovation is Hamptons style, a country kitchen, or contemporary, layered lighting is an essential component that shouldn’t be overlooked.

For more information on planning a successful kitchen renovation at your Brisbane home, see the Easy Living Kitchens website for more ideas and inspiration or call 1300 650 681.

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