How Can I Brighten My Old Kitchen?

The best way to brighten up a tired kitchen is, quite literally, to brighten it up: Add more lights. Or different ones.

Whether you need more light in the kitchen so you can see things more clearly or you just like a light-filled room, simply adding or repositioning lights will make the space look like new. And once you start shopping for your new light fixtures, you’ll see that adding more light to your kitchen is like redecorating. You have lots of styles to choose from.

Here are 10 tips that will help you shed some well-designed light on the most popular room in your home:

  1. Bring in natural light

If your kitchen has a window, don’t cover it up. Turn your kitchen into a room with a view by leaving the window unadorned and letting the light shine through it.

If you need replacement windows, you can choose between bay windows, double hung windows or picture windows to allow more light into your kitchen. If your kitchen doesn’t have a window, talk to a good designer about where you could put one. Nothing changes the character of a windowless room like a window.

  1. Don’t rely on a single, ceiling fixture to light your whole kitchen

Choose a mixture of pendants, under-counter lighting and ceiling lighting. A single light has to be so bright that it causes glare. And it doesn’t help you when you’re working at the sink or counter and that ceiling light is behind you.

  1. Start your lighting remodel with recessed lighting in the ceiling

 A well-designed kitchen lighting system has three layers: recessed ceiling fixtures that shine downward, under-the-cabinet “task” lighting, and hanging pendant lights. The combination allows you to brighten the room or dim the brightness and to see what you’re doing no matter where in the room you prepare your meals.

  1. Hang pendant lights over the sink and kitchen island

A cord will hang the lights from the ceiling so they’re close enough to the surface to light it up but not so close they’ll be in the way. Pendants fit almost anywhere, so you can install them in dark corners and alcoves.

  1. Dress up your breakfast nook with a chandelier.

Save the fancy one for the dining room, and choose something rustic or contemporary for right over the kitchen table. Choose a style that complements the décor of the room: Do you have stainless steel appliances? An ultra-modern ceiling fixture? Curvy, traditional faucets? Make it all work together.

  1. Install lights under the cabinets.

Your contractor will tuck them away so the fixtures are hidden. But the light will spread over your countertops, where you do your chopping and other meal prep. The light is nice to look at, and it’s also functional—especially in areas where your family will be working with sharp knives. Think about where you do most of your work, and light that space up.

  1. Make your kitchen more energy efficient by getting rid of any leftover fluorescent lighting

Fluorescent ceiling lights scream: “Get my kitchen out of the 1980s!” Choose stylish substitutes. And buy energy-efficient lighting. Fixtures with built-in LEDs can last for 10 years—without ever having to replace bulbs. And you could see a dip in your electric bill.

  1. Consider a “smart” lighting system

These are usually whole-house systems that allow you to program in “scenes” or “moods” for each room and occasion. In the kitchen, you could program yours for a dimly lit romantic dinner, a night of homework or a day of cooking—and set the level of brightness you would need for each task or event.

  1. Add a ceiling fan with a built-in light fixture.

Running the fan will help circulate stale air and cooking odors. Plus, it will keep the cook cool. Ceiling fans move air around so anyone in the room will feel more comfortable.

  1. Install a showpiece light fixture.

It could be a uniquely designed, oversized pendant over the island or a dining room-style chandelier over the kitchen table. Choose something eye-catching that will become the room’s centerpiece.

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