Architectural Home Designs & Decorating Ideas

Designing Optimal Recessed Lighting Layouts for Kitchen Remodels

Gabriela Connell
4 minute read

When undertaking a kitchen remodel, one of the most important design considerations is the lighting. A well-planned lighting layout can make the space both functional and beautiful. Recessed can lights are a popular choice to provide task, accent, and ambient lighting in kitchens.

The goal when designing a recessed lighting plan is to have sufficient light in all the right places. You want bright task lighting over key work zones like the sink and stove. Accent lighting to highlight architectural details, and consistent ambient lighting throughout. The number and placement of recessed fixtures will depend on your kitchen’s size and layout.

Determine Your Lighting Needs

Consider Kitchen Size and Layout

how many recessed lights in kitchen

As a general rule of thumb, plan for one recessed light per 25 square feet of kitchen space. However, most kitchens will need a higher density to provide enough task lighting. A typical lighting plan uses 16-25 square feet per recessed can light.

For a small 100 square foot kitchen, you would need at least 8-12 recessed lights. Space them evenly for ambient lighting then add more over key work zones. For larger kitchens, increase the number of fixtures proportionately.

The shape and traffic flow of your kitchen also impact the placement. Irregular kitchen layouts require more strategic fixture placement than square spaces. Identify high traffic areas and make sure these are well-lit.

Identify Key Lighting Zones

Determine which areas of your kitchen need focused task lighting. Typical zones include food prep surfaces, sinks, stoves, and islands. Ambient lighting alone is not enough for these high use work areas.

Also think about accent lighting to highlight decor elements. Strategically placed recessed can lights can spotlight an attractive backsplash or display cabinet. Layered lighting really enhances a kitchen’s aesthetics.

As you map out your lighting zones, you can determine how many recessed lights are needed in total. More fixtures will be required to cover all the task, accent and ambient lighting needs.

Recommended Number of Recessed Lights

Here are some general recessed lighting recommendations based on kitchen size:

For the best illumination, plan for 3-5 recessed fixtures over each major work zone like the cooking surface, sink, or island. Supplement with additional ambient lighting.

Selecting Recessed Lighting Fixtures

LED vs Halogen

LED recessed lighting is the best choice for kitchens today. LED fixtures are 80% more energy efficient than halogen recessed lights. They also last much longer with a lifespan of 50,000 hours compared to just 2,000 hours for halogens.

LED recessed can lights produce less heat and offer better control over light direction. Newer LED models provide light quality on par with halogens for both warm and cool color temperatures.

Optimal Recessed Light Spacing

For ambient lighting, recessed lights should be spaced 4-6 feet apart. This ensures even illumination without dark spots. For kitchen islands, allow for slightly closer 3-4 foot spacing between fixtures.

Over key task areas like sinks and ranges, the lights should be even closer at 2-3 feet apart. This focused brightness makes cooking and cleaning easier.

Controlling Light Direction

Aimable recessed lighting works better than fixed for kitchens. Adjustable fixtures let you direct light exactly where it’s needed most. Look for recessed cans with rotating heads or separate eyeball bulbs.

Make sure the fixtures you install are properly aimed. Light directed toward the walls or ceilings instead of task areas will limit usefulness. Proper aiming is key for optimal lighting.

Layout Best Practices

Ambient Lighting Layout

A simple grid pattern with recessed lights spaced evenly delivers uniform ambient illumination. While a grid is the basis, feel free to stagger ambient fixtures slightly off the lines.

This creates more visual interest instead of an industrial look. Just maintain relatively consistent spacing between the staggered lights.

Task Lighting Placement

Any 14-16 square foot work zone should have dedicated task lighting. The sink, stove, island, and other work areas warrant recessed fixtures directly above them.

Supplement the ambient grid with additional task lights over these spots. The mix of ambient and task lighting prevents shadows and makes prepping, cooking and cleaning easier.

Accent Lighting Ideas

Use strategically placed recessed or track lighting to spotlight backsplashes, display cabinets, or artwork. Angling just one or two fixtures at key points adds dramatic accents.

Accent lighting can be used alone or in conjunction with recessed fixtures in a space. When coordinated well, you get striking aesthetics along with functional illumination.

Adapting Layouts for Ceiling Height

Recessed lighting layouts should adapt based on ceiling height. For standard 8 foot ceilings, space recessed fixtures 6 feet apart. This may extend to 8 feet spacing for higher 9 or 10 foot ceilings.

With taller ceilings, the recessed can lights can be spaced farther and still meet recommended lumens. But the overall lighting design principles remain the same.

Enhancing Your Lighting Design

While recessed cans should form the core, you can always supplement with other lighting like pendants, under cabinet fixtures, and chandeliers.

When layered well, combined lighting sources create beautiful kitchen illumination. Just take care not to overdo it or you can have too much light.

Today’s recessed fixtures offer ample flexibility in how they are controlled. Many are dimmable or compatible with home automation systems. This allows you to customize scenes and make adjustments over time.

For larger scale kitchen projects, consider hiring a lighting designer. They can help refine the lighting plan and fixture specifications to achieve the look you want.

Planning recessed lighting layouts for a kitchen takes some upfront analysis. But the effort pays off through enhanced aesthetics and function. Sufficient ambient, task and accent lighting makes kitchens more enjoyable spaces.

Follow the design guidelines presented here as you map out positions for recessed fixtures. Tailor the specifics to match your kitchen’s size, work zones, and style. With smart planning, your new recessed lighting will check all the boxes.