Ideas + Inspiration

From a Designer: How to Light Your Kitchen for Entertaining

We’ve all been there. Preparing for your party, you drape your dining table with fresh linens, adorn the top with an artfully prepared floral arrangement, dust off your wedding china, style a bar area with all the fixings in your living room. Your guests begin to arrive. And despite all your efforts, everyone ends up in… you guessed it, your KITCHEN! I can’t tell you how many times this has happened to me. As a designer, I love to style our entire house for parties, set tea lights around, and hope and pray that people will settle in the living and dining rooms. This never happens. Instead, guests grab a drink, walk into the kitchen, and crowd themselves around our island. At our last holiday party, we had around 30 people doing just that.

Since shooing people out of your kitchen may kill the party vibe—or ensure that you won’t have a problem with too many guests in ANY room of your house next year—I’ve rounded up some lighting tricks that will encourage the desired atmosphere for entertaining  in that workhorse of a space: our kitchens.


First thing’s first. The single most impactful thing you can do to create the right vibe for entertaining is to add dimmers to all of your lighting. Overhead recessed cans, which are generally the major light source in kitchens, are a mood killer. Understandably, you need functional light in the kitchen when you’re preparing food—but dropping the light down to a 50-75% level in the evening will make a major difference. This is something you can swap out inexpensively, even if you’re a renter without the ability to change out hardware. I regularly keep our kitchen pendants at 75%, even when we’re not entertaining.

The Lutron Diva Dimmer is a simple, contemporary preset dimmer. And for the ultimate party trick, you can dim lights from your phone with the Caseta Smart Lighting Dimmer and Remote.

Accent Lighting

Design by Caitlin Jones Design. Photo by Paul Dyer.

My new favorite accent light is LED tape lighting. It’s super easy to install and really discreet, so it’s easy to use on a retrofit design. We’ve used them regularly to replace those dated-looking fluorescent under-counter lights. WAC Lighting’s InvisiLED Pro 2 Tape is great. They have a color quality of 2700K, which is the same warmth as incandescent, so it will create a beautiful glow. You may need to use the counters to finish chopping and preparing food while the party is going on, and this is a good way to do that safely while still maintaining a nice ambiance.

Pendant Lighting

Design by Caitlin Jones Design. Pendants shown: Spillray G LEDs by AXO Light
Design by Caitlin Jones Design; the pendants are Capri #1 pendants by Robert Abbey

Spreading multiple pendants evenly over your island or peninsula is a great way to create a soft glow that is more flattering to your guests than overhead lighting. I generally like to hang them so that the bottom of the fixture sits 36” above counter height, leaving enough room for food prep or presentation.


Kitchens can easily feel cold and task-oriented. Again, not party friendly. Adding color in your lighting that accents your décor can add warmth to the space and make the kitchen feel like an extension of your more comfort-oriented rooms. I like the Clark Pendant Light from Jamie Young Co. for a pop of blue.


What’s a good dinner party without some soft background tunes? Not every home is equipped with built-in speakers, particularly in the kitchen—though I do highly recommend this, as it makes cooking a little more fun. The Tivoli Audio PAL Bluetooth Portable Radio is a great setup that has a rechargeable battery, so there’s no need for an unsightly cord. It also connects via Bluetooth for your music. It looks great, and comes in multiple colors so you can coordinate your décor.

For more from Caitlin, visit

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