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How Far Should Recessed Lights Be from Cabinets?

The lighting in your kitchen should be more than just an afterthought. Poor lighting can make it difficult to see the food that you lovingly prepare at every meal. For many people, they make the placement of their recessed lighting without the proper measurements and forethought that it truly requires.

How far should recessed lights be from cabinets? How far should you position them from the wall? The answers to both of these questions can play a significant role in the overall design and functionality of your kitchen. If you’re in the process of planning a major remodel or a new construction home, here are the answers you’ve been looking for.

General Rules for Light Placement in the Kitchen

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to lighting placement in the kitchen. Every kitchen will be completely unique when it comes to lighting requirements and arrangements. Recessed lighting can be a great way to illuminate your space, but you have to plan ahead. Most experts recommend starting with the focal point of your kitchen.

The focal point of the room is an obvious starting point for where you need the most lighting. In many modern kitchens, the focal point is a large island in the center of the room. You will want to make sure that there are lights over this area. The other lights can be spaced out from this singular point. A room without a focal point should consider starting their lights from the center of the room.

From here, you can easily calculate how far apart the rest of your lights should be. Take the height of your ceiling and divide it by two. This is how far apart the rest of your can lights should be until you reach the perimeter of the room. For example, an eight-foot ceiling would require lights every four feet.

In addition to placing lights over the focal point of the room, you may also want to include an additional light over your sink. This might be centered with the sink itself, usually resulting in one light placed roughly one foot from the wall. Sometimes, two cans might be necessary to light this practical area as much as possible.

How Far Should Recessed Lights Be from Upper Cabinets?

While this does give you some guidance, many people still struggle with the placement of their can lights. How far should recessed lights be from the kitchen cabinets? If you have upper cabinets, another good rule of thumb is to center the lights with the edge of your countertops. In most homes, that means that lights will be roughly 25 inches from the wall.

However, some designers prefer that the recessed lighting be closer to the upper cabinets. Recessed cans could be placed at just 18 inches from the wall, moving them much closer to the upper cabinets. Placing them this way can prevent shadows caused by standing directly in the light cast from the ceiling, something that could be an issue when lights are placed too far from the upper cabinets.

How far should recessed lights be from kitchen cabinets with crown molding? Keep in mind that upper cabinets that also have crown molding may need to have the lights placed further away. With lights placed at just 18 inches from the wall, the ceiling may look too busy with this many different elements in one small space. Consider placing lights 24 inches from the wall if you have crown molding on the upper cabinets.

In order to appropriately light the countertops underneath these upper cabinets, you should consider installing lights beneath the cabinets in addition to recessed lighting. This gives you a better visual when preparing foods on the countertops without worrying about shadows from the overhead lighting.

How Far Should Recessed Lights Be from the Wall?

If you have no upper cabinets in your kitchen, you might wonder how far recessed lights should be from the wall. Avoid creating major shadows that can make your kitchen feel smaller and darker than it really is. You must make sure that the light will reflect off the walls in a favorable manner, so just how far should they be from the wall?

In most homes, the best solution is to center the lights over the countertops. A standard countertop is approximately 24 to 25 inches deep. Placing a light over the center of this counter would mean that each light should be 12 to 13 inches away from the wall.

Determining the Perfect Lighting Plan

Understanding how far recessed lights should be from cabinets can be extremely challenging, particularly because you must be so detail-oriented. Enlisting the help of an electrician or lighting professional may help you to make wise decisions during your next remodel or new construction project. If you choose to go the DIY route, these guidelines should give you a great starting point for mapping out where your recessed lighting belongs in relation to your kitchen cabinets and walls.

Josh Hurd