How Many Lumens Do I Really Need For A Well-lit Kitchen?

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A well-lit dramatic kitchen can solidify your home’s lighting plan – it can have so much character! So in this guide, I’ll explain everything there is to say about properly lighting your kitchen with the perfect distribution of lumens.

First things first, how many lumens do you need to have a perfectly lit kitchen?

Modern kitchen with several lighting types and fixtures

The average kitchen needs about 3500 to 5500 lumens of ambient light. You should aim for 35 lumens per square foot (or 380 lumens per square meter) of the kitchen. Task lighting, such as under the cabinet for cooking, should be 70 lumens per square foot (or 750 per square meter) of your task area. LED strips should be 200-500 lumens per foot (600-1600 lumens per meter).

You can already tell that this question is more complicated than it may seem at first. Kitchen lighting must be the best possible for you to work in there without any inconvenience.

And even if you follow the general rules that bigger spaces need more lighting and so on, you still need to adjust your lights to the design of your own kitchen and your specific quirks.

What Are Lumens And Why Are They Important In The Kitchen?

Lumens are used to measure the amount of light that is emitted from any light source. In short, the higher the number of lumens, the brighter the light.

This unit is the only relevant measure for brightness right now. It has almost completely replaced watts, which are outdated. Watts measure the energy used by the light source, which is not accurate anymore, since we have developed way more energy-efficient light bulbs (e.g. LEDs).

So even though lumens will help us determine how much light we need in the kitchen, we first need to establish their relationship to the kitchen area.

Not all areas of the kitchen need the same lumens! While you should try to have about 30 to 40 lumens per square foot (300-400 lumens per square meter), this is only applicable to ambient lighting.

The perfect lighting for cooking is task lighting of about 60-80 lumens per square foot (650-850 per square meter).

I recommend installing LED strips under the cabinet – they have many advantages over their fluorescent and halogen counterparts. In this case, look for 200-500 lumens per foot (600-1600 per meter).

Over 500 would be bright but could work if you don’t have much ambient light like recessed can lights, pendants, and so on. Less than 200 might not be bright enough. If you are unsure, get some dimmable LEDs. That way you can always control the brightness exactly as you want it.

Pro Tip: Install motion-activated LED strips under the bottom cabinets and use a sensor. Super elegant feel and no more toe stubbing during late-night kitchen trips!

Here are some recommended lumens for common kitchen areas:

  • Task lighting over a sink: 500-700 lumens
  • Task lighting over a stove: 700-900 lumens
  • Task lighting over a kitchen island: 800-1000 lumens

Keep in mind that these are just general guidelines and the actual amount of lumens you will need may vary based on the size of your kitchen, the layout, and the natural light that enters the space.

Let’s get into that in more detail.

Factors To Consider When Choosing Lumens For Your Kitchen

1. Kitchen size

The first thing that will help you figure out your lumen needs is the size of your kitchen. You should aim for 30-40 lumens per square foot (or 300-400 lumens per square meter). This is only about ambient light though, which aims to create a comfortable and even level of light throughout your space.

For ambient light, you can use ceiling lights, wall-mounted fixtures, or recessed spotlights. For most kitchens, ceiling lights and recessed spotlights should be enough.

Traditional architecture might work better with wall-mounted fixtures such as sconces.

2. Ceiling height and dark kitchen

If your ceiling height is more than 10 feet (3 meters), you will need more than 30 to 40 lumens per square foot (300-400 lumens per square meter).

In the case of ceiling lights or recessed spotlights, the light source will be further away from the main kitchen area. With sconces or uplighters, more light will be diffused away from the source.

There is no clear-cut way around this, but I would suggest increasing your lumens by 5% for every extra foot (30 cm). Remember that it’s better to over-light than under-light a space. And if you’re not sure, you can install dimmers to control the brightness.

For low ceilings, you can read this guide.

Dark kitchens can achieve an interesting, moodier effect, and they are very modern. However, they require more lumens to be properly lit.

Black kitchen

If your kitchen has dark paint or low natural light, go for 10-20% more lumens of ambient light.

3. Type of task being performed

Although ambient light is very important to set the overall tone of your lighting scheme, it’s usually not enough for specific things. This is why we need task lighting.

Task lighting in the kitchen should be about 60-80 lumens per square foot (or 600-800 lumens per square meter) of your task area. The most common task lighting for the kitchen would be under-the-cabinet LED strips, wall sconces, and overhead lights over the sink.

If you have a kitchen island, target task lighting could be achieved by pendants. Consider multiple larger ones, and make sure they provide focused beams rather than distributing light in all directions. You can find more info on how to properly light your kitchen island here.

Even though chandeliers are not ideal for task lighting, they can definitely work in some kitchens!

Modern pendants hanging over kitchen island
Kitchen island pendants with a modern feel
Chandelier over kitchen table
A classic chandelier works best in traditional/transitional kitchen styles

4. Color temperature

Color temperature is measured in Kelvins and indicates how yellow or blue the light is. Lower values are warmer and more yellowish (2700–3000 K) and higher values are cooler and more blueish (4000–5000 K). In general, 3000-4000 K is good for kitchens.

However, you can read my guide on color temperature, which explains the benefits of each side of the spectrum and will help you figure out which is best for you.

Go for a consistent temperature that highlights the rest of your kitchen’s design. Warm light is best for earthly colors and materials, such as brown, grey, green, and wooden surfaces, while cooler light is best for contemporary “sharp” architecture.

5. Style and decor

Although it’s always advisable to use three layers of light, the kitchen might not benefit much from accent lighting. If you have artwork or decor in your kitchen that you’d like to light up, you can use LED strips, puck lights, or directional can lights.

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Best Fixture Choices For All Types Of Kitchen Lighting

Ambient lighting

  • Recessed can lights (most common)
  • Chandelier(s)
  • Semi-Flush/Flush mount light

Chandeliers are an excellent choice for ambient lighting in kitchens. They work really well with recessed can lights and can be placed over your kitchen island or table. I am a huge nerd for unique and modern chandeliers, so maybe I’m a bit biased but meh.

Anyway, keep in mind that chandeliers may restrict your options for task lighting. They usually diffuse light more than pendants and rarely have a focused beam. If you use the kitchen island or table for hobbies like reading or knitting, or if your kids use it to study while you cook, a chandelier might not be the best option.

Task lighting

  • Pendants
  • Under cabinet lighting
  • Track lighting
  • Recessed can lights

Pendants are my favorite choice for kitchen islands, especially in modern kitchens. But of course, don’t use them in conjunction with chandeliers – that would look off!

LED strips under the cabinet are by far the best lighting option for preparing food and using the sink.

Kitchen sink with under-the-cabinet LED strip
LED strips under the cabinet look very elegant and can help a lot while cooking

They can also be used with a motion sensor inside your cabinets and drawers – just like a fridge light!

Accent lighting

  • LED strips
  • LED puck lights

The installation of these lights is straightforward and they can be used to highlight any artwork or decor to give an extra touch to the overall feel of your kitchen.

Uplight in shelves
Uplighting open shelves can double as task and accent lighting. Practical but also decorative!


A well-lit kitchen is essential for preparing meals and entertaining guests. Not only that, it can also be a design haven if the lighting is used right.

To achieve a well-lit kitchen, you need to consider the type of light sources, the total number of lumens needed, the placement of the lights, and the type of light fixtures you will be using. With the right amount of light, you can create a functional and inviting space that will be the heart of your home!

Related Questions

Are LED lights bright enough for a kitchen?

LEDs can absolutely be bright enough for a kitchen! Aim for 30-60 lumens per square foot. Under the cabinet is a perfect position for LED strips. Ambient lighting is better achieved with recessed can lights, chandeliers, flush mount lights, and pendants that diffuse light.

What LED color is best for the kitchen?

The best LED color for kitchens is white. The kitchen is a functional room and it is best to avoid dramatic lighting. A good color temperature is 3000 K but this depends on your personal preferences and the overall design of the kitchen. Yellow-orange LEDs with a motion sensor are excellent for late-night trips to the kitchen. They can be installed underneath the lower cabinets to avoid toe stubbing!

How many lumens do I need for kitchen pendant lights?

Pendant lights should be about 40-60 lumens per square foot of the kitchen island. Focused pendants can be a bit less, while diffuse pendants can be a bit brighter.


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