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Using Lighting Fixtures To Add Definition To A Large, Open Kitchen

In a large kitchen, it’s important to have multiple sources of light, not just to ensure that the whole kitchen is illuminated, but also to help define different areas of the kitchen. A wide open space can feel very welcoming, but if you aren’t careful, it can also feel oversized or even overwhelming. Choosing the right lighting fixture for different parts of the room – particularly the island, the stove, and the dining table or kitchen table – can help ensure that each area feels distinct and defined, without it needing to be physically separated from the rest of the room.

Vesta Red Glass Pendant 2583-1 from Elk Lighting
Vesta Red Glass Pendant 2583-1 from Elk Lighting
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Kitchen islands can serve a variety of different functions in the kitchen, and the design of the island and how you use it should determine the type of lighting fixture or fixtures you hang above it. If you primarily use your island for preparation, for example, you want a light that’s bright enough to fully and adequately illuminate your workspace. Multiple even-spaced pendant lights are a simple and flexible option, because they make it easy to match the light to the dimensions of the island. That said, a more traditional three-bulb island light can work if it’s bright enough and sized properly for the length of the island. Either way, the lights should be mounted high enough that you aren’t in danger of bumping your head on them while you’re working.

Capri 1-Light Pendant 10141-1 from Elk Lighting
Capri 1-Light Pendant 10141-1 from Elk Lighting
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If your island has a built in bar that’s frequently used to seat guests or eat meals, restaurant-style pendant lights can add a really lovely, intimate ambiance to the space. The lights should be hung evenly spaced along the island, and though the distance between them and number of lights really depends on how much light you want, you should make sure to position them so they don’t shine directly down on your bar stools. Usually, you want either one more light or one fewer light than you have seats so you can properly offset them and keep your guests from feeling like they’re about to be interrogated. Since these lights are more for ambiance than functionality, don’t be afraid to use slightly dimmer bulbs to create that intimate, restaurant-like feel.

Medina 5-Light Pendant 31047-5 from Elk Lighting
Medina 5-Light Pendant 31047-5 from Elk Lighting
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If your island is more of an occasionally-used surface than a primary eating or preparation space, you should use more decorative lights to draw attention to the island as a focal point. An island is often a large part of your kitchen, and even if you aren’t defining the space for a particular function, you want to make sure it’s well lit because it’s really the most visible feature. Decorative lighting fixtures, like small chandeliers or larger pendants, can lend an island a sense of elegance and sophistication, while the light they produce will contribute to the over-all lighting of the kitchen. A light like this probably isn’t the only one you want to have in your kitchen, but it can make the area feel brighter and more inviting – just make sure you include more layers of task lighting elsewhere.

Pembroke 6 Light Chandelier 10123/6 from Elk Lighting
Pembroke 6 Light Chandelier 10123/6 from Elk Lighting
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Of course, the island isn’t the only part of your kitchen that lighting can improve. A small, family-style kitchen table can easily get lost or feel adrift in a very large kitchen, but a simple lighting fixture can help anchor it and give it a sense of purpose. The right light will not only illuminate the tabletop, but also visibly define the area by casting a circle of light a little bit wider than the dining set beneath it. Lighting fixtures mounted above a small table should hang very low – low enough that you’d walk face first into them if the table weren’t there, and just above eye level for anyone sitting around the table. In a literal sense, this gives the table a dedicated place: once the light is in place, you’d have to go out of your way to reposition it, and by extension, the table. Bonus points if the shape of the light mimics the shape of the table, which can help add further definition and shape to the space.

Lino LED Chandelier 50003 from Elk Lighting
Lino LED Chandelier 50003 from Elk Lighting
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Larger dining tables can get a bit lost in a big kitchen, too, particularly if the kitchen is part of a greatroom, which leaves the dining area floating in between the kitchen and living areas. As with a kitchen table, you want a light or lights that hang low over the table and fully illuminate it and the immediately surrounding area, giving physical and visual cues to carve a very basic “dining room” out of a large, poorly defined space. In a formal dining room, a single large lighting fixture like a chandelier is used to mark the center of the room and the center of the table, but in an open space, you want the light to more closely match the shape of your table. A rectangular lighting fixture that’s about 2/3 the length of the table helps visually define the space through repetition: the shape of the table, the shape of the lighting fixture, and the “shape” of the light itself all help indicate a distinct dining area that feels cohesive and intentional, despite the openness of the space.

Vent A Hood ZTH242SS Stainless Steel Wall Mount Range Hood
Vent A Hood ZTH242SS Stainless Steel Wall Mount Range Hood
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Perhaps the most unloved and underutilized light in any kitchen isn’t really a light at all. Range hoods are a necessary component of pretty much every kitchen, and most of them have built in lights – lights that are perfect for highlighting that gorgeous statement backsplash mural and your beautiful new gas range top. Some range hoods can be more decorative than others (some island-mount versions are even designed to look like modern chandeliers!), but even if you’re stuck with a big, boxy metal contraption, be sure to remember that it has a light switch on it. The bulbs are just bright enough to illuminate your stove top area, banishing any shadows, and add a warm, inviting light that helps draw attention to and define this important focal point of your kitchen.

A well-chosen lighting fixture can do so much more than merely provide light. It can draw attention to important features in your kitchen, and even help add definition to a large, open space. Added together, multiple layers of lighting can give a kitchen warmth and personality. What do you think of these lighting fixtures? Let me know in the comments below!