Kitchens are the heart of the home and with that comes far more planning and forethought than with a simple boxed-off room for preparing food.  While the kitchen’s prime function is still cooking, it also serves as one of our main entertaining spaces, somewhere to relax with friends or for children to catch up on their homework. More than any other room in the house, it is crucial to invest in flexible kitchen lighting ideas that can cope with every scenario and function.  ‘Often, kitchen wall lighting can be the last thing considered in kitchen design,’ says Andrew Hall, managing director of Woodstock Furniture. ‘However, for a kitchen to look its best and function perfectly, the space must be lit properly.’ 

Kitchen wall lighting ideas – modern looks to illuminate your space

Remember to plan well in advance with kitchen wall lighting. Experts agree that the best time to install a new wall lighting scheme is before you start to redecorate or during the initial stages of a new kitchen design, when you are still exploring a variety of kitchen ideas.  If left as an afterthought, wall lighting possibilities are limited, impact is lessened and mistakes can be costly and disruptive to put right.

1. Make a feature of your kitchen wall light

When choosing kitchen lighting, Peter Bowles, managing director of Original BTC and Davey Lighting, advises: ‘Match the style of your light fittings to your kitchen – interesting wall light fittings will stop your kitchen looking overly clinical. ‘Prismatic glass and bone china work wonderfully in country style kitchens, metal lights give an industrial flavor and brightly-painted pendants bring an often-needed pop of color.’ Here, an industrial-style light sits beautifully alongside a collection of display plates for added intrigue. 

2. Use wall lighting in a small kitchen

‘The perfect height of lights depends on two factors: the height of the people living in the house and the height of the ceilings,’ says Kenny Collins, chairman of The Lighting Store.  ‘Wall lights work well in a small kitchen, especially ones with little natural light.’ Use wall lighting to add subtle light and interest to art and statement countertops in a small kitchen design, as shown above.

3. Consider where you need the light most

A good kitchen lighting system needs at least two elements: bright, shadow-free, task light for safe cooking and preparation, and atmospheric illumination to create mood, highlight architectural features and make the room feel less functional.  ‘Look at the areas of your kitchen and think about the activities that will happen in each space,’ advises interior designer, Sarah Ward – great advice when considering how to plan kitchen lighting. Here, a row of exposed bulb wall lighting not only lights the work space below, but also introduces an element of industrial style to this modern rustic kitchen. 

4. Illuminate a display with kitchen wall lighting

Many kitchens now include a multifunction island unit, complete with appliances, sinks and a seating area. With limited wall cupboards to work with, wall-mounted lights are the ideal solution – and they look great hung above open-shelving to illuminate a display. ‘However, exposed light fittings tend to collect the grime that cooking creates so, if possible, opt for recessed or semi-recessed fittings,’ advises John Cullen’s design director, Sally Storey.

5. Employ the rule of three when it comes to lighting

Boost the impact of statement kitchen wall lights by arranging them in a row along a wall above a table or work area. Odd numbers work best; opt for three or five depending on the area and size of your space.

6. Rework a modern classic

Currently, the most popular modern kitchen lighting options are actually re-workings of traditional fittings.  One of the top selling light bulbs over the past year has been the box lamp with exposed bulb. The filament in the bulb gives a soft warm glow and is designed to be seen directly. The lights can either be suspended from the ceiling as naked bulbs in clusters, or used with as box fixtures or directional lights on walls.

7. Go big when it comes to wall lighting

To make a bold statement, either use a really decorative light fitting which is a feature in its own right, or opt for much more discreet lighting to highlight an architectural feature.  Another easy way to create drama is to use recessed uplights to skim light over a textured wall, the jambs of a fireplace or even columns.

8. Illuminate a narrow or small kitchen

Wall lights are a brilliant – and beautiful – option for dark, narrow kitchens. But if you think your room is too compact for statement wall light fixtures, think again. A clever small kitchen lighting idea is to trick the eye into thinking your space is much larger than it actually is with oversized fittings. Here, two large metal lamps are a real showstopper.

9. Wash the walls

Using multi-direction fittings to wash walls in light will emphasise interesting surface textures and can help visually widen a narrow space.

10. Invest in accent lighting for your kitchen

A final layer to your scheme should be accent lighting that guides the eye and creates points of interest around the room – it also adds to the overall light level when combined with just ambient lighting such as a pendant over a table. Accent lighting might consist of lighting on shelving, in cupboards, niches or other kitchen storage solutions.

11. Try hand-painted lampshades for a unique look

Kitchen wall lighting ideas with patterned shades are a brilliant way to add personality to your cottage kitchen ideas, as demonstrated in this space by Lisa Mehydene, founder of edit58 (opens in new tab).  As well as bringing soft mood lighting, these wall light shades also serve as a wall decor idea, coming to life when illuminated. Hand-painted, the designs are reminiscent of the colors and shapes of the British Bloomsbury artists and allude to the painted details in the set’s summer residence, Charleston farmhouse. 

12. Use wall lighting to enhance the atmosphere

Kitchen wall lighting ideas are an important part of any successful design scheme, with task illumination particularly vital in a room that also functions as a cooking and entertaining space. ‘The key to achieving a balanced lighting scheme for the kitchen is by incorporating a good variety of controllable lighting sources, to allow the space to be adjusted to suit the mood,’ explains Adrian Bergman, design manager at British Standard by Plain English (opens in new tab). ‘Low level secondary lighting like wall lights are great for this, allowing you to dictate the ambiance of the space depending on the time of day.’  In this space, cone-shaped wall lights have been chosen to complement the design of the pedant lamp.

13. Transform a kitchen alcove with wall lighting

Alcoves in kitchens can easily be ignored, but lighting can be a useful way to transform these forgotten corners into a features within a room as this space proves. Fitted with cabinetry and a handy wall light, this once redundant under-stairs space now serves as a great area for a an illuminated, styled display or a place to write the weekly shopping list. Lighting a small alcove can be a challenge – space for kitchen ceiling lighting can be limited and a table lamp may fill the space, so using the wall space to fit lighting is a good solution. This curved design with a wicker shade elegantly mirrors the shape of the alcove and works with the architecture to create a design feature.

14. Use wall lights in ktichens with glazed ceilings

With glazed kitchen extension ideas becoming increasingly popular, wall mounted light fittings are becoming a go-to lighting solution as Louisa Eggleston, creative director at Humphrey Munson (opens in new tab) explains. ‘Wall lights are an absolute necessity in some projects where you have overhead glazing so ceiling lighting is restricted,’ says Louisa Eggleston. ‘Obviously during the day time you get masses of light, but come the evening, unless you plan the space carefully you can end up with dark spots.’ ‘We specified the Lewes wall light from Vaughan Designs for this tricky corner in the Seer Green project by Humphrey Munson. A dimmer switch is essential so that you can achieve both a gentle wash of light for a low key relaxed dinner party ambience, or task lighting for a brighter work space,’ she adds.  

15. Add task lighting with a swing arm lamp

Many kitchens today include kitchen island ideas as part of practical kitchen triangle layouts, they serve as extra work space for food prep and sometimes have induction hobs in built, too. Just like the main work surfaces, kitchen islands benefit from having an overhead light source and where overhead lighting may be tricky a wall light can be the perfect solution.  If your island abuts a wall as part of an L-shaped kitchen layout, such as in this Roundhouse design, then consider wall mounting an adjustable swing arm lamp to provide a flexible lighting over the worktop area. Angled over the integrated hob this fitting provides light whilst cooking but it can also be easily moved to direct light over different areas of the island – perfect for when little ones are doing homework on the breakfast bar, for example.

16. Bring warmth with brass wall lights

As well as bringing practical and atmospheric lighting, wall lights can help enhance kitchen decor, too. Opting for brass and burnished metal fittings and wall lights is a brilliant way to bring  warmth to cream kitchen ideas. Sometimes neutral kitchens can run the risk of feeling flat and lifeless but metallic finishes can help bring texture and life to kitchens contributing to a more relaxed atmosphere.  ‘We use our kitchens so much more these days and for so many different purposes, not just cooking, so it needs to be a room for family gatherings; parties, drinks, homework so lighting is very important. Wall lights create atmospheric lighting as they give a comfortable glow,’ says Henriette von Stockhausen of VSP Interiors (opens in new tab). ‘My main aim is to make this room a really beautiful extra living room. Fun lighting, curtains, antiques and rugs serve to make this a cozy space that one would want to spend time in.’

17. Use wall lamps to light open shelves

Open shelving is an increasingly popular kitchen storage idea, and is fast becoming the go-to choice over wall hung cabinets. Not only do kitchen shelving ideas help small kitchens feel more open and airy, they offer space to display characterful kitchenalia and give easy access to everyday essentials.  While wall hung cabinets may have LED lighting incorporated, shelving does not come with integrated lighting, so fitting downward facing wall lamps above them makes a practical solution.  Hand-made in its ceramics studio, these mini creamware wall lights from Devol (opens in new tab)make fitting finishing touches for this handcrafted country kitchen idea which features plenty of natural wood surfaces and rustic pottery.

What is the best type of lighting for a kitchen?

Like any other room, kitchens need good general lighting. Increasingly, kitchens aren’t solely for working and need effective ambient lighting for different times of the day.  When working out how much light your kitchen needs, first look at how much natural light the room gets by noting the number of windows and which way they face. Then think about how this can be enhanced with artificial lighting. Wall lights and wall washers create a subtle form of background light. They are good for creating mood lighting in areas of the kitchen that are used for relaxing. For high ceilings, using uplighters on top of the kitchen cabinet ideas will add to the general light while reducing the number of downlights you’ll need.

How do I light my kitchen in style?

If you want to highlight a special feature of your kitchen – say a piece of art or a collection of vintage china – consider adding an extra layer of feature or accent lighting.  Kitchen wall lights hung above a piece of art – or a treasured ceramic collection – emit a gentle wash of light across the countertop and highlight beautiful marble or wood surfaces. Try a green or blue light for a really dramatic statement, or use wall lighting to enhance your kitchen color scheme.