Ultimate Guide to Placing Recessed Lighting In A Kitchen

The kitchen is where we prepare and cook our meals, it’s where we socialize, and it’s where we celebrate. It’s also often where we eat our meals, either at the kitchen island or breakfast nook. It can also be an entertainment hub where everyone gathers to enjoy the sights and aroma of meal preparation. And these days, cooking is more than a social activity. For many, cooking is a skill that requires as much light as any other workspace in the home. That’s why recessed lighting in the kitchen is so important.

Although recessed lighting may not be the main event in a lighting plan – chandeliers, pendants, and other hanging fixtures often take center stage. Recessed lighting often supports and highlights the flashier lighting. That’s why your kitchen recessed light placement is essential to the lighting design plan.

How Do You Arrange Recessed Lights in a Kitchen?

Correctly spacing recessed lights ensures the kitchen won’t be too bright or too dim. While there are basic kitchen lighting plans, the exact placement of lights will depend on your unique space. With this in mind, there are two ways to arrange recessed lighting in the kitchen: two parallel lines or along the perimeter.

@progresslighting, credit to @blacksuburbanfarmhouse

Fletcher 18 Inch Large Pendant by Hinkley Lighting

This kitchen’s chic vibe transcends style boundaries. The spectacular black and white color palette is underscored beautifully by a pair of Fletcher 18 Inch Large Pendants by Hinkley Lighting suspended over the island. Mindfully placed 9 Inch Recessed Lighting Trim by Progress Lighting creates lighting zones that define separate areas.

How Many Recessed Lights Should Be in a Kitchen?

The main thing to remember is to ensure there is enough light in the kitchen to see everything you need to see while cooking and preparing meals. If there are too few lights in your kitchen, they will not properly light the space. Too many may make the kitchen feel uncomfortably warm and way too bright.

Here’s a simple way to figure out how many recessed lights are needed based on the size of the kitchen. The recommended spacing between lights is 3 to 4 feet and about 4-6 lights per 100 feet.


Travis 20 Inch Cage Pendant by Hudson Valley Lighting

It’s easy to imagine cooking in this brightly lit kitchen. The pleasing simplicity of the Travis 20 Inch Cage Pendants by Hudson Valley Lighting makes a playful design impact. The 6 Inch LED 120 Degree Recessed Lighting Trim by Bulbrite set into the wood ceiling brings additional warmth and a feeling of spaciousness to this small kitchen. Too many recessed lights could make it feel cramped and uncomfortably bright.


Haskell 34 Inch 8 Light Chandelier by Arteriors Home

In this large kitchen, too few lights would make it seem dull and gloomy. A pair of Haskell 34 Inch 8 Light Chandeliers by Arteriors Home bring on the sparkle while chasing the shadows away. The Eglo Accessories 7 Inch LED Recessed Lighting Trim by Eglo Lighting creates a welcoming atmosphere with cozy illumination radiating from the ceiling.

What Determines the Number of Kitchen Recessed Lights?

In addition to placement, the number of lights used is also key to getting the lighting right. And that depends on several factors. The size of the kitchen and the ceiling height are two of the most important factors to consider when deciding how many recessed lights will be needed. And remember that lighting often includes overhead, accent, ambient layers, and natural light.

The shape and type of kitchen is also a factor. L-shaped, U-shaped, and galley kitchens will each have different lighting needs. Whether or not you have an island will also influence the lighting plan.


E. F. Chapman Darlana 9 Inch Cage Pendant by Visual Comfort and Co.

With its vaulted ceilings and tons of natural light, this large kitchen posed many challenges regarding recessed lighting. Problems solved with a pair of E. F. Chapman Darlana 9 Inch Cage Pendants by Visual Comfort and Co. and strategically placed Recessed Trims 5 Inch Recessed Lighting Trim by Sea Gull Lighting. The combination adds warmth as well as light to the open-concept area.

Common Mistakes of Kitchen Recessed Lights to Avoid

Getting it right can be tricky. The tips below will help ensure your kitchen becomes a beautiful, functional area the whole family will enjoy.

1. Too Many Recessed Lights

No one likes working or entertaining in a kitchen that feels like a lab. Using the guidelines above, you can plot out the best placement and number of lights to ensure the right lighting levels in the right areas.

2. Too Few Recessed Lights

Another common mistake is going in the other direction, not enough illumination. Consider placing some lighting under the cabinets. This puts focused lighting where needed without adding too much general lighting.

3. Incorrect Light Temperature

A good temperature for the kitchen recessed lighting is between 3000-3500 Kelvin. This temperature offers crisp, clean task lighting over work surfaces. The key to getting these first items right is considering the amount of natural lighting in the kitchen.


Kelly Wearstler Cleo 30 Inch Large Pendant by Visual Comfort and Co.

The kitchen below has it just right. Not too many, not too few, and exact color temperature all combine in a way that doesn’t complement the natural lighting. The Kelly Wearstler Cleo 30 Inch Large Pendant by Visual Comfort and Co. combined with the Recessed Trims 5 Inch Recessed Lighting Trim by Sea Gull Lighting creates a light and airy kitchen that seamlessly integrates several functional areas.

4. Not Using a Dimmer

Now that you have all that crisp, clean lighting over the kitchen counters, there may be times when you would like the lighting to be a little less bright. Installing a dimmer for your recessed lighting in the kitchen lets you control the brightness and set the mood when entertaining. This is especially important in open-concept designs or flex spaces.

5. Not Using a Lighting Plan

Realizing that the lights in your kitchen are all wrong is a giant headache. Starting with a good lighting plan saves a lot of headaches down the road. It takes time and forethought, but all that up-front work is worth it. Your kitchen lighting plan should include ALL your kitchen lighting fixtures, under cabinet, recessed, and hanging.


Sean Lavin Mara 32 Inch 45 Light LED Chandelier by Tech Lighting

This kitchen is beautifully laid out, with the eye-popping Sean Lavin Mara 32 Inch 45 Light LED Chandelier by Tech Lighting taking center stage. The 9 Inch Recessed Lighting Trim by Progress Lighting offers general lighting that can easily be dimmed to let the natural lighting flow throughout.


Monza 24 Inch LED Large Pendant by Kuzco Lighting

Filled with glowing light, this kitchen demonstrates how a complete lighting plan can set the mood. The gorgeous Monza 24 Inch LED Large Pendants by Kuzco Lighting float over the island, offering warm illumination. The Tesla 5 Inch LED 55 Degree Recessed Lighting Trim by WAC Lighting not only highlights the stunning features of the kitchen, it keeps the look clean and uncluttered.


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