Best Kitchen Lighting for Your Cooking Space

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The kitchen is the heart of the home – so cliche, but it’s true! Whether you’ve gone through a renovation or still living in a 90s-style home, I’m sharing the best kitchen lighting for your cooking space.

What is the best lighting for a kitchen?

The lighting choices you make for your kitchen should create a welcoming atmosphere. But you also need a well-lit space for preparing food and everything else you do here. Maybe your kitchen island also serves as a home office for you or a homework station for your kids. Either way, I want to help you find the best kitchen lights for your needs.

view of white kitchen with honed marble countertops, pendants over island, brass sconces over sink and window, brass cabinet hardware

Pendants | Sconces | Rug | Drawer pulls | Cabinet Door latches | Round cabinet knobs

I have a post that explains how to plan and design your kitchen lighting which explains the different types of light sources and the importance of layering fixtures. If you feel like your kitchen is lacking, you’ll find some helpful tips to take your lighting to the next level.

Swapping out fixtures is a great way to update any kitchen. It’s not as drastic as getting new kitchen cabinets or upgrading to honed marble countertops, but lighting has a huge impact on your kitchen design.

I’ve rounded up a few of my favorites from Amazon to help you find the best lighting for your kitchen.

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Here are some of my top picks from Pottery Barn:

Best overall

I’ve had many different styles of light fixtures over the years. But if I had to pick the single best lighting for the kitchen in the overall category, it would be the drum shade pendant. Don’t get me wrong – I love the current ones I have (seen below) – but here is why I would recommend the drum pendants instead.

white kitchen island with two pendants, rattan counter stools, vase with faux lilacs and bowl with faux artichokes

Pendants | Rattan counter stools | Faux lilacs | Faux artichokes | Wooden bowl

The shade of the drum pendants covers the bulbs allowing the light-colored linen material to act as a filter. Their broad light is much softer and creates a soothing glow but is bright enough for tasks throughout the room.

When it comes to style, the shade and the metal accents come together to make the perfect neutral light fixture. It doesn’t fit into a distinct style category making it versatile with any type of decor and the winner of the best lighting for the kitchen.

best lighting for a white kitchen, drum shade pendants with black accents, marble countertops, agreeable gray walls

Drum shade pendants | Rattan counter stools

It also comes in different finishes and sizes. From the subtle nod of a small flush mount to the oversized version that makes quite a statement, you’ll easily be able to work this into your design.

The polished nickel lantern pendants I chose for my dream kitchen remodel were beautiful and I loved the look of them too! They had an open design so the light they emitted was very bright and broad.

polished nickel lantern shades over white kitchen island with honed marble countertops

You can certainly add a chandelier to your kitchen island, but pendants are the standard choice for interior designers. If I had to recommend one that would be the main light source for the space, it would be this one. It has several lights and the open design will illuminate your kitchen with no problem.

Best budget

The term “budget lighting” may have a different meaning to everyone based on – well, your budget. To some, a budget option will be less than $100 while for others that means staying under $1000. That said, this is a great all-around pendant that has a classic design and is under $100.

It has subtle brass touches and a white ceramic shade with pleated details. The scale is just right for over the sink and would look great doubled up over an island.

Best flush mount

Boob lights are out! If you have any in your home, stop what you’re doing and replace them immediately! One of the best flush (or semi-flush) mount fixtures is the simple and old-fashioned schoolhouse design.

It comes in a black or brass finish with a white glass shade. Just like the other top picks for best kitchen lighting, they go with everything!

I have them in my upstairs hallway and they add just a little something to the space without taking focus away from the wall molding or gallery wall of family photos.

Best recessed

Modern recessed lights are such an improvement over their predecessors that simply turned on and off. They are available with updated features and one of my favorites is the ability to put them on a dimmer switch. Such an easy way to control the amount of light you need!

person attaching the recessed lights in a kitchen ceiling, led lights with adjustable color temperature

Variable color temperature is another reason these recessed lights landed on the top of the list. On the back of the fixture, you can select the color you want your lights to be. Ranging from cool blue tones of daylight (5000K) to the calming glow of warm light (2700K) and everything in between. I prefer warm light because it makes my home feel cozy and welcoming.

person showing back side of recessed lights with adjustable color temperature

As seen in the product image from Home Depot, the retrofit options allow you to replace existing can lights with ease. You just screw the connector into where the bulb goes and pop them in! Simple and inexpensive – what could be better?

product image of recessed light

Best under cabinet

LED strip lights are my top pick for best under kitchen cabinet lighting. You can get ones that are battery-operated or have them hardwired like I did. They are inexpensive, easy to attach to the underside of a cabinet, and create the perfect glow at night. I also use them to brighten up my counters when I am cooking. All it takes is a flip of a switch!

(Read all about my microwave drawer!)

Puck lights are another option but you don’t get the same overall glow as you do with strip lights. If you want them hardwired, it becomes a bit more complicated with individual lights which will end up costing more.

Tap the images for these options:

Strip lights are also the best light for kitchen cabinets if want to illuminate the inside behind a glass door or metal insert. When installed on the inner side of the face frame the entire cabinet will be evenly lit.

Drawer pulls | Cabinet Door latches | Round cabinet knobs | Mesh insert

Best over the sink

This one depends on the structure of your kitchen. The lighting situation in many homes is a single fixture above the sink. In this situation, the best light for a kitchen sink area is a single pendant.

Style-wise, it has a mixture of modern and vintage details in matte black and an aged brass tone – two of my favorites! In the image below, you can see it in my basement wet bar and it checks all the boxes for the best choice.

best over the sink kitchen lighting, black and brass pendant with white glass shade, basement wet bar, Zellige Tile, soapstone, brass faucet, black cabinets with brass hardware

Pendant | Faucet | Refillable soap dispensers | Cabinet knobs | Drawer pulls

As far as functionality, it has a solid top half and a white glass shade on the bottom. Light will be focused over the sink and have spillover to nearby spaces.

I have a large window above my kitchen sink so a single pendant wouldn’t work there. Instead, I have three evenly spaced sconces on the wall above the window. These brass swing-arm library sconces also have a bit of a vintage look and you can adjust them to direct the light exactly where you want it. They are another top pick in this category.

best kitchen over the sink lighting, sconces over large window sink, agreeable gray walls, white cabinets, honed marble countertops

Sconces | Coffee pot | Drawer pulls | Cabinet Door latches | Round cabinet knobs

How bright should your kitchen be?

As long as you have enough light to safely do tasks – like chopping and preparing food as well as cooking – this is all about personal preference. No one should feel like they are being interrogated or need to wear sunglasses to prevent damage to their corneas. On the flip side, you shouldn’t have to use the flashlight on your phone to read recipes either.

Brightness needs will change depending on the activity taking place. Maybe you are just sitting at your island with a glass of wine, scrolling my Pinterest page to learn all about Frame TVs or how to shop for home decor on Amazon. You don’t need a bright task light for that!

light bulb graphic

Safety tip: Anytime you are working with sharp objects or hot surfaces it’s best to have plenty of light.

How to select the best lights for your kitchen?

You should have several sources of light in your kitchen but they don’t all have to provide enough light individually to brighten the whole space. The best lighting design for the kitchen will give you three different options.

Ambient lighting is broad overall lighting for the whole space. Task lighting is cast downward and illuminates a specific spot. Accent lighting is often overlooked, but is the icing on the cake when it comes to making your kitchen feel cozy.

Choose fixtures that complement the rest of your decor. You don’t need to match lighting just as you don’t need to match furniture. Follow the styling tips from the pros and you can’t go wrong!

Since these recommendations are for lighting in the kitchen, I think it’s fair to mention the care of your fixtures. The closer they are to your cooking space, the more likely they are to acquire a layer of grease if you don’t have a proper exhaust system. Frequent cleaning will prevent build-up.

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