While ceiling lights bathe the entire kitchen in an ambient glow, it’s the lighting installed underneath your cabinetry that will prove to be most functional when you’re reading a recipe book or chopping vegetables. A ceiling fixture will give the room a general level of illumination but this illumination fails to reach your countertops when you’re standing with your back to it because your body blocks it out. The result is a shadow cast over the countertop, making it hard to see exactly what you’re doing, especially at night.
Functionality is the main goal with under cabinet lights but they also serve the space aesthetically by highlighting decorative details. For example, the swirls of colour in a beautiful marble countertop are accentuated under a wash of light from under cabinet fixtures.
When shopping for under cabinet lights you’ll usually be presented with three options:
Tape lights are easy to install and are typically available in a reel. This type of light is a low-voltage solution that provides a sufficient spill of light onto countertops, albeit not as powerful as other types of fixtures. The shallow profile of tape lighting means that this is the most discreet option as it will barely be noticeable beneath the cabinet when turned off.
Puck lights are small, round downlights that are generally around 65mm in diameter, although they can be smaller than this. These compact fixtures offer focused pools of light that are not only highly functional but create a cosy ambience too. When it comes to spacing these lights apart, 20-30cm works best for most kitchens.
Strip lights are bars of light, ideal for an even distribution of light on countertops. This uniform spread of light gives your kitchen a polished, professional look and is a great option if task lighting above every countertop is a must for you. LED strip lights can often be linked together using connectors so that you can operate the entire system on one switch.
Before purchasing any fixtures you need to assess how much space you have for under cabinet lighting so that you know which type of fixture to buy and how many you will need. Highly visible fixtures protruding from underneath your cabinets will give your entire kitchen a cluttered look. You want your under cabinet lighting to blend in as seamlessly as possible. While tape lighting will sit nice and neatly against the underside of the cabinets, puck lights and strip lights are a little more obvious. Keep in mind your main reason for installing fixtures under your cabinets. If more light for food prep is your goal then install the fixtures closer to the front of the cabinet as this position will give you more concentrated light and reduce glare. If you’re not too worried about task lighting and want your fixtures to contribute to the overall ambience in the room, then install them closer to the back of the cabinet. You may not need under cabinet lighting everywhere in your kitchen so identify key areas, perhaps where meal prep happens most often, and install them there only. Apart from placement, there are several other factors to consider. If your kitchen countertops are glossy then fixtures with lenses will help prevent glare. You’ll also want to take note of the lumen rating when selecting fixtures. Countertops that are lighter in colour require fewer lumens while darker countertops call for lamps with a higher lumen value.