red kitchen with gold pendant light -

Kitchen planning guide: lighting ideas for open-plan spaces

September 4, 2020

In the modern open-plan kitchen, getting the right mix of lighting is more important than ever.

red kitchen with gold pendant light -

Image: Pooky

Once upon a time, the kitchen was a purely functional space, where cooking was done and not much else. However, in the modern home, it’s the hub for all the family, and open-plan spaces are becoming ever more popular.

That means the kitchen has to take on a whole load of new roles – as well as providing somewhere for the family to cook up a storm, it needs to be a cosy place to hunker down and watch TV, atmospheric for entertaining friends and provide a makeshift workspace for kids to do their homework.

Getting the perfect mix is a challenge, but this guide should give you food for thought for your lighting scheme.

Task lighting

colourful kitchen with spot lighting. photo: colin poole -

Image: Colin Poole 

Task lighting may not always be the prettiest styles or the offering the most flattering light for your space, but it’s there to help the space be as functional as possible when coking and cleaning. Most kitchens employ spotlights as the main source of task lighting, which flood the space with light. If you’re renovating your kitchen, consider moving spotlights as part of the re-design. The perfect placement will mean you won’t be left with dark spots where you don’t want them, ensuring your always well lit when you need to be.

Pendant and wall lights can provide extra, more decorative task lighting for worktops, which can also be used for ambient lighting too. Likewise, an extractor fan will often feature lighting for illuminating a stovetop – be sure to include this in your lighting arsenal.

Ambient lighting

pink kitchen with pendant lighting by colin poole -

Image: Colin Poole 

Ambient lighting is what gives your space its atmosphere. Where possible, avoid the glare of bare bulbs in your ambient lighting – instead opting for downward facing pendant lights or styles of lighting that offer a softer diffused glow.

The traditional kitchen doesn’t have a lot of room for extra accessories, but include plenty of floor and table lights in your living areas to add to the scheme. Ideally, each zone should have as many as three separate light sources to give you the flexibility to create the right mood in your space.

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Directional lighting

Two tone contemporary kitchen with back lighting.

Image: Wren Kitchens 

Up lighters and down lighters are often employed as part of a kitchen lighting scheme. Underneath wall mounted kitchen cabinetry, it can provide perfect task lighting to illuminate what would be the darkest areas on the kitchen.

However, more and more directional lighting is being used as an aesthetic feature of the kitchen. LED strips, in particular, can be used in a way to draw attention to a specific material, feature or even some open storage to add to a soft, sophisticated lighting scheme.

Dining space

dining table with modern black lighting -

Image: Lights & Lamps 

When renovating your kitchen, plan out a fixed space for your dining table, and reroute your lighting to match it. This may take some perfecting, but it’s key to making your dining space, or even your breakfast bar, an intimate space. Use pendant lighting over a dining table to ground the table within the space and offer the perfect illumination for diners. Just be wary of the level at which you let your pendant lights hang – too high and it won’t have the desired effect, while too low and it’ll be in the eye line of your diners.

On the circuit

TRIPLE DIMMER SWITCH White Silver - dowsing & reynolds -

Image: Dowsing & Reynolds

When re-wiring your kitchen renovation, think about how you’ll practically use the lighting in the space in terms of how many circuits the lights are on and how many light switches you’ll have. Too many may be confusing, but zoning spotlights on a few switches will give you greater control. If you want to be able to turn lights on and off from multiple points in the room, you’ll need a two way or intermediate switch, so factor that into your buying.

Read more: 6 beautiful light switches to elevate your interiors

Are you planning a new kitchen? Let us know! Tweet us @goodhomesmag or post a comment on our Facebook page. Or, tag us in your own kitchen photos on Instagram, using the hashtag #ThisGoodHome.

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A message from the editor:

Let us help you create the home of your dreams! Get ideas & inspiration from Good Homes every month, delivered direct to your door. Visit to sign up for the weekly Good Homes newsletter.

~ Karen Walker, Editor, Good Homes