Hospitality/Leisure, How to Light, Residential

How to Light: Three ways to light a kitchen diner

Alan Tulla explains three ways to light a kitchen diner

Newly-built houses and apartments are smaller than older ones. On the other hand, people continually accumulate more stuff, so space indoors is at a premium for us all. One result is that the kitchen area and eating area in modern houses are often combined. Older houses tended to have separate kitchens, but nowadays there is much more emphasis on shared spaces. 

To get the kitchen diner right, you need to think about both the function – preparing and cooking food – and the appearance so it looks good while you are eating. To quote William Morris, ‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.’ That applies equally to the lighting. 

Turning to function first, putting luminaires only in the centre of the kitchen means that you will almost certainly be working in your own shadow. You need light over each work area and this may well mean extra lighting under the shelving. In my opinion, there’s no such thing as too much illumination when you are using a sharp knife or an electric blender.

Kitchens also have to be clean, so you don’t want any dark corners.  

A lot of making it look good is down to your own personal choices, but there are some guidelines. It’s always a good idea to switch the cooking and dining area separately. In that way, the cooking area can be dark and ‘unseen’ while you are eating.

If you have a high ceiling, lighting on top of cabinets shining upwards can reduce the number of downlights required and provide general background lighting.

Lighting inside glass cabinets is a good way of providing a soft, ambient atmosphere but make sure that what’s lit up inside is attractive! 

The example kitchen I’ve used here is 4m x 6.5m with a 2.5m ceiling. 

Cleanest ceiling

Cleanest ceiling

Too many kitchens nowadays suffer from ‘ceiling acne’ where the whole ceiling is covered with a grid of downlights. They used to be halogen but have now been replaced by GU10 LEDs. One reason that people use so many lamps is that the beam was quite narrow, and so you needed a lot to achieve any sort of uniform illumination.  

JCC have cleverly got around this by using a more powerful downlight with a wider beam. The result is that far fewer are needed in a given size space than a conventional LED downlight. The FGLED10 emits 850lm and has a 60-degree beam. It is also fire-rated and has an ingress protection rating of IP65. 

The worktops under the cupboards use another clever product, the super-slim Skyblade. It’s less than 8mm thick and provides bags of light just where you need it. It is powered by edge-lit technology and is modular so you can connect multiple units from one driver. 

Tech spec

  • Luminaires   Predominantly JCC FGLED10 and Skyblade
  • Optical control   Various
  • Electrical load   <7W/m2
  • Pros   Uncluttered ceiling
  • Cons   We’ve added some spotlights for extra sparkle

Broad spread

Broad spread

This is very different in appearance from the first option. Instead of downlights, we have used surface-mounted circular units from JCC’s RadiaLED range. These are different from conventional units because the LEDs are mounted around the edge of the luminaire and shine inwards and across rather than simply placing the LEDs behind a diffuser.

The RadiaLED gives a broad spread of diffused light across the whole kitchen area. A whole range of finishes and wattages is available to suit most applications. 

As contrast, we have used narrow-angle Starspot track lights over the dining area to highlight the table and plants. Again, a whole range of wattages and beam widths is available. 

Tech spec

  • Luminaires   JCC RadiaLED Style plus Starspot tracklights
  • Optical control   Various
  • Electrical load   <11W/m2
  • Pros   High level of background and spot lighting
  • Cons   Uses more energy than the first option



As in the first option, we have used the wide-angle FGLED10 downlight but this time we have switched them separately so that the kitchen area is Off. So too, are the Skyblade under the cabinets.

JCC has a wide range of ceramic decorative wall lights. These can be fitted with halogen cfl or LED retrofit lamps.  For the dining area, we have used Roma wall mounted uplights and so the ceiling is completely free of any luminaires. If you wished, this could allow space for a decorative pendant, a modern chandelier or single spotlight. 

Switching off the kitchen lights means there is much more emphasis on the dining area. We have made the kickboard lights blue for extra interest. These Charion LED lights are normally used outdoors but they can equally be used inside as a simple, energy efficient way of giving a ‘lift’ to the cupboards.  

Tech spec

  • Luminaires   JCC FGLED10 plus Roma
  • Optical control   Various
  • Electrical load   <8W/m2
  • Pros   Clear ceiling
  • Cons   You might want to add a pendant over the dining table