Kitchen Lights – You’d Think This Would Be Easy.

Hi Everyone,

Yes, the post is a day late. And even then, I’m struggling. Oh, not in a bad way. The lateness is due to my never-ending quest to find a better balance in my life– and for loosening the reigns a bit, if necessary. So, a few times a year, this happens.

But, it’s also due to the subject matter. My kitchen lights and actually all of the lights.


About two weeks ago, my contractor was here with six subcontractors.


They were here for about an hour. However, the contractor asked me for a lighting layout– “nothing elaborate, in terms of conveying that, just need to know what you have in mind.”

Uh-huh. Well, I didn’t say, “uh-huh.” That would be rude.

Everything I know about lighting has come from years of experience and seeing dozens of homes with poor lighting. And, I’ve written extensively about lighting on this blog.

In addition, there’s a ton of lighting information in my guide, 333 Decorating Rules & Tips You Need To Know.


However, some basic rules for excellent residential lighting include:


  • Great ambient lighting. This is the lighting that gives an all-over glow to a space. However, it won’t be bright enough to read a book.
  • For book reading and the like, you need task lighting. This is more focused lighting, such as library lights. However, it depends on the size of the space.
  • Accent lighting is the third type which includes picture lights and cabinets that are lit from the inside, as well as under-cabinet and cove (crown) lighting.


The idea is that the best lit rooms have lighting from more than one source.


However, it is quite possible to have nothing but table lamps and have a beautifully lit room.

I had that situation in my old apartment in Bronxville. There were four table lamps in a room approximately 12.6′ x 19′. However, the room’s length varied between 18′ and 20′. The ceiling was nine feet high.

My living room in Boston is 15.5′ wide by 26′ long with a 13′-6″ ceiling height.

So, today, we will focus on my entry and especially the kitchen lights.


Since these three areas are so close together, the kitchen lights must coordinate with all of the other lights.


Below are my other lighting necessities for the evening and night-time hours:

I need to:

  • create a warm, homey, inviting glow.
  • Have fixtures that are in keeping with the architectural style I’m creating, which is neo-classical.
  • find fixtures that coordinate in terms of finishes, style, and color
  • have fixtures that are the appropriate size


However, very important in terms of my contractor is to create a lighting plan and be sure that there are enough outlets which currently, there’s a lack of in some areas.


I will need to discuss some of this with the electrician because what I want to do might not be possible due to unforeseen factors. Or, the cost to do so would be prohibitive. At this point, I don’t know.

Remember this post from December when I quickly improvised a solution to the glaring fluorescent light over the sink. By the way, that’s worked out very nicely. However, I do suspect that there will be some unpleasant surprises once the walls are opened up.


Okay, let’s begin with the kitchen lights.


Part of the reason it’s difficult for me is because of how awful it is with the current fixture, which I never turn on unless I really need to SEE. If it was on a dimmer and I could turn it down to about a third of what it is, then it would be very nice, I’m sure. Ummm, lighting-wise.

So, I’ve been playing around with my mock-up.

The first light fixture I love, but at the widest point, it’s 18″ around, which is pretty large for such a small room.

Visual Comfort Modern Schoolhouse Lantern designer - Michael S Smith - Kitchen Lights

You can see the fixture in numerous settings on the Circa Lighting website. I love it but fear that it will look monstrous in my tiny kitchen. If anyone has done this fixture and feels otherwise, please let me know.


kitchen mock-up March 14, 2022 white marble counter schoolhouse light


After that, I began my quest for the perfect pendant.


But first, I know that whatever is in the entry is important. I could just keep the little crystal chandelier that’s there.

But, what I’d really love is a small Regency style black and gold chandelier, something like the one below.

1900-french-empire-chandelier-4876This one is about $4,000, which is not in the budget. But, now that I know that I want this neo-classical style small chandelier, I can go back to the kitchen lights.


Laurel Bern sink wall kitchen-revised

Initially, I was going to have sconces on the sink wall. However, I don’t think I want to see three sconces sticking out from the living room. And, are they essential?

And, if I do this side, I need to do the other side as well.


Before I go on, please do not suggest recessed downlights, AKA “high hats.”


I know.

EVERYONE except for darling Nancy Keyes and me has them. Now, I am not adverse if you have a large kitchen.


Okay, getting back to pendant kitchen lights.


I know that I want milk glass or sometimes called opaline glass.


kitchen mock-up March 28, 2022 white marble counter single rejuvenation ceiling lightI found another fixture on Rejuvenation that’s 15″ in diameter; it’s their Neoclassical shade. However, it looks about the same size here. I am merely eyeballing it. It’s probably a little smaller than it seems to be in the above mock-up.


Rejuvenation milk glass pendants HastingsAbove, you can see the fixture amongst two others.

I also like the one on the right. That one must be the one for the 6″ fitter. However, I could not find it on the website.

I did find the 4″, however. The only thing is it’s only 8″ wide and 9.5″ long.

Therefore, I could do two of them.


Wildwood_V3_BK5_C1_BASEThis beautiful fitter does work with the small shade.

Above is the shade in a semi-flush mount.


March 28, 2022 white marble counter double rejuvenation ceiling light

The only thing is, I believe I made the fixtures 10″ or even 11″ wide here.

Now, some of you may also object to covering up any part of the beautiful doors in the back. However, it depends on where one is standing. Once IN or even closer to the kitchen, they will be overhead and not covering up anything.


In addition to the one or two pendants, I plan to put a table lamp on the other side of the kitchen you can’t see in the mockup.


range wall - kitchenNow, here I put up some picture lights. There are so many beautiful ones in the marketplace these days. The average picture light bulb is about 25 watts, which is ample for accent lighting.

While I have them lower down, I even think they could go up on the frieze not to disturb the panel moulding.

Shouldn’t they be closer to the art? In this case, it’s not really for a piece of art, but just to add a bit more light over the counters.


Therefore, I could do the same thing on the opposite wall.


Do I need them?

Probably not.

But, they won’t hurt, and I think they will give the kitchen a bit of a library look. I could even do some that are white that will blend in better.

Could I get away with sconces and no hanging fixtures? I think I definitely could, as I am planning on doing some tasteful lights for the glass cabinets. However, I love the look of the milk glass in the kitchen.


One other consideration is that I plan to have two very lightly antiqued doors on the huge end doors on each side of the kitchen.


This is going to capture and expand the light considerably, I believe.

For the living room, I’m planning on doing sconces over the fireplace, flanking a mirror. And then I’d like two sconces on the back wall where the new stairwell will be located.

I will go over more of the living room later on.


Laurel, you didn’t talk about the beautiful sconce you put on the wall going into the kitchen.


That’s right; I didn’t. ;]

Huntington Double Sconce in gold Circa Lighting - Visual ComfortThis is Visual Comfort’s, Huntington Sconce. I did it in silver in the Bronxville bathroom but, unfortunately, didn’t get a photo.

However, it is beyond stunning in person. We did the silver version for that bathroom, but I think for me, the brass one would be lovely.



I’ve always loved these crystal sconces with the black and gold shades at the JK Place in Capri.

I think I might want to do some small tables with table lamps on the two walls.

There is much more coming up. I’m waiting to hear back from a custom kitchen cabinet maker this week.

I hope everyone is having a great week!



PS: Please check out the newly updated HOT SALES!


PPS: The day after writing this post I found this chandelier on eBay and got it the following day after one of you mentioned it. It needs some work, but the price was certainly right!


neoclassical regency-style chandelier found on eBay

Here’s the link to the listing. Unfortunately, the images aren’t the best.

I figured I better get it before one of you does. haha Thanks so much for your very helpful comments!


44 Responses

  1. Circa Lighting sells 2D (paper) scale drawings of their fixtures for $15. I don’t think their 18” pendant is too large, but for $15 you can hang the scale cut-out to get a sense for it. The real problem with a single pendant is it may cast your shadow over the sink work area, and that would be a technical foul. Personally I think using the two smaller pendants would be beautiful, adequately functional and largely avoid a shadowing issue. Using three wall mounted down-lights works, too, and I don’t agree you would need to put three more on the other side, in fact I feel that would look way overdone. Assuming you have LEDs in your range hood insert, you may not need other lights over there at all, other than your table lamp. Sometimes less is more, as you have said on occasion. You’re really fortunate to have those high ceilings. It would not bother me one bit to see beautiful pendants in the sight line to your glass fronted cabinetry. Just my humble opinion, for the fun of vicariously participating in your journey.

  2. My latest kitchen lighting horror story:
    My clients love mid-century modern. They had a sputnik light they adored and wanted to keep. I asked if they could source a second (seeing as they knew where they bought the first one).
    They said yes and I said “Let’s hang them above the new kitchen island!”
    Electrician day came and we discovered that the two lights were NOT the same. Ugh. We played with changing the canopes to match and are living with it. They look pretty darn close…but they are not identical.
    I told them the plan is to never mention it to anyone and no one will notice.
    Except ME, of course. It will drive me crazy to eternity.
    Lesson: Don’t trust your clients to get it right. Lol.

  3. I do NOT have high hats/can lights in my new kitchen.:-) I stayed firm, remembering your advice.
    During the day time the natural light is good and at night I have the option of 2 island pendants or 2 sconces above the windows, plus the vent hood light. It’s all plenty!
    Thank you 🙂

  4. I love the Modern Schoolhouse light from Circa. The bigger light might work in your kitchen since you have really high ceilings. On your advice a few year ago, I chose the larger Visual Comfort Gramercy Chandelier. The smaller light was the right size for our table but looked way too small with our 12ft ceiling height.

    1. Hi Nancy,

      Thank you! I did see this earlier today and so after I read your comment I did some more thinking and decided to get it because with a little work, it’ll be perfect.

    1. haha! It’s funny, Karen, but I go back and read my blog too! And double yes, it’s much more difficult to decorate for oneself than it is for someone else.

  5. One vote for the “too large” fixture in the first illustration (and those visuals are very helpful, besides being beautiful; well done). High ceilings provide so much additional volume that I find perspectives are substantially altered and I like the roundedness against all the linearity. Not crazy about the pendants with the pointed bottoms but I think it’s just that I’m watching too many British murder mysteries. Beautiful, carefully considered work here. Bravo!

  6. Hi Laurel,

    Your visual for your kitchen and foyer is so elegant!

    Here’s a suggestion for a tweek: I too have my kitchen faucet visible from my sitting room. While I don’t think it’s vile and utterly loathe it, (I do like the fitting) I do wish it wasn’t so in-your-face. I wouldn’t choose to have a visible faucet again.

    Have you considered also panelling the end of the sink bench that faces the sitting room? It just may create a calmer environment in the sitting room while emphasising flow from foyer to kitchen, reinforcing the effect of the lovely black and white floor and panelling.

    I’ve reworked your mock-up to illustrate the idea but I have no clue how to send it too you!

  7. Laurel, I thought lighting decisions were the hardest when I built my home. I ended up with a dining room light I don’t love just because the electrician was coming and I had to get something. I LOVE the Regency style black and gold chandelier – but it is way too expensive for me too! I’ll be looking around for a much less expensive copy cat. Hopefully – Thanks!

  8. Hi Laurel, you might want to check out “Genuine Antique Lighting” in Boston. He has lovely lights and is always very helpful. He might have something for your foyer that you will like.

  9. Hi Laurel, I gasped when you brought up “high hats” until I scrolled! When we were doing Melissa’s kitchen the contractor asked how many HH she wanted. He was in shock when we said NONE! Just a couple of points from our experience. We use the 2 lamps all of the time and the light over the stove when we are cooking. The lamps have 3 way bulbs and we only use the 30w setting. The only time we put the hanging fixture on is when we are playing Scrabble. And never use the fixture over the sink. I love the idea of the chandelier in the foyer and have found some great fixtures on Chairish and ebay.

    I have a shelf of hoarded incandescent bulbs and will never switch to LEDS!

  10. I used the Huntington sconce in my powder room, after seeing it in one of your previous posts. It is GORGEOUS in person. And coincidentally, a designer I’ve used for various projects just suggested black shades with gold lining. They are on order.
    Also, thank you so much for your kitchen post that featured Susan Serra. She is currently designing my dysfunctional space that has 5 different entranceways. I cannot believe the brilliant layouts she has drawn up. She refers to you as hysterical! Thank you for teaching us all so much and reinforcing the need for the critical eye of design professionals. If I only had all the money I’ve wasted on doing it myself!

    1. Hi Denise,

      Oh wow! Susan’s a doll and very talented! And, so cool you got the Huntington. It’s a long-time favorite, and the photos they
      have online don’t begin to do it justice as they don’t capture the beautiful luminosity of the crystal.

  11. I’ve never seen a penis light but you can bet I’ll be looking that one up! I did have a hoover wind tunnel vacuum cleaner with a handle a high school health class teacher could demonstrate putting condoms on. Forget the banana lol!

  12. Another source, for vintage lighting, is 1st Dibs. I found my kitchen pendant lights there. One hundred years old and rewired. I did have to polish the brass, which was black. I offered $200 less than their asking, and they said no deal. I didn’t counter, and next thing I knew, they were sitting on my front step!

  13. Hello Laurel,
    When it comes to lighting I will spend a big part of the budget getting it right. You have classic and timeless choices; my favorite being the VC Huntington. I love it in rubbed brass because you get silver from the mirrored star/flower. I know you have the correct name for this shape , please share so we know! Have you thought about having custom lighting designed from vintage hardware and glass? I think you’re “one of a kind” and I enjoy the bright light that shines from your personality! Have a great day!

  14. Hi Laurel, Love your blog and your work. Please write about selecting the right light bulb in this post-incandescent world. Incandescent bulbs naturally provide a warm light (2700 Kelvin) and clear chandelier bulbs did not burn holes in your eyeballs. Now Home Depot serves up 5000 Kelvin, mind numbingly bright bulbs as every day replacement bulbs. Besides making your home look like an operating room, according to the American Medical Association any bulbs over 3000 Kelvin can be disruptive to sleep patterns and thus hazardous to your health.

  15. Thank you Laurel for this post. In my condo, I have never achieved the lighting I want in my kitchen. Guess after eleven years, I should revisit this.
    I have lights shining down in the uppers which is so necessary when cooking. Lighting in front of you is the most essential. All the rest is good make up to make you shine!!!
    Please put dimmers on every single light in your home.
    When a previous president banned incandescent lightbulbs, I believe there was a revolt. I bought them by the case as I didn’t want hot glowing leds. I know leds are better now but I still like my incandescent bulbs better.
    I don’t like leds which are cool, however, they work on my sage green cabinets as it takes the yellow out and makes them more sage green looking.
    Also, I don’t like fans with lights, however my kitchen gets hot in the summer so I am placing a fan off center with a light so I can breath better. Sometimes concessions need to be done.
    Your home will look fabulous and I’m so excited to see what will replace the spiral stairs. Glad that is leaving before you take a pole stripper fall. A little humor for this wonderful day.
    Love your blog.

  16. Hi Laurel 🌸,
    I’m also anti down light groupie (who needs swiss cheese ceilings???). I know you have no window in that kitchen; the sources of “atmoshperic” light will have to come from all the tricks— you can look into an architectural “cove lighting” near your ceiling crown (not what I think is best, but it is an option), and look for appliances— your kitchen vent hood: go for the one that has the best little led levels of light (ie level 1: full blast light for cooking level 2: much dimmer light— for atmosphere) you could have that light shining down on cooktop and it would wash the area in an atmospheric light. Just find the vent hood that has those different light level options😉. And, lastly: I wish I’ld had a talented contractor (which you undoubtedly DO have), who could have skillfully put in to my shelf a hidden under the shelf led light strip (yes you can get warm toned ones). Have it go to the Front of the shelf instead of the back edge. The skillful contractor undoubtedly will know how to router this so that it is invisible and to put a beautiful front edge lip on your shelf so you will never see it… but what you will get, is another way to add mood lighting to you kitchen. All lights off, just a little glow from your shelf onto the counter. Also, your glass cabinet— same trick. Hide the LED strips in the side panels(doors?) to have it bring some warmth from the sides rather than top down spots inside the cabinet. Last idea: use “dummy” pendant lighting while you make final decisions— since you are looking at lighting that’s 4k and in the K neighborhood…. maybe experiment with dummy lighting in the under $100 framework to see how many watts, what size, etc? It’s so much easier once you will be living in your gorgeous kitchen to know exactly how you want that pendant — or two— to feel like once you’ve tacked down all the big moving parts 😉

  17. I would use a single pendant and prefer the simpler acorn shape you show with the fitter. It is less distracting when you have a lot going on! Milk glass is wonderful in a kitchen because it casts light in all directions, but a “pleated” glass shade can cast distracting shadows.

  18. Good morning Laurel,
    I love when you discuss lighting. It’s so important to the look & feel of a room. Even the kitchen.
    It’s nice to know that you would approve of my removal of all the recessed lights in my home. The contractor questioned me several times. But I stayed firm about it.
    My very small kitchen is lit with 4 picture lights & a semi- flush fixture in the middle of the room. I don’t have an island so I couldn’t do any pendants.
    Once the renovation is complete I plan on adding a small lamp or two.

  19. My opinion is a single hanging fixture in your kitchen over multiple hanging fixtures. More than one hanging fixture is typically in a larger kitchen and/or over an island. Also I do like the idea of a table lamp on a counter. However, is your lamp in front of cabinets? If it blocks access to opening, that would drive me crazy. I think you need to go with something that does not block opening or closing a cabinet

    1. Hi Merri,

      There are no upper cabinets on either side, but the entire back of the kitchen is built up with no counter. I’m not sure if I linked to previous posts about the kitchen. But, you can pretty much see what’s going on from the mockup, at least on the one side and back.

  20. Hi Laurel. This blog is very informative, as always. It’s interesting to read that you have some dilemmas in making choices too. I love the first light for your kitchen. If you click on that link and scroll to the bottom, you’ll see that Circa Lighting will make a template of the light and send it to you for $15. I’ve had clients make their own out of cardboard. It helps so much to see how it would look in the room.

  21. Since the light in our over-the-range microwave went out, I have discovered how very important it is! The ceiling light is behind and above me and throws my shadow onto the stove and what I am cooking — makes it very hard to see what I am doing! So make sure you have bright undercounter lighting all around as well as good task lighting immediately over the stove or at its sides. For me, it makes all the difference.

  22. I enjoy your blog and love your place! I agree with everything Marlene said on this blog about your lighting options. I would also consider a smaller table lamp on the counter, for better scale. Good luck it will be beautiful!

  23. Hi Laurel! I just fairly recently discovered your blog and today’s post has me feeling very justified in my lighting choices! We are starting a big renovation in May that includes the small kitchen/dining room (one long narrow low ceilinged room anchored by a fireplace on the dining room end) of our 1900 cottage and the contractor and electrician acted like I was a little nuts when I said no recessed lighting. I lost a month of my life trying to figure out the lighting and still need to find a flush mount dining fixture that has the right feel and sconces for above the fireplace. I went with Restoration Hardware’s English Openwork lantern style pendants above my island (they come in many sizes!) a glass pendant above my sink and handmade pottery and brass sconces flanking my stove. I had nightmares for dayssss about the pendant lighting over the island but am so happy with where I ended up and the work (and PTSD) were worth it. At least I think so. I guess we will see in 6 months when the work is done. 🙂 All I know is that when I see photos of other kitchens now, all I see is the lighting and am so distracted by all the downlights!

  24. Laurel, okay – I vote for the first pendant in your blog (the one shown on Circa’s site). It is simple and elegant – whereas the others seem a bit too ornate and maybe fussy. And I would not do 2 – to me that would clutter the air space. I love your idea of picture lights. I can imagine how lovely they will look in the evening if you just want to softly illuminate your kitchen. An not sure about the sconces pictured ove the sink – think the pendant is better. Anyway – great post – love how your kitchen is coming together!

  25. Umm… Although the milk glass is beautiful, the picture with the flush mount and two hanging pendant lights looks like two hanging boobs to me. Just a friendly observation. This past summer I found your blog when I was researching lights for my entire top floor renovation, and I removed anything that had the slightest form of breasts complete with nipples and areolas from my home. turns out every light I had in my home was a boob light! Your kitchen is coming along beautifully!

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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.

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