A bright tile backsplash pops against bright light fixtures
Jessie Walker

Spotlight on Fixtures

A primary consideration when choosing a fixture is how it directs light: narrow and focused (for task or accent lighting), in a broad spread (for general or decorative lighting), or somewhere in between.

Determine what you need in your kitchen and match those requirements to fixture beam patterns. Consider, too, how easy it is to clean a fixture and to replace bulbs. Another factor: everyone sees light differently. Take advantage of working displays at lighting showrooms to learn which fixtures and bulbs look right to you.

Track lighting is a versatile and easy to install lighting option
J.D. Peterson

Track Lighting

For versatility and installation ease, you can’t beat track fixtures. Easy to add to, easy to aim, they provide general, task, and accent lighting in one flexible system. Tracks accept individual fixtures that swivel and move, directing light just where you need it. They’re a popular alternative to recessed downlights if you can’t or don’t want to poke holes in your ceiling. For track systems with high-tech style, check out low-hanging cable lights, flexible track lights, and monorail systems.

Lights installed on walls and ceilings brighten up the room
Jamie Hadley

Surface Mounts

Fixtures installed on walls or ceilings are excellent at providing general lighting. Some are highly decorative, too. A small chandelier hung over the breakfast table adds sparkle and a touch of formality. A run of ultra-modern pendants above an island offers eye-catching task lighting. If a pendant is used over a table, be sure the shade is narrow enough to hang safely away from diners’ heads.

Recessed downlights dangle from the ceiling
Beatriz Coll

Recessed Downlights

Small and discreet, recessed downlights are the most popular choice for kitchens because they can handle the gamut of lighting challenges -- general illumination as well as light for particular activities. (In most kitchens, you’ll want other sources, too, at least to fill the shadows.)

Configure them to your needs with modular accessories: baffles, lenses, and louvers to shape light; trim rings to cover the rough edges of the fixture housing the ceiling hole. You can even update existing fixtures by switching your current trims for a new style or finish.

Puck lights are mini recessed fixtures. Use them to light display cabinets or niches, mount them under cabinets to brighten work areas, or install them above cabinets to subtly wash upper walls with light.

Lights that go under the cabinets function well in tight and narrow spaces
E. Andrew McKinney

Under-Cabinet Fixtures

These thin, narrow task lights fit below upper wall cabinets and shine down on countertops, eliminating shadows and giving off a soft glow in an otherwise unlit kitchen -- especially pleasant when you entertain. Fluorescents are popular here, satisfying local codes requiring that the first switch you come to in the kitchen turns on this type of light. Incandescent, halogen, and xenon strips can also be used under cabinets.


From Sunset Books' Ideas for Great Kitchens

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