Color temperature is something used to refer to the tone of light from a source. The higher the color temperature, the cooler the light, the lower the temperature, the warmer the light.
Warmer colored lights are the best for the kitchen. Kitchens, living rooms, and bedrooms are all cozy places in the home and having slightly yellow or orange-toned lights creates a relaxing ambiance. Look for lightbulbs that have between 2700-3000K color temperature.
Read on to learn more about color temperature, kitchen lighting options, and the best temperature of light for your kitchen.
Light temperature, or color temperature, is measured in Kelvin units, the measurement used for absolute temperature.
As an object heats up, it emits different colors. Think of a piece of metal being held in a flame; when the metal first starts to warm, it is a deep red color, as it gets hotter, then tone changes from red, to orange, to yellow, to white, and eventually, a bluish-white.
Lights above 4600K are considered “cool” temperatures and have a blue-ish tone. Lights that are 3000K and below are “warm” temperatures and have a yellow or orange-ish tone. Temperatures in between these ranges are neutral and appear white.
The temperature of light has a lot of influence on human perception. One 2019 study found that lower color temperatures had health benefits for humans. These benefits included the promoted production of melatonin and glutamate, acceleration of healing injuries, and even hair regrowth.
Cooler temperature lights also have a strong effect on humans. Cooler tones promote alertness and productivity by lowering melatonin, the sleep hormone. These cool lights are often used in offices and conference rooms to increase work outputs.
Standard Indoor Light Temperature
The standard indoor light temperature ranges from 2700K-5000K. 5000K temperatures are often found in fluorescent lights, usually used in garages, warehouses, and basements. These lights are harsh on human eyesight for extended periods and can cause sleeplessness, though they provide clear illumination. Lights of 5000K are best used for security lights and motion sensors, as they rapidly brighten a scene.
The most common indoor lighting is between 3000K-3500K. This is white light but has a warmish hue, so it’s easier on the eyes. This lighting is ideal for hallways, bathrooms, home offices, and storage closets. 3500K is also a temperature some people prefer to use in their kitchen if they want their cooking space to appear pristine and white.
For cozier spaces in your home, 2700K lighting is best. This light temperature has a noticeably warm color and makes a space relaxing and inviting. 2700K lighting belongs in bedrooms, living rooms, dining rooms, and kitchens. The warmer the color, the more reminiscent it is of a fire; perhaps this is why warm lighting is so inviting to humans.
The Best Color Light for Your Kitchen
The best color of lighting for your kitchen will be between 2700K and 3000K. 2700K lighting will be warmer, setting the scene for romantic dinners and cozy pancake brunches. 3000K will be closer to white, with a more industrial feel. If you like things to be hyper-clean, then you’ll prefer the 3000K lighting, as it will make the room seem more sanitized and modern.
If you have a large kitchen, you can also plan different temperature lights throughout the room. The overhead lighting you use daily for cooking and cleaning could be 3000K, while under-the-cupboard lighting could be 2700K. That way, when you turn only the lower lights on in the morning or evening, you have a more relaxed ambiance.
Another lighting option for the kitchen is dimmable lighting, so you can alter the lights’ brightness, which will also make the room seem more inviting.
The Best Type of Lighting for Your Kitchen
The type of light fixtures you use in your kitchen will also affect the atmosphere. Pair one of these types of lighting with your preferred light temperature to create the mood you prefer.
Recessed lighting involves small fixtures inset into the ceiling. Multiple fixtures are mounted throughout a room or down a hallway to spread even lighting, and often use LED lightbulbs, which can be any light temperature you desire. Recessed lights are a great option as a basic light for your kitchen, especially when paired with a track light under the cupboards.
Wall sconces are decorative, wall-mounted lights that are usually made of glass. These lamps are more commonly found in hallways where floor space is minimal. Wall sconces are not usually in kitchens, as the walls are mostly utilized for cupboards and other storage.
If you have a kitchen/dining room combo, you can use wall sconces in a warmer tone to set the mood for evening dinners. Just be aware that having mixed temperatures of lights can be very jarring to the human eye, so the temperatures should be within 300K of each other.
Pendant lighting is very popular hanging over kitchen islands and bars. Pendant lights are smaller bulbs hung on a single cord descending directly from the ceiling. A single pendant light can illuminate a table or seating area, but they are often set in rows of three or four above the kitchen island.
Chandeliers are similar to pendant lights in that they descend from the ceiling but tend to be much more intricate. Chandeliers are often found in entryways, great halls, and grand dining rooms.
Historically, chandeliers have been a sign of wealth and were originally lit with beeswax candles. Louis XIV famously decorated the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles’ Palace with ornate chandeliers and candle holders. The massive room took over 20,000 candles to illuminate.
You won’t necessarily see a grand chandelier in a kitchen, but a smaller version of the light source often hangs over dining room tables. Using warm light of 2700K or lower in a chandelier will mimic candlelight and will call to mind the days of old when great kingdoms were lit only by the power of flames.
Track lighting is extremely popular in modern homes, as a thin strip of light is mounted under cupboards or above shelving. Track lights can be warm or cool, depending on their function. As a subtle illumination source under the kitchen cupboards, a warm light will be more inviting in the early morning and evening, when the only lights are turned on.
If you’re using track lighting to accent or illuminate a work of art or a cabinet of awards, then usually a white light around 4000K is used to show off the works’ truest colors.
Ceiling fixtures, unlike pendant lights and chandeliers, are ceiling-mounted lights that don’t hang down. Instead, the fixture is mounted directly to the ceiling, and some sort of shade is used to disperse the light around the room.
A single ceiling fixture is often centered in the middle of a room to act as the main light source, with floor and table lamps used to compensate in darker areas. This is a common setup for bedrooms, living rooms, and studies, but not so commonly found in kitchens. If you have a very small kitchen, this is a good option but should be paired with track lighting to better brighten the countertops.
Standing and Table Lamps
Standing and table lamps are fun to decorate with, though they are not best used in the kitchen. Table lamps would take up precious counter space, and floor lamps are at risk of getting knocked over. The kitchen is simply too much of a hot spot for an activity for delicate house lights, light a standing lamp or crystal table lamp.
Plus, you don’t want to have to fumble with small light switches when your hands are full of cookie dough!
The color of light best used in the kitchen is between 2700K-3500K, depending on what you want your kitchen to feel like. If you want the cooking space to be cozy, inviting, and warm enough to hang out in, then you should pick a 2700K light bulb.
If you prefer to get things done in the kitchen, if you like the appearance of a very clean space, or if you often do work in your kitchen, then a 3500K light will increase productivity and make the space sparkle in the white light.