Beautiful methods to light top of kitchen cabinets.

Beautiful methods to light top of kitchen cabinets.

With an improper lighting design in kitchen, sometimes the area above cabinets is left dark. This problem can be easily solved with proper placement of recessed light and other light sources.

Below are some lighting ideas to light top of kitchen cabinets elegantly.



To illuminate the top of cabinets in a kitchen with no proper ceiling light recessed light should be used. Placing recessed lights are placed at a distance of 22 – 24 inches from the wall not only help to eliminate darkness from the upper part of cabinets but also help to illuminate the task areas underneath.

However if task areas of kitchen like countertops are already illuminated then the placement of recessed lights would be 5 – 6 inches from the wall i.e just above the kitchen cabinets

Can recessed lights be installed on the cabinet ?

Recessed lights are a very bright source of light. If they are placed on the cabinets facing towards ceiling then the light falling on the ceiling would create bright spots which may lead to uneven distribution light in the kitchen overall as well as may cause glares.

Therefore, it is not a good practice to install recessed lights facing upwards.

Even if a dimmer switch is used to adjust the brightness of recessed lights, still their distribution of light on the ceiling would not be uniform. Hence, it is not preferred to install recessed lights directly on the top part of cabinets.




Direct lighting is possible in kitchens with sloped ceilings. Whether gimble lights are used or simple recessed lights are installed on the ceiling, the light can always face towards the dark areas over the cabinets.



In diffuse lighting we take advantage of the narrow distance between the ceiling and top of wall cabinets in kitchen. If the distance between ceiling and cabinets is 12 inches or less then diffuse lighting can be done.

The small gap between ceiling and cabinets allows light to get reflected multiple times as a result giving a low contrast lighting without shadows.

This lighting can be incredible in the kitchen with a lot of unwanted shadows.



Profile lighting can be done in those kitchens in which there is no space to hide LED strip lights. Installing LED strip lights directly without any cover does not look pleasant. Therefore, profiles are used in which light strips can be placed and is covered from above giving a pleasant look.

Profile light provides diffused light with a smooth contrast. It is excellent lighting option for kitchen in which extensive work is done on a regular basis.





LED spot lights are just like recessed lights in terms of casting light downwards but they offer a wider beam spread. Most kitchens utilize recessed lights which can get boring. Hence, LED spot lights can act as a good light source to add a different look to the kitchen.

These spot lights looks good in kitchens, especially in those with high ceilings. In kitchens with smaller ceilings 8 ft and less, these lights can cause bright spots of light on the floor if their beam spread is 30 degrees or less.






In a kitchen where lighting is already done, however, the areas above cabinets are left dark, a secondary source of light can be added with an aim to eliminate the dark areas.

This secondary light source can be profile lights.










In ceiling where a minimal number of light sources are used, track lights can be added.

Also in an off-centered kitchen, track lights are one of the best methods of lighting as they can be adjusted to cast light exactly where required.



Other lighting options to illuminate the upper region of cabinets with placement

Indirect lighting

Lighting on top of cabinets can also be done properly by using LED strip light. That’s because LED Strip light is just bright enough that it illuminates the top of cabinets without causing unwanted glares.

However, LED strip lights cannot be installed directly. To achieve the smooth contrast of indirect lighting, the light from the LED strip must reflect from something before illuminating the wall.

There are two ways of using LED strip lights for lighting dark regions over cabinets.

  • By installing LED strip lights on the ends of the cabinets

For a kitchen with plain ceiling, if LED strip lights are placed on the cabinets, just near the point where cabinet and the wall meets, the effect of indirect lighting can be achieved as the light will first strike the cabinets and then would come out and illuminate the dark regions above.

This method is the easiest and fastest way of illuminating the dark areas above cabinets as it does not require any drilling.

or alternatively, LED strip lights can also be installed right at the middle parts of the cabinets running across the entire cabinets of kitchen.

Below is a very helpful video that shows the installation of LED strip lights in a step by step way.

  • By cove lighting

In cove lighting, the valances and ledges on the ceiling are utilized for the placement of LED strip lights. This method is thus helpful for those kitchens where there are valances just at the point where the ceiling and wall meet above the cabinets.

By using LED string lights

LED string lights are versatile, easy-to-use sources of light. When placed on top of cabinets, their light helps to illuminate dark areas above cabinets and also gives a vibrant festivity to the kitchen.

While using LED string lights there are a few things to consider like what color of light should be there? as well as, how much of string to place above the cabinets ? and in what arrangement to place them?

Let’s take a look at each one of them in detail.

What color temperature of light for LED string lights?

For kitchen, the recommended color temperature of lights should be daylight white i.e 5000 k to 6500k. This applies to both task lighting as well as for general illumination.

The top of cabinets is however a place where no task is done. Hence, we can assume that the color temperature of lights over cabinets is not based on the activities performed in kitchen.

Rather, the colour temperature of light over the cabinets should be such that it complements the overall lighting scheme of the kitchen.

If task lighting and general lighting are done in daylight white color temperature then the color temperature for LED string lights should also be daylight.

There is however a unique method to add a little variety in lighting over cabinets and that is to match the colour of LED string lights to that of the cabinets. If the cabinets are of brown colour then the colour temperature of LED string lights can be brownish.

How much string to place over cabinet and in what arrangement ?

The arrangement of string lights over the cabinets such be such that 16 to 18 inches of LED string light rest over each cabinet.

This will ensure all cabinets are equally illuminated and there is little nonuniformity in light over the ceiling and wall above cabinets.

Also while placing string lights above cabinets it is a good practice to not allow string lights to hang over the cabinets else while opening or closing the cabinets, the lights would get in the way.

By using wall decor lights

There are some cases when except one side of the kitchen, all the other sides are properly illuminated. If only the side above cabinets is dark, then wall decor lights can be a great method to illuminate it.

While using wall decor lights, it is important to note that the gap between cabinets and the ceiling should be greater than 10 inches. This will ensure that the light itself is not too close to the ceiling and cabinets.

Ideally, a gap minimum of 2 inches should be kept between the wall decor light and the ceiling, similarly a gap of at least 2 inches should also be kept between the wall decor light and the cabinets.

There are numerous wall decor lights that can be used for example, neon lights in the form of a particular text, or light source merged in a wall decor item.

By utilizing top of kitchen cabinets as a shelf and then illuminating the objects on them.

Various decorating objects like flower pots and artistic vessels can be placed on top of cabinets and then light can be used to illuminate them.

Such that the light that falls on the object would also fall on the wall behind the illuminating dark areas above cabinets.

To avoid shadows from the objects there are two things to consider:

  • The size of object

Objects that are very big, chunky should not be placed on top of cabinets. Only small-sized objects look great when placed over the cabinets.

When bigger objects with length and width greater than 7 inches are placed over cabinets, they block the light to reach the wall and would leave the area of wall behind them dark.

Hence, it is a good practice to keep to size of decorating object within 3 to 7 inches in length and in width as well.

  • The placement of light source

The placement of light source should be such that shadows of the object are minimized which can be achieved by placing the light source at a position higher to that of object.

Spot lights and track lights are good options to illuminate the decorative items placed above the cabinets as they are placed high on the ceiling and other light falls from a point which makes the shadows of the objects almost negligible.

How bright should the lights above cabinets be ?

As stated above, there are no activities that are performed above cabinets hence, the lighting requirement is very less.

To properly illuminate the top of cabinets such that all the dark areas are well-lit, the light sources should emit 150 – 200 lumens of brightness for 1 cabinet.

Most LED strip lights are very bright however the built-in dimmer allows them to be adjusted in any intensity of light.

If the distance between the top of cabinets and the ceiling is 12 inches or less, then the light source should be 150 lumens bright and if the gap between the ceiling and top of cabinets is greater than 12 inches, the light source should be 200 lumens bright.

Can battery-operated lights be used above cabinets ?

Battery-operated lights are only helpful in those kitchens which do not have proper outlets for installing a light source or kitchens in rental apartments where drilling may not be an option.

By simply placing a few battery-operated lamps above the kitchen can sure help to get rid of dark regions above the kitchen cabinets.

The only downside of battery-operated light fixtures is that they require charging almost on a daily bases and require bringing them down when they run out of charge and then again placing them on top of cabinets after they get charged is a part of using battery-operated lights.

Therefore, it is clear that for a short-term use battery operated lights can add both light as well as decor to the kitchen but for long-term use, hardwired or plugin light fixtures should be preferred.

Leave a Comment


No comments yet. Why don’t you start the discussion?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *