Under-Cabinet Kitchen Lighting

Under-cabinet lighting creates ambiance for a well-lit kitchen.
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Designer Rouzita Vahhabaghai suggests installing under-cabinet lighting, which adds warmth to any kitchen and highlights a beautiful backsplash. (Photo by Maxwell Mackenzie.)

By: Melissa Webster
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Nothing makes a kitchen look more complete than well-placed under-cabinet kitchen lighting. It illuminates the room, creates ambiance and makes cooking, preparation and recipe reading a breeze.

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Recessed lighting is a great way to focus light throughout a kitchen. It is important to have a lot of light on work surfaces, such as countertops, stoves and the sink area. This type of lighting can be aimed exactly where you most need it. Design by Andreas Charalambous.

Under-cabinet lighting is great for kitchens because it focuses the light onto the countertop, which is the main work surface in a kitchen. This type of lighting is also a very inexpensive add-on for existing kitchens. There are many different light bulbs such as halogen, xenon and fluorescent that can give your kitchen a completely different effect. Halogen and incandescent light are best. Design by Andreea Avram Rusu.

In-cabinet lighting is a great accent for a kitchen. It can make finding what you need so much easier and can also make for a great look if you have glass-paneled cabinets. A bonus is that this type of lighting brings great illumination to the room. Design by Gail Drury.

From: Drury Design

Track lighting is the most multipurpose lighting since each light can be positioned to focus on different areas in the kitchen. Design by Joshua Foss.

Pendant lights are both decorative and create nice pools of light over countertops. Design by Gail Drury.

From: Drury Design

Choose light bulbs with different beam spreads for different effects. Floods are wide and create a more general lighting, while spot lighting works well to highlight specific items. Design by David Stimmel.

From: Dave Stimmel

Under-cabinet lights are simple and easy to install, and you can pick from a variety of options depending on how you want the light to work for you. From puck lights and rope lighting to tape and bars, these lights can be either connected to your power outlet or run on batteries—and they can be found both with and without motion sensors.

Puck lights offer a more targeted choice as singular, adjustable lights that are strategically placed throughout the room. These are great as night lights for the midnight refrigerator raid as well as targeted for reading.

Rope lighting and tape lighting work really well as runners along the entire length of your under-cabinets, providing a low-level light source to find your way in the dark or to reinforce the overhead lighting scheme. They also come in a variety of accent colors if you want to spice up the look of your kitchen cabinets, though white tends to be the most popular.

Lighting bars are good as a bright light source that covers a bigger area than puck lights. They aren't as low-level and drawn-out as rope and tape lighting.

You can find all of these styles and more for under-cabinet lighting in LED options. These varieties provide energy efficiency that lasts much longer and is more durable than traditional bulbs. LED lighting can be programmable and easily controlled and manipulated as well. You can go even farther with it by getting fixtures with motion sensors, so you don't have to worry about accidentally leaving the under-cabinet lighting on when the room is empty. With motion sensors, your under-cabinet lighting comes on automatically the moment you walk into the room.

I really love motion sensors because no energy is wasted. The only downside is that they tend to shut off if you stand still for too long. In a busy kitchen this isn't usually a problem, but if you are heavily focused on a complicated recipe and haven't begun preparations yet, it can get annoying. However, this is a minor inconvenience that's easily remedied and the benefits of LED and motion sensory lighting far outweigh it.

If you're a bit squeamish about installing your own lights due to concerns about handling electrical items, a battery-powered lighting option might be something that would work better for you.

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