Kitchen Lighting Ideas
for a Small Budget

Here are inexpensive kitchen lighting ideas to make your kitchen sparkle!

Dull, dimly lit kitchens aren't a happy place to be.

I know for a fact the effect light has on the psyche - I moved to sunny Florida from the Northeast to get out of the cold AND the long, dark, dreary winters.

Updated kitchen lighting and a fresh coat of white paint on the ceiling might be all the makeover magic your kitchen needs!

Afraid of electricity?

Much of the cost of any hard-wired lighting is the electrician. If you're scared to death of electricity, call a licensed electrician for an estimate first. Fixing your failures will cost more than doing the job from the git-go.

To do electrical hook-ups yourself...

  1. Turn off the power at the source - the breaker box - and tape a DO NOT TOUCH note to the box. This prevents someone from flipping on the juice while you're working.
  2. Buy a voltage sensor/tester (sometimes called a "chirper" because it makes a chirping noise when it touches a live wire). Hold the tester against all wires to see if any are live even with the power off. Testers start about $15 at home centers. NOTE: Check your tester by holding it against the cord of anything plugged in. If it "chirps" you know it's working.
  3. Once you're sure the power is off, you're not "doing electrical" - you're "doing mechanical." No worries.
  4. If you have wires in quantities and colors that don't match the instructions, call a pro. Electricity is no joke.
  5. ATTENTION MEN: read the instructions that came with the fixture.

Kitchen lighting ideas - types of light

Natural light

This is the cheapest of all lighting since it's free - at least until some politician thinks to tax it!

  • Remove window coverings altogether...or change to lace or sheer curtains.
  • If you're replacing the kitchen door, buy a new door with glass to let in light.

Kitchen overhead lighting

Gone are the days of fluorescent fixtures only - you can hang a chandelier if you want! More ceiling support might be necessary for heavier fixtures. Ask at the home center about brackets you can add between ceiling joists.

  • A central ceiling light fixture is easy to change out, and there are many great-looking, affordable ones.
  • You can still buy ceiling fans with lights for about $50. Choose an easy-to-clean style since these can get icky from greasy dust.

These homeowners raised the center of their dark, wood ceiling to add a ceiling fan - light plus extra ventilation! The white surround helps reflect more light.

Note the recessed lighting around the raised area - this is a perfect time to add recessed, while the ceiling is "open."

  • Probably the most costly of cheap kitchen lighting ideas are recessed lights. Costly not because of the lights themselves, because most homeowners don't want to tackle the job! Who can blame them?...crawling in the attic, cutting holes in the ceiling, hooking up wiring in the dark, making a mess.

    If you install recessed lights yourself, the best placement is no more than 3' apart, 24" out from the wall. Set them to shine down on the middle of your wall cabs.

One of the best kitchen lighting ideas - transform that out-dated, lighted dome ceiling!

This homeowner used paint color, a hanging pendant, four fixed lights and a rope light tucked into the cove in his kitchen makeover.

Kitchen task lighting

The two basic task lights - over the sink and over the stove - are the bare minimum. In a very small kitchen (and if you're young with good eyesight), these may be enough.

  • Install a basic range hood with the fan/light combo above the stove. Broan is a good company - their fans start around $40.
  • A microwave above the stove with built-in fan and light serves three purposes in one small spot.
  • Add under cabinet lighting - no need to pay for an electrician with types that use batteries or just plug in. I found a wireless fixture with four lights that swivel for under $20 from BrylaneHome.com! NOTE: You may need to add a strip of trim around the bottom of wall cabinets to hide under cab lights.
  • Pretty pendant lights start around $30 at home centers.Over the sink, hang pendants 30" or more from the bottom of the light to the countertop.

    Over an island with an eating area, you may need to experiment. Have someone sit while you position the light - he can tell you when it's out of his face.

    Ballard Designs
    sells an inexpensive adapter to change that over-the-sink (or elsewhere) recessed light into a hanging pendant light. Prices for the light, adapter and shade package range from $69 and up depending on the style you choose. NOTE: Lowe's now carries this adapter kit, too.
  • Track lights are back! Aim some heads down onto your kitchen island and others to illuminate the whole room.Contemporary styles from places like Ikea include cool curvy models for not much money. (Ikea stores are full of great kitchen lighting ideas and other inexpensive goodies like roll-out storage shelves.)

Kitchen accent lighting

  • A table lamp in the kitchen? Why not, if you have the room? On the counter, a shelf or atop the microwave, this is a good light to "leave on" when you're away or to avoid blinding overheads when you sneak in for a midnight snack.
  • How 'bout sconces? They're not just for baths or hallways - look for inexpensive sconces online or at stores like Target. Wireless sconces that run on batteries are available online for around $40 and up.
  • Add ambience with rope lights in glass-front cabinets.Ropes come in incandescent or LED - the LED are more expensive but use less energy and stay cooler. Buy ropes in pre-cut lengths or on a spool. You'll need to add a power cord and connector. 
  • Rope lights under the toe-kick of base cabs - one of the classiest kitchen lighting ideas ever! (One drawback: you'll have to keep the floor spotless.)

Move Your Cabinets

How to Refinish Kitchen Cabinets

Cheap Cabinets

Cheap Floors

Tiling Countertops


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Thinking of remodeling?

Keep a notebook or scrapbook of notes, clippings and ideas.

Kitchen magazines are expensive - look through them in the grocery checkout line. If you see pix of a kitchen you really like, buy that magazine.

Stop in at home centers and pick up any free cabinet manufacturers' catalogs.