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When, Where, How and Why to Fit Under Cupboard Lighting for Your Kitchen:

More than just a practical addition to a kitchen, under-cabinet lighting can draw attention to all the room’s best bits

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Once upon a time, under-cabinet (and under-shelf or -island) kitchen lighting was all about functionality. Now, designers have got creative and use hidden lighting to highlight a room’s architecture and make a space seem bigger, warmer and more expensively finished. But lighting like this is at its most successful when applied in just the right places – and with restraint (in the examples below, you’ll notice an absence of over-lit kitchens and colourful fittings). Here’s a mini masterclass.

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Reflect metallic
This kitchen is all about dark tones and industrial metallics, so lighting beneath the wall cupboards adds a much-needed slice of illumination right at the heart of the room.

Considering a similar look? Put your under-cabinet lighting on a dimmer; that way, you can swap from functional food prep mode to cosy dining atmosphere in a tick.

Have you checked out the most popular kitchens of 2017?

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Show off shelving
You might want your kitchen to look laid-back and eclectic, but good lighting will give it extra edge. Here, spots beneath the shelf draw attention to the handsome splashback which, being of a reflective material, bounces the light around (handy in a small space). Meanwhile, ceiling lights subtly accentuate the shelf and its select contents.

Tour a small kitchen packed with functionality and style

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Play up the positives
Under-cabinet lighting shouldn’t be limited to traditional downlights beneath wall-hung cupboards. In fact, if you have floor-to-ceiling cabinetry, that’s not even an option. So get creative and put them where they’ll really count. Here, they lighten (in every sense) the impact of a sizeable, chunky, but good-looking kitchen island.

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Emphasise a niche
Floor-to-ceiling cabinetry is best punctuated and in this scheme, under-cabinet lighting over the hob does the job effectively.

The tricks the lighting performs within the shelving unit mustn’t be minimised, either: it boosts the impression of the niche’s depth, shows off the accessories displayed and gives off an intimate, dining-ready glow.

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Highlight texture
The main event in this kitchen is, without doubt, the central island. And its defining feature is the gorgeous gold finish on the drawer fronts. The trouble with leaving them unlit is that indirect daylight will simply make the metallic finish look dull, while overhead lighting won’t touch it at all. The solution? Under-worktop lighting that makes it lustrous all day – and all evening.

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Decide whether to show or hide
Should your under-cabinet light fittings be visible or hidden behind a plinth or length of trim? Don’t ponder for long – the answer is pretty simple: if your kitchen has an industrial edge, however contemporary or rustic, where materials and mechanics are just as important as the cabinetry itself, show them off.

If you do, and especially if they’re at eye level, ensure they aren’t directed to emit a distracting glare.

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Break up monotony
Contemporary, flat-fronted cabinetry is so easy to live with, but without a change in pace, it can be somewhat featureless – which is where under-cabinet lighting can come in. Here, the island is cleverly divided by a wood-veneered niche, under-lit along its length to provide focus and warmth.

Top-lighting the floor-to-ceiling cupboards behind does a similar, sameness-defying job.

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Introduce depth
When designing a galley kitchen, do attempt to challenge the repetitiveness of the cabinetry. Here, lighting beneath the wall-hung units brightens the worktop and splashback, making the room feel wider.

At the same time, the ceiling downlights are positioned perfectly, just lipping the cabinetry, so that not only is the texture of the wood highlighted, but the chance of a cook’s shadow on the worktop is reduced.

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Point out a peninsula
Siting the lighting strategically can really change the mood of a kitchen between day and night-time. Here, a bright room that’s pretty neutral but packed with natural textures by day will blush with warmth in the evening, when the lights under the breakfast bar hit the wooden stools and floor beneath them.

Add to that the soft glow thrown upwards by the light from the pendants over the wooden breakfast bar and the warming, welcoming effect is doubled.

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Create a trompe l’oeil
Fitting furniture that looks as if it’s floating and weightless – like this kitchen island – is a clever designer ploy that draws attention to a room’s focal point. In addition, swapping a solid block of cabinetry for a piece with a set-back plinth, showing off more of the floor, also has the rather smart effect of making the entire space feel larger, especially if the unit is also under-lit. In the case of this kitchen, the lighting shows off the beautiful tones of the parquet flooring, too.

What’s your experience of under-lighting your kitchen’s features? Share your tips and thoughts in the Comments section.

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