Galley Kitchen Lighting Ideas

Explore galley kitchen lighting ideas, and get ready to install a radiant, efficient and attractive galley kitchen in your home.
Galley Cottage Kitchen

Galley Cottage Kitchen

This galley kitchen featuring built-in desk and pale green cabinets is lit by three ornate ceiling lights that are almost but not quite pendant-like.

This galley kitchen featuring built-in desk and pale green cabinets is lit by three ornate ceiling lights that are almost but not quite pendant-like.

By: Sean McEvoy

Named for the small, efficient kitchens originally found on ships or trains, galley kitchens often run the risk of being cramped, dimly lit affairs—which is why anyone looking to spruce up or add one to their home might want to peruse galley kitchen lighting ideas.

Dreamy Kitchen Lighting

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Pendant Perfection

Most frequently seen over an island workspace, pendant lights are as striking as they are practical. The pair here is "clean, classic and timeless. The brushed nickel finish and clean design of these striking pendants add a 'wow' factor, combining the best of form and function," says Kim Mager, Marketing Director at Hinkley Lighting.

"Adequate wattage of bulbs for pendants, and the number of pendants used, have a direct effect on the quality of the light on the island for food preparation. Take care when placing pendants above an island to avoid them being too close to those seated at the island or too close to the cooktop, if one is installed on an island," suggests Susan Serra, CKD, CAPS of The Kitchen Designer and President of Bornholm Kitchen. Photo courtesy of Hinkley Lighting.

Love Those Layers

"Layering light is a technique that is often used in dining rooms or living rooms but, until recently, wasn't utilized in the kitchen," says Mager. "Now kitchens have become the hub of the home, being used for socializing, eating and entertaining, as well as homework stations or home offices."

"Layering light is the best way to provide task as well as ambient lighting," advises Mager, "striking just the right balance between function and mood." This farmhouse-style kitchen includes a pared-down chandelier and matching sconces to "complete a cohesive, stylish environment where you want to spend time, regardless of whether it's for relaxation or entertaining," according to Mager. Photo courtesy of Hinkley Lighting.

Create Dimension

"Layered lighting can be used to supplement the intensity of light or to overlap fields of light, creating interesting shadows and manipulating the dimension of areas the light is directed toward," explains Serra. "Lighting, when layered, can add a wonderful dimension of shadows and color to feature and enhance natural characteristics of woods, stones and metals.

In many kitchen designs, a focal point is a prominent feature of the space and lighting can immediately focus attention to one or more special areas to guide the eye into the design." Here, recessed lighting, accent lighting, over-counter task lighting and pendants work together for a welcoming, warm result. Photo courtesy of Susan Serra.

Keeping It Together

"Upscale kitchen lighting must be beautifully designed. Its form and proportion should be scaled properly to the space. The size of a fixture should not be too small, especially over a table, as luxury often is communicated by size," recommends Serra. "The style of a lighting fixture should complement the decor of the kitchen and surrounding rooms. It should also relate, but does not have to match, the finish of other fixtures," she adds. Here, the clean, warm lines of this kitchen are echoed in the mission-style pendants and matching fixture above the window. Photo courtesy of Susan Serra.

Outside the Box

When it comes choosing light fixtures for a dream kitchen, some "rules" are made to be broken. "I do believe that any style of lighting has a place in the kitchen," Serra says, "whether in a fabulous breakfast room or in the center of a kitchen work area."

"These contemporary pendants are actually made for outdoor use," reveals Mager, "but they are so modern and chic, they look just as fabulous inside. The seeded glass and minimalist, stem-hung design adds an urban edge while providing excellent task lighting that reduces eye strain while preparing a meal or doing homework at a kitchen island." Photo courtesy of Hinkley Lighting.

Accentuate the Positive

"The use of accent lighting is all about atmosphere, and the kitchen can and should have the ability to communicate a feeling to family, friends and guests, just as other rooms do," Serra says. "Accent lighting is used best when it is designed to feature specific areas of detail, whether architectural elements, artwork or decorative areas in the kitchen."

This dramatic, domed ceiling glows with accent lights that highlight the architecture, the hand-painted floral detail and the grand chandelier. "The color of the bulb, spread and intensity [of the lighting] will create dramatic or soft shadow effects and add dimension to the areas the light is focused on," Serra elaborates. Photo courtesy of Susan Serra.

Totally On-Trend

The trendiest fixtures today express strong visual design statements. "Lighting that makes a statement is now," enthuses Serra. "Oversized fixtures make for a bold entrance into the kitchen. Simple shapes, often with heavy textures, vintage styles and Edison-style bulbs are all saying, 'Look at me!'" Mager shares, "If you want to update your kitchen lighting, think about adding one of the hottest trends in lighting design: a linear chandelier. Not only will it provide more light, it adds a dramatic and stylish focal point to the room, immediately upgrading the overall design and elegance of the room." Photo courtesy of Hinkley Lighting.

Art of the Matter

"Hand blown glass is popular, as its wonderful imperfections and artisan elements add warmth to any kitchen," says Serra. The gorgeous cobalt glass pendants here add a pop of color and unique appeal to a contemporary setting. "Natural materials in lighting fixtures such as reclaimed wood and distressed metals also add that authentic element we crave. Imperfections are desired and coveted...in context, of course!" Serra says.

A side note on pendant fixtures, Serra adds, "I love layered pendant lighting — groupings of pendants set at different heights, creating a singular form. I also like multiple pendants placed close together, say, four to six across an island. It is simple yet makes a strong design statement." Photo courtesy of Susan Serra.

Strike Your Fancy

According to Serra, the dreamiest, most upscale kitchens today are likely to feature some distinguishing elements: "Innovative designs, first and foremost, will clearly differentiate truly fabulous lighting from the rest," she says. "Quality materials with quality finishes further differentiate the upscale from the ordinary. In addition, it is often the details — the small crystal ball, nickel chain, hand blown glass, luxury fabric, reclaimed wood — that clearly communicates quality as well as authenticity. Chandeliers featuring waterfalls of crystals, pieces of luxury metals, feathers and fabric add both strong texture and luxury to a room. Here clean, modern pendants light the island, while a classic crystal chandelier graces the dining area. Photo courtesy of Susan Serra.

Everyday Glam

"I really love dining chandeliers," says Serra, and we agree! Here, two glittering mini chandeliers add a luxe feel to a bright, beautiful kitchen.

Mager adds, "Kitchen lighting has definitely evolved beyond the typical flush-mount application (one large overhead fixture flush against the ceiling). Chandeliers were installed only in dining rooms or large foyers, but [today] in high-end, luxurious kitchens, chandeliers are right at home." Photo courtesy of Susan Serra.

The Skinny on Sconces

"Sconces with silk or linen shades on either side of a window over the sink in a formal kitchen provides an elegant look, especially [since they] are an unexpected lighting solution for a kitchen. Wall sconces bring the 'living room' feeling into the kitchen and serve well as mood lighting."

The sconces shown here are so understated, yet they really add an impressive design [element] to the kitchen, making it not only functional but stylish," says Mager. "The brushed-nickel finish, white fabric hard-back shade and clear-glass casing on the finials make an unexpected statement of luxury, subtly injecting a dose of traditional style into the contemporary, clean lines of this contemporary kitchen." Photo courtesy of Hinkley Lighting.

The right lighting design can go a long way toward opening up a small space, not to mention making it a much more pleasant and efficient place to cook, clean and converse.

Galley kitchen layouts have some trademarks, and first among them is a design that features two parallel walls with a narrow passage between them. This efficient design allows cooks to simply turn around to access features on one side or the other—and generally, galley kitchens separate their task areas by side. One side will feature cooking and storage implements and appliances, while the other will feature sinks and other cleaning resources, as well as further storage.

To create a galley kitchen lighting design that's both attractive and effective, you'll want to focus on three types of lighting: ambient lighting, accent lighting and task lighting.

First up is ambient lighting, which will illuminate the entire galley kitchen space and scare away any of the shadows that can often plague any small, enclosed space—and which are particularly irksome for anyone trying to prepare a meal. Ambient lighting refers to the main lighting scheme for the space, and it usually starts with ceiling lighting. For a galley kitchen, ceiling lights that run the entire length of the space are usually a good investment—a single light source may not be enough to reach the various nooks and crannies of a small space with lots of overlapping features and fixtures. Track lighting may be a good solution here, particularly for contemporary or modern designs, while more traditional pendant lighting can work for designs that are more historical or vintage-inspired.

Next up is task lighting, which will cover the galley kitchen's work stations and makes cooking, cleaning and food preparation easier and safer. Task lighting is carefully placed to light individual spaces like the sink, stovetop, cutting board or other frequently used areas of the galley kitchen.

Finally, accent lighting can add tremendous ambiance to a galley kitchen, and it can further brighten and visually expand the space. Examples of accent lighting are fixtures on top of wall cabinets that serve to illuminate the ceiling, heightening the space, or at the base of the cabinets, adding depth. The secondary goals of accent lighting, beyond accentuating the more attractive features of the galley kitchen, is to distract from any of the more cramped or crowded areas of the space, drawing the eye up or down to stretch the space visually and emphasize an open and comfortable feel.

Chic Home Lighting Ideas
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