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Chic Restaurant Style Lighting For Your Kitchen Island Or Home Bar

In recent years, the role kitchens play in the home has changed fairly dramatically. Of course, kitchens are still used primarily for cooking, but they’ve also become the social, familial, and entertainment hubs of the home. Rather than having a separate kitchen and dining room, modern kitchens are designed with an open floor plan, with a connected cooking and dining area that often opens up into a larger living space. These have a more inviting, social atmosphere, and are the perfect place to entertain. The right lighting can help enhance this atmosphere; simple, restaurant style pendants can create an upscale bistro look, turning your very own kitchen into your friends and family’s favorite go-to restaurant.

Colorful Glass Pendant Lights

Capri 1 Light Pendant In Satin Nickel 10141-1 from Elk Lighting
Capri 1 Light Pendant In Satin Nickel 10141-1 from Elk Lighting

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To me, petite, colorful glass pendant lights absolutely scream restaurant. In actual restaurants, these lights typically hang one to a table or chair, but use dimmer bulbs to create a low-lit, intimate atmosphere. For practicality’s sake, you probably want to stick with a standard 60-watt, but matching one pendant to a seat is a great way not only to fully light the island area of your kitchen, but to instantly get that date night atmosphere. Paired with a set of posh bar stools and a nice counter on your kitchen island, even if your kitchen isn’t backed by a beautiful collection of booze, the right lighting can create a restaurant-style ambiance that’s perfect for entertaining.

Unique Ventilation Lighting

Star Chandelier Style Range Hood From Elica
Star Chandelier Style Range Hood From Elica

If you’ve ever been to Benihana, you know how much fun it can be to watch your food being prepared right in front of you. This is maybe what I love most about the trend toward more open and accessible kitchens – cooking is demystified and no longer relegated to an out-of-sight-out-of-mind space. In fact, if you install a cooktop directly into your kitchen island and set up bar stools on the opposite side, you can actually recreate this experience in your own home. If you go this route, the kind of lighting you install should follow: rather than a traditional pendant or island light, look for a decorative island-mount range hood. These aren’t your typical, standard metal range hoods, but gorgeous, sleek modern designs that look more like chandeliers.

“Paper” Lantern Lights

Carmelia Indoor Pendant Light 91415 from Eglo
Carmelia Indoor Pendant Light 91415 from Eglo

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One of my very absolute places to eat is little more than a hole in the wall with a long bar with a few tables squeezed in here and there. But the old brick interior and well-worn wood floors are brought to life by one very simple feature: the lighting. Spaced unevenly throughout the room, at different heights and in no particular pattern, are gorgeous pendant lights designed to look just like paper lanterns – you know, the kind you light with a little flame and then send floating up into the night sky. This type of light gives the room a warm, inviting glow, with plenty of light to see by. Admittedly, there are a few of the conventional red glass pendants over the bar itself, but if you like look of these warm, glowing, canvas-covered lights as much as I do, look for slimmer pendants you can hang in a line over each seat at your counter to get a similar look.

Track Lights And Spot Lights

Rottelo Track Light From Eglo
Rottelo Track Light From Eglo

Of course, many bars and restaurants – especially ones with high ceilings – use the light itself (rather than a lighting fixture) as part of the decoration. If your kitchen happens to have very high ceilings, installing track lighting with petite but bright bulbs is a great way to mimic this feel. You won’t have any lighting fixtures hanging down near head level, which is nice for taller people, and you can adjust the angle and direction of the small spotlights to focus the light on whatever in your kitchen you’d like to highlight, whether it’s the individual place settings at a kitchen island/bar or a unique feature of the kitchen. If you have textured walls (wood, brick, tile) installing smaller accent lights – either on your walls or underneath your cabinetry – is a great way to highlight the details of your kitchen and give it a slightly more upscale, restaurant-like look and feel.

Warehouse Or Factory Style Lights

Dunedin Ceiling Lamp 98415 from Zuo Modern
Dunedin Ceiling Lamp 98415 from Zuo Modern

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For a look that’s less upscale and more down to earth (or, more beer and peanuts than cocktails and hors d’oeuvres), forget sleek and chic and look for lighting fixtures with a little old fashioned personality – emphasis on the old fashioned. If your kitchen has lots of traditional charm and a slight old world feel – especially if you have lots of exposed wood – installing period inspired pendant lights is a great way to give your kitchen a unique signature style. Lots of craft breweries or even just eateries occupying old buildings are starting to use turn-of-the-century factory style lighting (up to and including ones consisting of bare, antique style bulbs and decorative sockets) to play up the history of the place. You can do exactly the same thing to dress up your kitchen. Just look for a light that’s appropriate for your home’s style or regional location.

If you aren’t sure what style you’d like to mimic, take a trip to your favorite restaurant and see what inspires you – you might end up with a great look that will really make your kitchen come alive. What are some of your favorite restaurant-inspired lighting looks? Let me know in the comments below!

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