Want to know how to light up a kitchen? With good lighting, a kitchen will feel more open and airy, be a safe place to prepare and cook food, be more pleasant to spend time in and look spotless.
A dark room, on the other hand, can make it dangerous to work with sharp knives and hot dishes and pans. It can also make the room look smaller than it is, keep cabinets, countertops, and backsplashes from looking their best, and make you feel suffocated.
There are a lot of ways to make a room lighter when you’re putting your kitchen ideas into action, from choosing the best kitchen lighting ideas to picking the right colors when you’re remodeling a kitchen. Here, the experts give their best advice on how to make a kitchen lighter.
HOW TO BRIGHTEN UP A KITCHEN
How light a kitchen is depends on how it is set up, how big the windows are, how big the room is, including the height of the ceiling, the colors of the cabinets, countertops, backsplashes, walls, and floors, and the lighting. But you can make a kitchen lighter whether you’re starting from scratch or making changes to an existing room. It doesn’t matter what the room is like or where you start.
1. PAY ATTENTION TO THE COUNTERTOP
Kitchen countertop ideas can make a big difference in how light a kitchen feels. “Bring in a light-colored countertop, like a white one with marble-like veins that add interest or larger veins that make the countertop a work of art,” says William Durrant, owner of Herringbone Kitchens (opens in new tab).
“The veins can be different colors. Deep reds, browns, and even gold are beautiful on a kitchen countertop, and they add a nice touch to the design.”
Backsplash ideas can also make a big difference in a room. “Bring the outdoors in by adding a mirror backsplash,” he says. “It can change the whole feel of the kitchen.”
2. WORK WITH WHITE
Even though white kitchen ideas are simple, that doesn’t make them any less useful. White can make a kitchen brighter, but it can also make it look stark, but there are ways to make sure that doesn’t happen.
“The classic way to lighten up a kitchen is to use white as the main color,” says Julia Brown, design director at Mowlem & Co. in Newcastle. “However, there are several subtle ways to soften the effect, or you can go with a pale neutral color instead.” “If you don’t want all white cabinets, use this choice on only a few cabinets and then on important surfaces like countertops and flooring.”
3. THINK ABOUT CUPBOARD HEIGHT
Cabinet height is important when designing a kitchen that doesn’t get a lot of light for one reason or another.
“Don’t choose too many tall or full-height cabinets in a dark room,” says Tom Edmonds, design director at Lewis Alderson. “This can crowd the space and make it feel smaller and darker” (opens in new tab).
He also says that you might want to think about glazed cabinets if they go with the style of your kitchen. These will make the room brighter by reflecting both natural and artificial light.
4. PLAN LAYERS OF LIGHTING
A new kitchen gives you the chance to plan the lighting layers that a room that serves many purposes needs. Ideas for lighting a small kitchen are also important if you want the space to feel as big as possible.
How to go about designing? Marketa Rypacek, managing director of Industville, says, “Plan lighting from the beginning of the project so that cabinets and walls can be wired” (opens in new tab). “Think about where activities or tasks will take place in each space and place light fixtures there. Make sure to add a dimmer switch so that you can fully control the mood.
5. THINK AGAIN ABOUT WINDOWS
Choose window treatments that let light in to increase the amount of natural light in a room. Kitchen curtain ideas give the room an elegant look, but it’s important that when they’re open, they let as much light in as possible.
Lucy Searle, global editor-in-chief of Homes & Gardens, says, “Measure for a curtain rod that lets the fabric gather against the walls on either side of the window.” “Also think about the heading. For example, a wave heading is hung on a rod so that the fabric doesn’t block the light from the window.
For a room that can be seen from the outside, plantation shutters or slatted blinds will keep the room private while letting light in. You could also use sheer curtains or French café curtains that hang at the bottom of the window to let light in without letting people outside see in.
6. Think of other ways to let in natural light.
More light from the sun will make a kitchen brighter, and there may be ways to add more light from the roof. Richard Davonport, the managing director of Davonport, makes kitchens for unusual homes like barn conversions. He says, “It’s common for homeowners to put skylights and sun tubes or tunnels in the roof, which collect sunlight and spread it evenly around the room.”
Tom Edmonds of Lewis Alderson says, “If you can’t add more windows, think about putting in a roof lantern to flood the kitchen with natural light.”
7. LIGHT IT UP
Choosing light kitchen cabinet colors is one way to make a kitchen feel brighter, but there are other ways to make the light brighter than pale neutral shades.
Julia Brown of Mowlem & Co suggests adding shiny, reflective surfaces like glass windows in some cabinets, polished stones, shiny metals, or glossy composites. “Add lighting to any alcoves, and details like glass pendant lamps can make the effect even better.”
8. PAINT WOODEN CUPBOARDS
If you aren’t remodeling the room from top to bottom, you can change the look of the room by painting the cabinets a different color.
Charlotte Radford, senior product manager at Valspar, says that painting wood is an easy way to make a room brighter because wood absorbs light. “Using shades with a white base, like orange and yellow tones like our Buttered Crumpet, helps mimic natural light,” she says.
9. USE TWO CABINET COLORS IN YOUR DESIGN
Even though it might seem counterintuitive, you can use dark cabinets to make a kitchen lighter and still follow the trend of two-tone kitchens, which use more than one color.
Tom Edmonds at Lewis Alderson says, “Base cabinets don’t have to be white.” “A darker-colored base cabinet will stand out, especially next to an island, and a light-colored countertop on top of dark cabinets will make it look like there’s more light in the room.”
Also, think about whether your kitchen cabinets should be lighter or darker than the walls. This can have a real effect as well.
10. LIGHTEN SELECTED AREAS
If the cost of painting the kitchen cabinets is too high for the budget, there are other ways to make the room brighter. Chris Dance, head designer and director at InHouse Inspired Room Design, says, “Think about using glossy tiles for backsplashes, painting a stripe of color under islands, and putting accent lighting under wall-hung cabinets. They will all make a difference” (opens in new tab).
HOW CAN I MAKE MY KITCHEN LIGHTER?
To get more light into your kitchen, think about letting in more natural light, turning up the lights that are already there, and using decor that will reflect the light instead of soaking it up.
To let in more natural light, choose window treatments that let light through. This could be shutters, blinds with slats, shades, or curtains that give you privacy but don’t completely block out the light. If you have more money and want more light in the kitchen, you can add skylights and sliding or bi-folding doors.
Mix different kinds of lights in the room, such as ceiling lights and pendants, wall lights, and lights under the cabinets.
Also, think about color. Will Lyne, head designer at Christopher Peters Kitchens & Interiors, says, “Using two complementary color groups, one cream, gray, or off-white, and an airy pastel hue, will open up the space while still letting you add creative flair” (opens in new tab).
You could also try this plan. “Integrate your kitchen appliances to give your kitchen a clean, modern look,” he says. “By putting appliances and tools behind closed doors, you can make a room look bigger and brighter.”
HOW CAN I LIGHT MY DARK KITCHEN BEST?
A mix of different kinds of light is the best way to light up a dark kitchen. Charlie Bowles, director of Original BTC, says, “If you can, think about your lighting scheme at the planning stage to make the most of your chances” (opens in new tab).
“You need two kinds of lighting: task lighting without shadows for cooking and preparing food, and ambient lighting for when you just want to relax or have people over. Most kitchens will be better off with a central light source and a mix of practical wall lights and spotlights that save space.
“If you can, make sure each light has its own switch so you can change the mood with the flip of a switch.” If you ask your electrician to put in more than one circuit, you can add texture and depth.