What Light Color is Best for your Kitchen


When you set the light switch on in your kitchen, you expect a bright illumination that uncovers every darkened corner. Natural light is our guideline to follow for the best results in kitchen lighting and there are more choices today than ever before beyond the kitchen, from the living room to the home office.

When contemplating what color light is good for kitchen functions, many factors need to be considered. You may remember the single incandescent bulb that was mounted to the kitchen ceiling light fixture that let off a yellowish-white light in the room. A lot has changed in the scope of evaluating light source color rendition in the past ten years. It has now become a complicated science that measures space and elemental calculations compared to human perceptions.  


Table of Contents

Understanding Color Light

For most of us, having a grasp on the technical explanation is more than we need to know. Bringing comfortable ambient lighting to our kitchen space and over the kitchen table is desirable. Here’s what you need to know.

The Kelvin Color Temperature Scale measures our perception of light color. For instance:

  • 2700K – 3000K represents warmer lights that are often seen in a living room, dining room, or bedroom.
  • 3000K – 3500K is a bright color of natural light that is used in kitchens and bathrooms.
  • 3500K – 4000K delivers bright natural daylight that adapts well in basements and garages.
  • 4000K – 5000K is a color of light reserved for classrooms and commercial areas for more targeted use. Also referred to as a cool white light, it reminds you of the noontime sun.

The Kelvin Number can also determine which daylight bulbs are more suitable for your home. Kitchen lights should match the color scheme of modern kitchens. For example, oranges and reds with natural wood cabinets require warm white lights with a Kelvin temperature below 3200K.

Cool light pairs more with a kitchen design of blues and greens. Cool colors have nothing to do with startling bright light, but with how our mind perceives the temperature. Incandescent light bulbs rated above 3200K but less than 4000K are the most commonly used. A soft white light best suits most homeowners with the option of having a focal point in various colors. 

Common Mistakes in Color Light

The Baby Boomers grew up with few options for lighting up a room. Incandescent bulbs of different wattages gave you a bright white light at 100 watts or a dimmer shade with warm white bulbs at 40 watts. There was no color deviation to worry about. Either a bulb was bright or a bulb was dim. The term ‘watt’ had nothing to do with the power of illumination. Watt is only a type of measurement for a unit of power. 

Lumens are the amount of light given out. Maybe we wouldn’t have been so confused if they taught us to look at lumens and not watts. You can see from this table that watts run along the same principle as lumens, so watts get easily used.

  • 100W = 1600 lumens
  • 75 W = 1100 lumens
  • 60 W = 800 lumens
  • 40 W = 450 lumens

In today’s world, color temperature trumps all of this jargon when selecting bulbs for your lighting fixtures. Selecting the right color temperature of light can dramatically change the appearance of a room. With so many variations of pendant lights, task lights, and accent lights that are found in the kitchen, the choice of light temperature in bulbs may sound close to impossible.

Homeowners that do not fully comprehend the concept of good lighting with temperature may discover its importance when a bulb burns out. Choosing the correct watt or lumen, but the wrong color temperature will bring an imbalance of clarity to a room. Whether an LED bulb for under-cabinet lighting or ambient lights for track lighting, if the same K does not get used, proper lighting can be impossible.


Mixing Cool and Warm Light Bulbs

The same applies to showcasing the best color temperature according to your personal preference. While cooler colors may best suit a modern kitchen look, giving up the warm colors that make the room feel cozy is still possible. This is a tricky move and you should work with a lighting specialist to identify what type of lighting color you wish to have. 

Cool tones can trick the eye into seeing a brighter light. However, the light is the same as the warm bulbs. The high color temperature causes a difference in perception. Some designers claim that 4100K LED lights are the best light bulbs for addressing all the needs in a kitchen. Others claim that a great choice is today’s smart bulbs that can switch from warm to cool light on demand.

Using cooler lights as an overall general lighting fixture in the center of a kitchen or with ceiling-mounted diffusers lays out the best lighting for white cabinets. Warm bulbs can deliver accent lighting to a kitchen island for a touch of warmth. A wall light can also add softness with a warm white light bulb. It takes a professional eye to blend cool and warm in the same room. Otherwise, you could end up with a room filled with dingy yellow lights from contrasting with the cool white lights.

Anyone can accomplish a good lighting design by keeping the ambient lighting, task lighting, and track lights fitted with the same K energy level. A small kitchen can be lovely with soft white bulbs that outline wood grains and earthy tones. Studies suggest that cooler colors can raise energy levels and promote appetite. Cooler lights can also eliminate the use of task lighting for food prep with a set of good knives.

AdvertisementsMost bathroom lighting comprises cool lighting for intimate tasks. If you feel that this is the best option, but want to tone down the color, dimmers should control the brightness. Look around at different displays in businesses like Home Depot to experience the difference in softer light against wood tones, different rooms, and modern kitchen cabinets.

Make a mental note of your favorite pieces of your kitchen, like dark cabinets, and compare them against the color temperature that you feel most comfortable with. This is a good way to start your project by using light as a decorating tool.