LED Kitchen Lighting Best Practices

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Layer your kitchen lighting for sublime results.

Summer is officially over, fall routines are in full gear, and the days are getting shorter. As a result, most of us are spending more time inside, specifically in the kitchen cooking, helping the kids with homework, reading mail, paying bills, and sharing meals.

And you know what that means: your kitchen NEEDS good lighting.

So let’s discuss best tips for fabulous LED kitchen lighting.

The key is being smart with how you layer your lights. Remember, you use three different types of lighting in your home: ambient, task, and accent. A well-lit kitchen will use all three to great effect. Let’s review each one.

Recessed lighting can function as a type of ambient lighting in the kitchen.

1. Ambient lighting refers to the available light in an environment. We also call it “general lighting.” Common ambient lighting includes:

  • Recessed Lighting. Think low-profile lighting recessed into your ceiling. Thanks to efficient (and smaller) LED diodes, you’ll be spending less time on a step-stool swapping out chunky bulbs.
  • Flush Mounts. Installed flush or “semi flush” to the ceiling, these fixtures cast light in almost all directions, meaning that two or three can suffice for a whole kitchen. These fixtures are available in almost any finish and decorative style, so you’ll likely be able to find the perfect fixture for your aesthetic. The small size of the LEDs also means that slim and low profile fixtures are easy to find (and more affordable to boot).
  • Track Lighting. Usually found in 8′ and 4′ lengths, track lighting can provide flexible lighting solutions, even combining all three types of lighting in one place. Track heads are placed on the track and can be aimed in any direction to highlight cabinets, artwork, countertops, and more. Use pendant adaptors to provide decorative task lighting as well.

Surprise! Mounting pendants above your kitchen island counts as a task light.

2. Task lighting is a specialized approach to providing light exactly where you perform specific kitchen chores. Think chopping veggies, stirring sauces, doing homework, and so forth. Examples of task lighting include the following:

  • Undercabinet lighting. Ambient lighting does not fully reach under your cabinets. The result? Shadows. So adding designated fixtures underneath these cabinets can provide more light while you perform your kitchen tasks. Not only that, but under cabinet light can also show off backsplash tiles or accentuate the detailing in stone countertops. LED fixtures often come in a variety of color temperatures and can be hard wired or plugged into traditional outlets. You can even find undercabinet lights with occupancy sensors or dimming capabilities.
  • Pendants. Surprise! These decorative kitchen staples count as a task lighting since they cast light directly onto kitchen work surfaces. LED is quickly replacing halogen lamps thanks to their durability and long lifetimes, as well as their excellent light quality. Consider an odd-number configuration in your preferred finish and style. The available options are almost limitless!


3Accent lighting highlights your kitchen’s unique features and provides both function and wow factor. Accent lighting comes in many different types, but the small-form LED has definitely revolutionized the offerings, specifically in these areas:

  • Toe kick/cove lighting. Accent your gorgeous crown molding, ceiling features, or wall art. Or keep these lights close to the floor for an easy night light.
  • Cabinet lighting. Show off heirloom china, vases, or other favorite objects by adding small lights to illuminate shelves. LED tape or puck lighting works great!
  • Above cabinet lighting. The opposite of undercabinet lighting, above cabinet lighting shows off high ceilings and can add a warm glow to your kitchen. LED tape is the winner here, and when used with an extrusion and frosted lens, the light glow is truly something special.


Things to keep in mind when selecting LED lighting for the kitchen:

  • Lighting controls: Opt for a multi-scene keypad that can store a few different “looks” (e.g., dinnertime, homework, entertaining). A sleek keypad will also eliminate the need for bulky banks of switches. Keep dimming capabilities in mind, too. Dimming can work very well in the kitchen – fine tune the look of your kitchen no matter what time of day. Ask a Wolfers sales consultant to help make sure that you’ve chosen the right dimmer to go with your LED fixtures or retrofit lamps.
  • Cost: LEDs are often more expensive than traditional incandescent fixtures, but the benefits will definitely outweigh the initial cost. Remember, kitchens are high traffic areas, so you’re going to want long lasting, high quality lighting fixtures. With LEDs, you won’t need to replace bulbs as often. Plus, LEDs are energy efficient. So, you will save bucks in the long run.
  • The lighting “facts” label: When choosing LED lighting, read the facts label. Consider the manufacturer warranty as well (note: warranties can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer). Also, check that the fixture is UL or ETL listed. Most electricians will not install fixtures that are not UL or ETL listed.

Need help adding LED light to your kitchen? Stop by our showroom to speak to one of our lighting experts.

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