Why Is kitchen Lighting The Hardest Thing To Get Right?

First of all, this post about kitchen lighting is not so much about the actual lighting design of your kitchen. That’s a process that I would leave to your kitchen designer and electrician to figure out.


One thing I will say though is that when it comes to kitchens, better too much lighting, than not enough.


Of course, it needs to be lighting that you can control. Everything goes on dimmer switches and in larger kitchens, I recommend more than one switch if you want to only turn on some of the lights.

Basically, kitchens need an over-all ambient light which I usually recommend recessed down-lights. I prefer the small 2″ Halogen or LED lights. Again, this is not my area of expertise. I’ve always relied on the many skilled electricians I’ve worked with over the years. However, this is an excellent post for that.

If there is an island, these days we usually see either a pendant or lantern or if long enough, two or even three of these. My feeling is that unless it’s a pretty small fixture, if you need three of them, the island might be too large.

But again, that is up to you and your unique requirements.


So, what are we going to discuss in terms of kitchen lighting?


Well, like the dining room post, this is more about the aesthetic aspect of the kitchen lighting fixtures. Of course, “form follows function” and absolutely, it is vitally important the fixture does what we need it to do in the way of lighting requirements.

What makes this very difficult is that there are many, many variables. In other words, I could write an entire book on kitchen lighting covering dozens of different styles and combinations.

Alas, this is a blog post. And while I hope that it at least answers some of your questions, it may not answer all of them.


But let’s begin with some of the basic rules of kitchen lighting.


Or rather, Laurel’s Rules of Kitchen Lighting. ;]


Let’s start with island lighting. (if there is one)


Island lighting is usually about 66″ off the floor to the bottom of the fixture. It really depends on the fixture, the height of the ceiling, etc. One thing to make sure of, however, is that the fixture isn’t blocking the cook’s vision if she/he has guests.

As for placement. If there are two fixtures, I usually like to leave at least a foot from the edge of fixture to the edge of the counter and usually more than one foot.

Okay. Goody. I think we’ve gotten most of the boring parts out-of-the-way.

Oh, before I move on.

A word about the kitchen lighting you see in magazines.


A lot of it is fake. It must be! I can’t tell you the number of kitchens I’ve seen with virtually no lighting. They either photo shop out the recessed down lights and/or crop them out all together. I guess that recessed lighting is a little like hanging out the dirty laundry. We need to do it, but we don’t want anyone else to know that.

While it is common to have one, two, or three somethings hanging from the ceiling over your island, it is not an essential piece of your  kitchen lighting design.


It isn’t Laurel?

No, it’s not. And here are some reasons why we might leave off the hanging fixtures over the island in favor of recessed down lights.

  • The eating area has the most smashing chandelier that God ever created and it just needs to be the star of the show.
  • The kitchen is in a rather open area, and one can see the fixture over the eating area, the front hall, the dining room and the living room. Too much hanging in the line of vision is not going to look good.
  • The lighting over the island and lighting over the eating area should never match– unless they are parallel to each other and they are the only two hanging fixtures in the room.


one_kings_lane_elizabeth locke_ kitchen lighting

Elizabeth Locke

This is an excellent example. Although this is an unattainable kitchen for 99.999% of us. haha. Very important. The island is usually about 6″ taller than a dining table. However, if one has this configuration and a normal-height ceiling, the fixtures need to be hung at the same height or it’s going to not look-so-great.


But here we can see that Maura Endres’ fabulous kitchen has no island fixtures.


I really like that her pretty chandelier gets featured and that the gorgeous range becomes the focal point.

Why does her messy kitchen look like a work of art and my messy kitchen look like a craphole?

(you don’t need to answer that.)

Sublime. And there’s that gorgeous Calacatta Gold marble we were just discussing!

Images taken from Maura Endres (M.O. Endres on instagram)

What we want to avoid in our kitchen lighting is something like this.


Everything matches. I love a quatrefoil pattern, but it shouldn’t be in every fixture.




I don’t know if you can see the quatrefoil pattern in the chandelier, but here it is.  Here are some more quatrefoil patterns in lighting and other home furnishings.

All of the lighting fixtures are by Suzanne Kasler for Visual Comfort, except for the lanterns which are by Bunny William’s husband ;] (John Rosselli) and the beautiful flush mount which we did a few years ago in a bedroom. Design by Alexa Hampton.

The Quatrefoil chair is another Suzanne Kasler design for Hickory Chair.



View into our courtyard and a piece of the railing with a quatrefoil motif!


Laurel. We already get that the kitchen lighting isn’t supposed to match. THAT’S THE PROBLEM. How do you get it to not match, but still look okay?



Oh, okay. Here are my ideas.

You’re right. It’s not supposed to match, but it is supposed to coordinate. And by coordinate, I feel that there needs to be some commonality in shape, style and finish– maybe not all three, but some common thread.

And another thing. If you have a pendant or a chandelier, I would do only one style of a pendant and then pair with a coordinating chandelier.

For example. Gorgeous kitchen! But the fixtures are not quite working together, IMO. And also, I’m getting really sick of these minimalist lanterns.

But something more like this Currey and Company’s (trade) Prosperity Chandelier available at Burke Decor, I think would coordinate better with the lantern. Or it could take the place of the boring lantern over the island.


We did Suzanne Kasler’s Quatrefoil chandelier a few years ago in the dark bronze finish over a round dining table in the kitchen eating area.




Over the island we did this pendant by Thomas O’Brien for Visual Comfort. I’m not sure if they’re still making this one or not. The finish was darker and more matte.

Another solution that’s bailed me out a number of times is the ol’ drum pendant.

Katie DeStefano Design Suzanne Kasler Quatrefoil dining chairs kitchen lighting drum pendant

Katie DeStefano

Family room dining area drum pendant light over dining table

Here is one I did several years ago.

This is another drum pendant, I believe designed by Thomas O’Brien for Visual Comfort. We got it at Circa Lighting.

Here’s the sitch. Family room looking into the dining room. We did the family room/kitchen in 2008.

And we did the dining room in 2003!!!

So, all the lighting had to coordinate.

Jamie Young Lafitte Pendant Light

This image doesn’t do it justice. It’s much more antique looking in person.

One of my favorite chandeliers forever and ever that I have talked about a few times before is the

Sara Chandelier from Canopy Designs.


*note: 2018 Canopy Designs has sadly gone out of business.

I am so hoping that someone picks up this design!


It is modeled after an antique Egyptian chandelier that caused millions to swoon when it appeared on the cover of Elle Decor in Sara Jessica Parker’s home a while back.

I’ve done the chandelier twice. Once in a kitchen but they’ve moved. And another time in a family room. And damn, I never got a decent photo of it. But I found it in this kitchen dining area.

Lovely room. Not sure of the original source, however.


The glass covers come in several different colors and the metal parts come in different finishes as well. I did it both times in an antique bronze which is handsome.

There is also a small version of the Sara Chandelier.


It’s one of the “stunning pieces” where I probably wouldn’t do a hanging piece on the island, but then I thought it would be fun to take a stab at it and here’s what I came up with.

I thought that perhaps Serena and Lily’s Capiz Pendant in the small-size might work. But let’s not forget that “small” is relative. A 22.5″ ball hanging from the ceiling is NOT small!


The frosted glass pendant from World’s Away (trade) and available at The Well Appointed House Retail feels too contemporary or something, although the size at 15″ diameter would be perfect for most islands.

Determined to find something for no apparent reason other than to satisfy my curiosity, I think I struck just the right note.


pottery barn camille-milk-glass-caged-pendant-kitchen lighting

If you imagine the Sara in a darker metal finish, I think that these two pieces coordinate beautifully. And get this. This lovely called the Camille Milk Glass Caged Pendant is from Pottery Barn!


camille-milk-glass-caged-pendant-kitchen lighting

I find it helps a lot if I can find an image that shows the scale in relation to other pieces of furniture. I can imagine two of these over and island and think that the 14″ diameter size is perfect. Oh, and at $179.00/ea, how can you go wrong? Well, you still can, but fortunately they take returns. :]


Traditional Home –  architect Geoffrey Bray and interior designer Wendy Kirkland – photo Emily Jenkins Followill

Here, I think is a very successful combo of kitchen lighting fixtures. They definitely coordinate without being at all “matchy.”


Graceful Elegance Four-light chandelier from Aidan Gray has a similar feeling


Believe me when I tell you that I spent half the day looking through dozens of sources trying to find that chandelier. But Aidan Gray has a lot of terrific chandeliers in that sophisticated European country-style.

This is a really cool piece from Kathy Kuo Home that could coordinate with many of the Aidan Gray Chandeliers and others, of course that have antique gold in them.

Chic Pendant I found at ABC Home from a French Company – Astier De Vilatte

This is a simple and versatile chandelier from Currey & Co.

Brooke and Steve Giannetti are a perfect example of a beautiful unified lighting and for that matter all of their home furnishings in their exquisite home, Patina Farm.


Do you have their book? If you love their style, it’s a must-have book.

And also their first book, Patina Style.

And have you checked out the new book list?

Fabulous pendants in the Giannetti’s kitchen at Patina Farm.

I do recognize Brooke and Steve’s sconces from their dining area from Aidan Gray too!


Switching gears a little


I am totally besotted with this kitchen. Every last thing in it done by Kim Bachman

I was wondering if I could come up with a vintage Chinoiserie brass chandelier and I did!

I think I kind of love this beauty I found at the 5th Ave Kitsch Store on Etsy.

I could see pairing it with a Pagoda Lantern. This one is by one of my fave sources in Laurel’s Rolodex, JM Piers. (to the trade) But, it can be purchased retail at The Well Appointed House. They have a fabulous lighting collection! This piece comes in a lot of different colors.

Here is the same piece at New York Now a few years ago.


Oh gosh, I didn’t get to nearly everything that I wanted to! I have about 50 more photos. Not kidding. I love lighting. If you guys want me to go on with this topic soon, I will.





This post contains affiliate links


94 Responses

  1. Hi Laurel – HOW DO YOU DO IT???? You are always in my head. It is getting a little creepy…..but I love it. Guess what I have been working on? The lighting layout for our new home. Just came out of framing…finally. So, laying out the lighting and finalizing the selections. To date, we have 58 light fixtures, not including the ceiling cans. Now I am laying it all out, with the switching mechanisms, path lighting and exact measurement for the placement for each j box. Can’t leave that to the imagination of an electrician. My questions is……did you tell us the formula for the size of chandelier for a dining table? Or, did I hallucinate that? The only one I can find online is width + length of room =diameter of chandelier. But, I have open concept with kitchen, dining, great room =
    56X26. Please don’t shriek. The spaces are architecturally defined. I thought you told us how to do it based on size of table and ceiling height (mine is 18 feet). Was that the blog about the guy that bonked his head? If you did teach us this already, could you please refresh for the slow student in the back of the room….me? thank you.

  2. Loved this post. Kitchen lighting is so important, especially as one ages, and the print on those labels gets smaller! It is a delicate dance to achieve form and function at a realistic price point. I love a lot of light, natural during the day, and artificial and layered in the evening and during the Winter months. It is a very important aesthetic, and a complete and challenging science unto itself. I wish you would do a led light for dummies post, about how to use the different shades of the spectrum to achieve the perfect light in different rooms.

    1. Hi Lisa,

      I’m not sure about the different shades of the spectrum idea. I think that the light should be a uniform color at night. Sorry, I’m not an LED expert. But over and over I’m hearing 2700 Kelvins.

      I think it’s good however, for the light to come from multiple sources and for the corners to get lit.

  3. In my old condo and new condo as well, there were “can” lights in the ceiling above the kitchen counters. Fine until it’s time to replace a light bulb. The last thing you want to do as a senior citizen with bad knees is to climb on top of the kitchen counter to replace the light bulbs. Ended up replacing the “can” lights with pendant lights so light bulb replacement is a lot easier. Went to the local home improvement store and found some fixtures that look like hammered metal on the outside and white on the inside, dome-shaped. I’m very happy with the result.

  4. I hate to sound a note of grim practicality here, but when I look at all these beautiful elaborate lighting fixtures in a kitchen, I’m thinking “kitchen gurrey.” That’s what my husband calls the accumulation of dust and grease that is inevitable in a working kitchen. We have an industrial-strength fan over our restaurant stove and we still have to remove and scrub our fixture shades every few weeks and rub down the metal parts with a degreaser. We have simple opalescent glass cones over the island, and recessed cans in several spots, plus under counter lights and hood lights. Our ceilings are between 10 and 11 feet. Thirty feet away our breakfast table light gets its share of gurrey, too. Incidentally someone mentioned recessed lights as not possible in plaster ceilings, but our old house has 160-year-old horsehair plaster and we have installed recessed lights in the kitchen and laundry ceilings with no problem. Our kitchen designer was a genius with lights and while I thought she put too many recessed lights in, turns out she was right.

  5. More lighting!!!!! Definitely! Ab-so-freakin-lutely! And when you are finished, head on over to the master bathroom. Why are vanity lights so awful???? Why, Laurel, why? I’m going to have to figure out what the Giannetti’s did with their bathrooms. Love this topic, so get those pics loaded! Please? And thank you.

  6. Hello Laurel,

    Should the hanging light over the island be centered over the counter top or over the base cabinet? Which of the two looks better?

      1. Some islands have an overhang where bar stools fit underneath the counter top which makes the base cabinet offset. When looking across the room would you center the island light in the middle of the counter top or over the base cabinet? Just wondering as mine sometimes doesn’t look right to me. We added the new counter top years after the island light was hung and added another foot for a breakfast bar. I hope that makes sense. Thank you very much. I so much enjoy your posts. They are a treat from a professional.

        1. Hi Ginger,

          Oh, I see now. That’s interesting because all of the islands I’ve done have an overhang, but the base has a panel that runs the full width. So, we don’t have that issue.

          In your case, I’d center it over the top, most likely. Since I’m not there, I can’t say for certain.

  7. Hi Laurel,

    Thank you for this! You definitely left me wanting more!! Please tell me it is possible to do a kitchen without any can lights…

    I would need to coordinate three types of fixtures and make them cousins- four flush lights for general light, 1 lantern type over the kitchen table (no island), and three pendants in front of three big counter windows ( no upper cabinets). That seems like a lot of light but I cook everyday. Have I fallen for photo shopped pictures?

    Your other posts about up lighting vs down helped enormously! Thank you!

  8. I LOVE lighting! I never knew how much until I had to outfit all the house with it. I don’t understand who bought all the lighting before..well I do remember buying some table and floor lamps, but how come I’ve never picked a chandelier/sconce/pendant in my life until 2015?..

    I’m so so with you, Laurel, on non matching (but like minded as one of the posters said)), and also am a bit tired of samey lights you see everywhere now. Like “Darlana”. It’s cool but after you see fifty Darlanas, you kinda start resenting it already. The fixture should be amazing for you to love it regardless how many time you saw it. The Sara one is amazing, to me. Was seriously considering it. The big was too big, the small was too small, and the price was you know:)
    We have only recessed lighting in our kitchen-which I usually hate but the kitchen is small with standard ceilings and nothing else would make sense. We also have under cabinet lights which I love madly. And we have a drum pendant over our dining table(seen from the kitchen). I think it’s one of the two new lights in the house-the rest is vintage. Had to hunt it all because no way I could have done it as I like, and for the price of new. Granted there are cheaper new lights which look nice on pictures..but check them out IRL,come closer and you see how badly they’re made..poor finish, craftsmanship is not there. No, no. I’d rather buy old but well made and pleasing the eye. And you can guarantee they won’t match lol.

    The books-I collect books on design, it’d be so cool to see your list..but I can’t see your recommendations! So sad. I see only the headliners, not the books themselves. Maybe browser problems? I tried to refresh the page, and all..

    1. Hi Jenny,

      You are about the 4th person who’s said that they can’t see the books. Sorry about that. I checked on my macbook, firefox and chrome and on my i-phone7 and all is good. I’m wondering if there’s a firewall or something on your browser? Did you try a different browser and/or device?

      1. Thank you! Have checked, indeed does work in Internet Explorer, doesn’t work in Chrome. Anyway..the important thing I was able to see it:)

        1. Hi Jenny,

          Glad it’s working in IE. My geek helper said she could see it in chrome but not something else. It is possible that there’s some interference with the plugin somewhere. We’re working on it. Sorry for the difficulty.

  9. I know some folks like to have fun with island lights… kind of like what many do to backsplashes. But wow you still need to tie to something color or style wise! I prefer overheads in kitchens as I dislike the spread of light from cans as they do create shadows at the top of the wall or cabinets. In this 20’s house we have a 10*10 u shape kitchen with 9′ ceiling. Over the only window we have this interesting, from the 50’s? 10×8 ish recessed box light. It takes a normal bulb that screws in horizontally, there is like aluminum lining it, and a piece of plastic is flush to the 18″ soffit. I was thinking of replacing with a pendant but the distribution of light from this retro piece was great. We updated the bulb to led and purchased a piece of clear decorative glass. We replaced the dated ceiling fan/light combo with a 4 armed chandelier that has schoolhouse globes. The cool led was too stark so it is slightly warmer in here. It is hung about 7′ from the floor and I love it. This is casual and in period with the home and kitchen style. It helps we have a white kitchen with dispersing the light. I have been toying with the idea of a lamp at the window. 😉 Please do share about the kelvin of bulbs. We have had chaos due to light bulbs and shades. The warm bulbs tainted our perception of the color of paint/ upholstery with their yellowish cast. I do have plenty of cool white now.

    1. Hi MAM,

      Survey says 2700 kelvins – warm white to mimic incandescent bulbs the closest. Cree is a great brand. I’ll be writing more about this because it’s important.

      As for downlights, that too is problematic. It depends what kind of bulb and what kind of fitting is installed. They do not need to make harsh shadows. The Bronxville kitchen we did is beautifully lit. No shadows at all! We did do the smaller Halogen bulbs.

      1. 2 things. Just yesterday I directed a woman to this blog for the cordless light source. Interesting project … one aspect is instead of lights on the wall in a guest bath – a small chandelier overhead and maybe two lamps on the wide vanity. My latest lightbulb issues- find a19 , 25 watt equivalent, in 5000k (tried soft white and still had yellowish walls at dinner time.. the time I care most about of course! ) I like the ability to return the bulbs in person .. maybe I should call a good lighting store. Thanks so much!

        1. Hi MAM,

          I love chandeliers in bathrooms if the ceiling is high enough. As for the lamps. If they are cordless, I guess it would work. Otherwise, I don’t know. I love the idea of lamps, but of course electricity and water don’t mix. It depends on the situation most likely.

  10. Yes, please more kitchen lighting!
    I’m having a hard time updating my fixtures over the island and table. We’ve changed all our fixtures in the rest of the first floor to brass, but the kitchen has pewter hardware and the fixtures have a pewter finish.
    So do I go with the brass? Change the cabinet hardware? And what about clear glass shades in a kitchen–too glaring?
    Thanks for your help!

  11. P.S. Laurel, what color of blue or blue/green is the family room looking into the dining room? Beautiful!

  12. I absolutely adore the chandelier based on the ancient Egyptian chandelier! We just finished purchasing all of our kitchen/dinette/laundry room (it’s all one space) lighting for our stop-gap remodel. I am nervous to see how it looks once it’s all up but it is definitely not matchy. I combined a Feiss drum shade fixture with the Feiss Cadence pendant, lots of recessed cans, and a couple of cheap schoolhouse style flushmounts, all in dark oil-rubbed bronze. Fingers crossed!

  13. Kitchen lighting, in and of itself, is an exhausting, mind-bending task, bordering on a science! I couldn’t agree more about not matching the fixtures. We’re still in the never ending remodel of the kitchen I’ve designed and I have said of lighting, from the beginning of the process, never matching but always like-minded. It’s much more visually interesting.

  14. Hi Laurel,

    Thanks for the great post on lighting – one of my favorite decorating subjects, and one that is so easy to get wrong, at least if you look at a lot of shelter magazines and websites (like I do). These images are just so deceiving – in-ceiling can/spot lights brushed out, fabulous rooms with only one apparent light source – how can those rooms be functional in conditions less than full sunlight streaming through the (often over-large) windows? Does it not get dark where these homes are?

    My other complaint is the glitzy lighting often featured in kitchen renos- no spotlights or can lights, no undercabinet lighting, and then they show us these oversized, glammed-up chandeliers and pendants over islands, sinks, and adjacent breakfast rooms. Most of these fixtures have no shades to diffuse the bright light coming from the bulbs, so you’re left with impression that once the fixtures are on, and providing enough light to safely prepare food, the glare of the bulbs on everyone in the room would feel like an interrogation room (even on dimmers, which are absolutely required in any case).

    I applaud your featuring drum pendants/shades on several examples – these are great over dining and work spaces, especially when they have bottom diffusers.

    I’d also add that my experience with installed LED lighting is not good – even after I asked multiple times, and got multiple assurances from my electrical contractor that the LED would have warm light, the undercabinet kitchen lighting and the ceiling-mounted washer lighting in my foyer that he installed are anything but warm, and he is no longer my electrical guy. LED and flourecent lighting will never be as good as incandecent and (some) halogen lighting, in my opinion, and I’ll not be convinced otherwise!

  15. Another interesting and thought provoking topic Laurel. What do you think of a pendant light over the kitchen sink? I have seen that in a few homes and I can’t figure out if it works–sometimes I think i looks nice and others it just looks weird. There is a beach house I walk by all the time that was designed by the Gianetti’s and it is beautiful. In the picture from the cover of Patina Farm’s book the sconces appear low but look great, is that because they were designed for the seating area? Is there a rule with sconces and fireplaces (perhaps a future topic!). I don’t know how you continue to always come out so frequently with such interesting and informative tips/topics. Thanks again!

    1. Hi Travis,

      I will try to address some of this in future posts. One thing about photos is that sometimes they lie. Perspective and camera angles can play tricks.

  16. Loved this article as I’m doing lighting in my kitchen so it’s timely. I’m voting for you to continue with the topic. And sooner rather than later. Thanks Camille

  17. This post was great! I love lighting and would like to see many more posts on the subject. I feel like if my kitchen was my little black (white) dress, the lighting would be that piece of jewelry that made it sparkle! I love your aesthetics. You always have a show stopper that keeps rooms fresh, timeless and, oh so important, interesting!

  18. You’re the best, Laurel! And I, too, obsess over lighting and have spent days robotically searching online till I want to pass out. And then I make mock ups of fixture possibilities out of cardboard and newspaper to hold up so I can eyeball the proportions. For me it is okay to get a little unconventional but it all has to delight! AND light up enough. Uplight and downlight are issues too, right? I have been warned by professionals to never have an uplight fixture over the island since you won’t be able to see what you’re doing as well!

    I also wonder about mixing styles? While I understand that the fixtures in a room have to coordinate, I’m not exactly sure what that constitutes since it involves making an art/design decision that is based on “feels” vs science – as you well know. So I think its okay to mix an atomic blast type chandelier like the Hudson Valley Sparta in one section of an open eclectic interior and have a large traditional crystal chandelier in an adjoining space. They wouldn’t compete in the line of sight but I think if the metal bases match and if they both have “crystals” it could be ultra glam! My friend says, “NO!” Mixing modern with traditional is too jarring. Of course it all depends on what else you have going on but I think that would definitely be an interesting topic to explore in your next lighting feature! And I’m dying to use that Sparta somewhere. Juts saw that its on sale!

    1. Hi Nathalie,

      Oy! The experts and their rules! There are no rules. Or maybe I should say there are rarely any rules that apply in every circumstance.

      Of course you can mix traditional and modern lighting. But it depends how and what. I think that there does need to be some common thread, however. It needs to make sense in the over-all design scheme.

      As for up, vs. down lighting. I think that both are good. Light bouncing up is never a bad thing, because what goes up, must come down. Light is not a fixed object!

      But you wouldn’t want an opaque fixture that only went up. That’s true, but it would also look quite odd. I think it’s safest to do island fixtures where the light comes out top, bottom and sides too!

  19. Beautiful lighting. I love table lamps in a kitchen if there’s room. One look that I have never liked, probably never will, is anything with exposed bare bulbs. I do not want to look at a light bulb, big or small, no matter how chic the fixture may be!

  20. Please continue the discussion about lighting. I’d love to see the rest of the photos. I am in the process of choosing lighting for my foyer and dining room (you can see both from the entry or dining room). Also, I would like a new light fixture over the breakfast table in an eat-in kitchen. I have been living with what was already in the house when we bought it, but I’ve always disliked all of them. Love your blog!

  21. Great post! Need more lighting! Instead of March madness, resulting from bad lighting choices, you could do March lighting! 🤔🏀

    1. Hi Michelle,

      I’m so glad that you guys want to hear more. In truth, what I’ve realized for years is that lighting is EVERYTHING! There can be a gorgeously decorated room, but if the lighting sucks, the room will look terrible.

      And it affects mood, eye strain– on and on… But it’s the one area that I see as a designer that the majority of people overlook or throw away as not being important.

  22. I’m in the process of making some changes to my kitchen. I’ve removed the blinds from the bay window and added ceiling to floor linen drapes (we have a beautiful view of the woods with a hint of the mall pond). I have been looking for weeks for a new chandelier to go over the breakfast table. I thought that a lantern style was the way to go. After reading this blog, I’m afraid that the lantern style might be on it’s way out or too trendy. There are probably many others in this same position right now. What should we be looking for? Also, I want to hang a pot rack in order to free up some cabinet space (small kitchen)so this needs to be considered when deciding on the light fixture. Sorry this is so wordy.

    1. Hi Mary Sue,

      Lanterns are not on the way out, but it depends on the lantern! The minimal lantern is a trend but most of them aren’t that expensive.

      So, I will be sure to include some classic lanterns and pendants in the next post.

      Pot racks are another matter. It really depends on the kitchen, but I think that they have a tendency to look cluttered. I will try to address that issue in a future post.

    2. Hi Mary Sue – I’m Mary Sue too! I love lanterns, and am researching lighting for our sun room remodel, but I also worry that it is trendy. Glad to hear they’re not on the way out, Laurel.

      Laurel, I’m always saying, “lighting is everything”! I have a visceral reaction when I walk into a room and the lighting is bad! Can’t wait for your next post about lighting.

  23. I couldn’t agree more about the recessed lighting. We built a house years ago and hired an expensive lighting designer who just wanted to sell us fancy sconces and pendants. I made things worse by choosing pendants over the island that had opaque shades. At night the kitchen was like a cave- you couldn’t see the ceiling, which was awful. I finally had an electrician install some cans on the first floor – what a mess to retrofit — and changed out the island pendants to good old schoolhouse globes. And our “lighting” designer will forever be known as “The Prince of Darkness” !

    1. Hi Susan,

      Yuck when a so-called expert turns out to be a dud. Yes, I always prefer central light fixtures to have translucent shades. Accent lighting can have opaque shades. And the light should have more than one way to get out. Island lights, IMO should be able to go up as well as down. In fact lights that point up are always good because the light will light the ceiling which will then bounce back down to the counters and floor.

      That’s also why more than one source of light in any room is a good thing.

    2. Hi. I’m considering globe lights over my island as well, the clear glass. Do you find any problems with glare?

      1. Hi Camille,

        Well, I’ve never used them, (for myself, that is– a client one-time and they were fine) however, if the bottom of your globe is not obstructing your vision, then the light won’t be in your eyes either. But as I often recommend, please talk to either the sales person/designer and/or manufacturer if you have any concerns. Also, look for reviews of your products. Many have them.

  24. I could certainly use more knowledge about lighting. Anytime you want to write some more about it I’m all in!

  25. LOVE this.. seems just when I am working on something for a client, the exact blog post I need pops into my feed from Laurel! Thank you!

    1. Hi Erin,

      Glad it’s helpful. This is a bit of a tough nut due to the plethora of kitchens with lots of hanging fixtures. Lots of islands, etc. Not everyone has a 20′ x 30′ kitchen and I wouldn’t ever want one that size, in any case.

  26. Absolutely! Please continue on with this discussion and the rest of your photos on kitchen lighting! I was sad that I had reached the end of the post. 😞

    1. Hi Annette,

      Well, they always say… leave them wanting more. Nothing worse than reading a long post and going, “is this ever going to end?” haha. I’ve felt like that sometimes.

  27. I personally am in favour of not cutting my fingers off while cooking, which means well-lit. I have a smaller kitchen with 8ft ceilings, and when the previous 4x1ft fluorescent lights died, I looked for replacements that will a) not make noise and b) look better. Led lighting fixed the first problem, but really nothing could fix the second without losing light, and practicality won. Two of those big lights, on separate switches, light up the kitchen like nothing else, and now that I know they can be photoshopped from my kitchen’s future magazine appearances, I feel a lot better about it 🙂

    1. Hi Luiza,

      Hahaha! I would like to do a post about lighting ones kitchen beautifully without resorting to fluorescent lights. I know it can be done because we’ve done it, but need to explain how that’s accomplished.

      1. I would love such a post. I have plaster ceilings so recessed can lights are pretty much out (really, I’d rather not do recessed anything given the insulation issues on top of the difficulty in cutting plaster). Low ceilings mean nothing hanging, and it’s not a big space so sconces and directed lighting or anything that pokes out and collects oil and dust is, well, out. A good thing is that the kitchen is fully enclosed — has a small breakfast area inside, so it’s not claustrophobic — and I don’t have to look at the kitchen lighting from the dining table (or the kitchen mess, for that matter). It’s the most efficient kitchen I’ve ever cooked in, but I found the lighting impossible to make pretty. And that may be true even in places with less constraints, so I’m reading your lighting series with great interest!

        1. Hi Luiza,

          Oh, that is an extra challenge for sure. One thing to consider are small counter lamps as well as under cabinet lighting if you have upper cabinets. Even a small floorlamp or two in a corner is a possibility. Wisteria makes a very simple pretty floor lamp that takes up no space at all!

      2. Just read the new comments — it seems like giant fluorescent kitchen lights are fairly common. If your lights are not recessed and you want to at least get rid of the noisy fluorescent part, this is the best replacement I found: http://www.homedepot.com/p/Hampton-Bay-4-ft-x-1-ft-White-LED-Traditional-Ceiling-Flushmount-54644141/206355270 . It’s dimmable and it gives a pleasant white light (not the “harsh industrial” light variety). But it still isn’t pretty…

  28. I look forward to each installment from you, you are sooo gifted and such an entertainer ! How lucky for your readers. I would love to see the rest of your pictures for lighting the kitchen. Thank you for being so giving.

  29. Yes, please do more on lighting. Loving your recent kitchen posts. Would love a series on bathrooms too. One thing that always concerns me about all these beautiful fixtures is trying to judge how much light they put out and the shadows that are cast. Love the look of all these fixtures with bare bulbs but I think they are harsh on your eyes when in use. The era of shades gave us great down light and a pretty glow. I’m sure there is a reason we never see these lanterns photographed at night! Glad to realize these kitchens all have recessed lighting too. They are good at taking pictures so you can’t see that part! Thanks for such yummy posts!!

  30. What about those of us who need to coordinate with the dreaded ceiling fan light fixture over the table. We have a relaxed casual style home, and like to have open windows a lot. Thus we need a ceiling fan in the kitchen over the table for keeping things cool and comfortable in the kitchen.

    The house is from late 1980s so kitchen has standard height ceilings.

    What if any fixtures would you recommend over the island? Currently we have very awful squared-in-a-box fluorescents that need to go.

    I was considering doing only can lights, despite seeing only kitchens in blogs everywhere that have dropped pendants. Is ti really going to look OK to just have cans, or am I missing out on the opportunity to “tie the room together” with adding fixtures?

    Right now the fluorescents are the only source of light in that area of the kitchen. Will just cans be enough light?

    Thank you for your insights.

    1. Hi Julie,

      You can definitely have only recessed lighting. I do prefer the smaller cans, but they are more expensive. But maybe not that much more. Not sure.

    2. Julie,
      I had the boxed-in fluorescents in the kitchen of my former condo removed about 10 years ago, and replaced with approximately 7-8 halogen recessed can lights. There was a fair bit of drywall repair that needed to be done in the roughly 8X10 kitchen, as the fluorescent fixture was basically there to camouflage the fact that the builder’s grade cabinets didn’t reach to the ceiling, and so was forming a faux
      ‘bulkhead’ over the cabinets. Needless to say there was a lot of drywall repair. The total cost was about $700, and was worth every penny. No blue light, no humming, and plenty of light just where I needed it. Don’t go with LEDs though – they have a very cold light, just like fluorescent, even if the bulbs manufacturers say differently.

      1. Hi Borah,

        Thanks for that info. One thing about LEDs however, is there are warm LEDs that mimic incandescent very closely. I haven’t used them but I’ve heard this from some of my colleagues that I trust.

        I will be writing more about this too.

  31. Hello Laurel, I’m glad you provided alternatives to those conical, industrial-looking fixtures that seem to have become a cliche over every kitchen island–I hate them! I think that vintage fixtures can look surprisingly good in a kitchen–they can soften that all-new, too-efficient look.

    Speaking of lighting, the other day I rescued all the hanging crystals from a broken chandelier that was being discarded, but I haven’t decided what to do with them yet.

    1. Hi Jim,

      I don’t know about the crystals either but am wondering if a repair place might be interested in them. Or were you thinking of using them on something of your own?

  32. Ten out of Ten! Go straight to the top of the class, again, Laurel!

    So happy someone at last ( except me on Pinterest & houzz) has come out against the

    rash of dingly dangly, lights hanging over islands. ( & elsewhere in the


    The worse offenders, not content with lights hanging down, are those hoops of wire, also

    hanging down, that form circus wires for spiders before they even get to said dingly

    dangly lights.

    So many lights Interrupting sight-lines in kitchens are becoming a feature of many

    ‘designer’ kitchens.

    I love a classy light hanging down, don’t get me wrong, a well chosen chandelier or a

    special modern fitting but please do not over-egg the pudding!

    1. Hi Joanna,

      I like that “do not over-egg the pudding.”

      I also have a thing with round, naked light bulbs. The bulb in a chandelier is supposed to mimic a candle light. I’ve never seen a round flame. lol

  33. Oh Laurel yes please do more about kitchen lighting … especially in small kitchens. Is there anything one can do with those horrid boxed fluorescent ceiling lights without tearing it out? I did that in my condo galley kitchen (one of the bulbs fell out and broke on me while standing on a ladder – not fun) and never got the whole ceiling light thing right after I had it removed. Now in my current 1900 house again another fluorescent light with “cloud” cover – gag. The thing is, as much as I hate it, it does light up the square kitchen. Damned if you do, damned it you don’t. I love the “Sara Jessica Parker” fixture, absolutely beautiful.

    1. Hi Betty,

      It may light up the whole kitchen but even so, it’s not the only way to do it and if it’s fluorescent, is it a nice light?

      Sometimes we don’t notice the difference until the change is made.

  34. I second what Julianna says! I found this lighting post very informative, although too short…haha…I want more!! I’m in the tedious process of designing a very small kitchen (8′ X 10′) and love the french country style so much. I’d love to see your take on French Country! Keep blogging, girl!

    1. Hi Wendy,

      I have a lot of thoughts about French Country because what most Americans think of French Country tends to be something other than what it actually is. But I would love to do a post about that one day.

  35. Love your blog Laurel! I learn so much! Let’s chat about lighting again soon! Dying to see the rest of your photos.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Welcome To Laurel Home!


Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

New Edition, November 2023! Get The Indispensable Guide For 100s of Home Furnishings And Interior Design Sources That Everyone Is Raving About

laurels-rolodex-final-book-cover-master 10th edition 23-24

laurel home archives


Please click the image below for more info about my rockin’ Interior Design Guides for 2024!

Laurel Home Interior Design Guides 2024
Amazon ad

please click below to check out my favorite decorating & design books

Laurel Bern's Favorite Interior Design and Decorating Books
Subscribe To The Laurel Home Blog And You Will Receive A FREE Guide Where I Share How To Get Your Paint Colors Right, The First Time.