Recessed Lighting for Kitchens

Recessed lights, like all directional lights, make for excellent task lighting.  They’re designed to direct light onto surfaces.   Sadly, sometimes we see recessed lights laid out in even, tidy rows on the ceiling in an effort to achieve ambient lighting.  This grid approach certainly does light things up, but the effect is flat and the ceiling becomes a swiss cheese distraction.

too many pot lights


standing under recessed light

We’ve all found ourselves, at a social gathering, sitting or standing under one of those lights, having a hard time looking through the veiled glare from above and feeling very much like we’re about to be interrogated.  Conversely, we’ve found ourselves on the edge of that spot light, struggling to discern the facial features of some poor, unfortunate party-goer who looks a little too much like a zombie from the crypt.


At this point, you’ve likely realized that recessed lights should not be placed where people will be sitting or standing for any length of time.  And right you are!  Put your task lights where they will help you do tasks like reading, chopping vegetables and looking at your artwork.

The kitchen is where we require the most task lighting and this is a room that can really shine when the light is right.  This first photo shows very good placement.  Each cone of light hits the counter (task) surface as well as the cabinet faces.  This placement technique lights up the vertical surfaces, showing off the cabinets and what’s inside, visually expanding the space, preventing shadows on counters and reflecting useful non-glaring light into the room.  This is an excellent way to get the most out of recessed lighting and make the kitchen look amazing!good kitchen recessed lighting

Due to ceiling structure, it’s not always possible to install recessed lights so they center on cabinets and appliances, but it’s a great goal to strive for.  In the above photo, most of the light is not directed onto the floor, nor does it need to be.  There’s plenty of indirect light bouncing around to enable safe passage around the room.  Note that while the island has a large decorative fixture over it, much of the task light on it comes from two recessed lights!

In this next photo, you can readily see what a difference the lighting makes.  Here, the refrigerator looks dull, whereas the recessed light in front of the range and hood brightens and accents the stainless steel beautifully while providing task light for cooking.  For the most part, this is a well lit kitchen, although the area on and over the table is looking a little dreary.

not bad kitchen recessed lighting

This next photo is an example of a badly lit kitchen.  Imagine how good lighting would make this space much more comfortable to work in and so much more beautiful to simply be in.

badly lit kitchen

Next time, we’ll look at how under cabinet lighting can make the difference between night and day.


  1. Great post, Deborah! Proper placement of lighting is critical in a kitchen. When renovating our kitchen we added recessed lighting, under cabinet lighting and pendant lights…the extra $$ invested is worth it, considering the amount of time most of spend in our kitchen 🙂

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