Do you Prefer Warm, Cool or Daylight Lighting in your Kitchen?

I am always fielding questions about how lighting affects your room. And, I continue to be amazed at what can be done with new LED technologies in lighting. Whether you prefer warm, cool or daylight lighting in your kitchen, here’s a new option that I had to share with you.

During my visit to West Palm Beach I was fortunate to work with one of my lovely readers and a recently minted True Colour Expert on confirming decisions she was making for colours and future updates!

When your lighting turns your cabinets yellow.

Over the years, I have been asked over and over again about lighting under your cabinets, however since I do not manage kitchen renovations, I really didn’t know enough about it to help.

Recently, however, when I was in a client’s kitchen I noticed that her much warmer recessed lighting turned her off-white cabinets CREAM when they were on, so you might need to consider changing your lighting if this is happening in your kitchen.

This dandy new under cabinet lighting technology is the answer, my lovelies.

Cindy’s husband Jeff, had switched out their old halogen bulbs to these swanky new LED under counter lighting with adjustable settings for warm, cool and daylight!

So, I had to show you:

You can see that with the daylight setting, 5000 Kelvin, the colours show true. And if your white kitchen looks somewhat yellowed and dingy in artificial light in the evening, LED daylight bulbs are worth considering to get a truer fresh white look.



Enbrighten LED Under cabinet light


Buh-bye dingy fluorescents and overheated halogens.

Isn’t it amazing what can be done with new LED technologies in lighting? Remember when our options were pretty much warm atmosphere from energy sucking incandescents or cold, greenish flat light from “efficient” fluorescents? I realize that a lot of institutional spaces are still equipped with fluorescent tubes for practical reasons, but it will be so nice to see the back end of them for good.

And then halogens came along, a bit more efficient, but hot. And yellow. Everything was yellow.

Now we have options, hooray! And when you have options, it’s a good idea to make informed decisions and get to know your preferences. What that looks like for interiors I think, is to consider what the room is most used for.

Different lighting for different rooms.

A kitchen for example is an active space. You need to clearly see what you’re doing when you’re cooking and the kids are doing homework. It makes sense in a kitchen, especially a crisp white one, to have clean and true daylight type lighting.

But I’m curious how you all feel about daylight bulbs in your lamps that you use in rooms where the goal is socializing and relaxing. This is where I tend to prefer warmer soft white bulbs. In the wind down of the evenings, the warm light of a fire or candles is more atmospheric and conducive to relaxation. It probably has something to do with our history as humans of gathering around a fire or hearth, don’t you think? Or am I just a romantic?

Is there more to the temperature of lighting than your preference?

There is also science to say that cooler light frequencies in the evening upset our sleep and wake cycles or circadian rhythms, and this is why the blue light from screens is not ideal in the few hours before bed. I’m curious, is that a factor you are concerned about? Or you more committed to your blues and whites looking true all day and night?

I’d love to hear about your preferences for light temperatures in your lamps and lighting. Does it vary from room to room or activity to activity? Are we headed down the path of being able to adjust each bulb in our home according to our preference in the moment?

When teaching my System for Specifying Colour in my live workshops, I downplay the effect of light on colour, not because it isn’t a factor, but because it’s not nearly as BIG of a factor as it is given credit for. People are much too quick to blame the light when in fact they have chosen the wrong colour to pull their space together.

However, it is worthwhile, certainly in the case of light colours and white cabinets, to play around a bit with the temperature of your lighting to see if you can either create a crisper, cleaner look, or a warmer mood to help you unwind.

Jeff & Cindy

Over to you my lovelies, I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions, I so appreciate how ya’ll move the conversation forward and often the comments are even better than the post!

Related post:

The Real Reason Your Lighting Sucks

The Enchanting World of Atmosphere

7 Ways to Make the Most out of What You Already Have (before & after)

Do you prefer warm, cool or daylight kitchen lighting?
I am always fielding questions about how lighting affects your room. And, I continue to be amazed at what can be done with new LED technologies in lighting. Whether you prefer warm, cool or daylight lighting in your kitchen, here’s a new option that I had to share with you.


leave aREPLY

  1. Warm and cool lighting is a big concern of mine for my own health and wellbeing. That said, before I learned of the effects of cool light on Alzheimer’s patients I insisted on cool lighting everywhere in our home. If you have not heard about this… a study was done in two different Alzheimer’s wards. One had cool fluorescent lighting and the other had warm fluorescent lighting. On the ward that had the warm lighting the patients slept through the night and kept a “regular” schedule. On the ward that had cool lighting they had difficulty with the patients staying up all night and becoming irritable.

  2. When we prepared our home to sell (built a new ranch that’s easier to get around due to knee and hip replacement), the photographer was so pleased we had daylight lamps. He said the photos look much better when listing. He was correct. The pictures showed our home to it’s best advantage and it sold in six hours and for 2K over asking. Lesson: Lighting makes a substantial difference!

  3. I’ve always enjoyed warm lighting in all the rooms of my house. We used to have a fluorescent fixture in our kitchen that I forbade anyone to EVER turn on! Now I’ve switched all our bulbs to LED and I love it.

  4. Then, if designing a space from scratch and you want it to look good in warm lighting and candlelight, would it be best to go with cream cabinets rather than true whites?

  5. The 2700K LED lighting is most similar to traditional incandescents in color. My personal preference is the 3500K range…less yellow but not the 5000k blue white. The amount of lumens will determine the brightness not K rating. I found that a couple of years ago that Home Depot had best selection of the 3500k bulbs in varying Lumens. They accepted opened bulb packages…the kind that require scissors and possible swearing to open!! Anyway, I found the color and brightness that I like and returned the rest.

  6. It depends on the room. We have about 10 lights on a dimmer switch in our bedroom (former owner was an electrician). When we put in the 1st LED light in, even on the dimmest setting, it was too bright. We did, however, put all LEDs (also on dimmer switch) in our kitchen. I have not noticed a change in the color temp of our kitchen, which has both cream and pure white (I know, it needs work). I don’t think I could get too much light in my north-facing kitchen though! I suspect the adjustable temp lighting will eventually be the norm, replacing dimmer switches.

  7. I am totally blown away with all of the knowledge that your followers have shared! I feel like I have been in the closet with the lights off all these years! I have always been aware of how lighting affects color and mood but certainly not to this extent. I am however concerned how LED lighting affects a persons health as Marilyn has stated. I too follow Dr. Mercola. I like the smart lights idea and will look into them as far as health issues and the affect on your circadian rhythm.

    The pictures that you shared are just amazing and such a difference with each kelvin. Thanks for giving us new things to think about!

  8. Very interesting information. Does this mean that lighting should be first on the list if planning for a color change, i.e. update the lighting before selecting a color?

  9. I loved seeing the 3 side by side. Looking at those 3, I prefer the 4000K, but I’m surprised how much I also like the daylight. I think it really depends on your home. I am a home stager and do some design as well. I actually have a light bulb document that I give my clients explaining all the different LED lighting options because everyone is confused. I usually recommend 3500K in most homes in my area because they are transitional and just don’t look right with Daylight (unless they’ve been freshly painted and have more of a contemporary feel), and 4000K are harder to find locally. I do specify a brighter bulb, though (usually 100W equivalent), which can counteract some of the warmth and brighten the home that doesn’t have a lot of natural light. I will recommend daylight bulbs in cleaner, more contemporary spaces. I prefer bluer light in kitchens and bathrooms, but I like a bit warmer in bedrooms and living spaces. 2700K is a bit too warm for me, but 3000-3500K is usually fine in most cases. We recently replaced the lighting in our kitchen and tried 3 different bulbs before we got the ones that looked best.

  10. Excellent point regarding the CRI value. It can make a huge difference to how brilliant colours appear and is (in my opinion) worth looking for. Here in Australia, Philips is the only brand I am aware of that shows the CRI value on the packaging. The “el cheapo” bulbs don’t have it. I stay away from them. Colour representation can really affect how happy we feel in a space.

  11. I’m going to tell you all something that you might not believe. If you are in your late 40s or older, the colors you are seeing are not like the colors younger people are seeing.
    I had one lense replaced with an acrylic lens. I was 55 yo when I had this done. The optometrist told me that I would see colors a lot clearer and with less yellow because the discoloration of my lens would be gone.
    I laughed and said, I don’t think that will happen. I’m a young 55!
    Well, after the quick surgery, I opened my eye, and OMG…the difference was stunning! My old eye, that I did not have fixed shows everything with a yellow/brown tint, like a nicotine tint. All whites look brownish/yellowish. I would have SWORN that it was white.
    When I got my “new” eye, I could see the difference.
    So ladies and gents, and all you designers out there….this is a REAL THING.
    And the way you see color is not like your neighbor sees color.
    Bottom line…it should only please you and no one else as to how your lighting is.
    I am one of the few people with one eye aging normally, and one eye like a teenager. I can see the difference in each eye…and this happens to us ALL. Even if you don’t think you are effected, you are.
    Also, lastly, LED is really bad for the eyes and the brain. The daylight color WILL create sleeplessness over time if used up until bedtime.

  12. Great topic and post! I consulted Young House Love on which bulbs to buy because John of YHL is a nerd about light bulbs and they explain things well. I have a small west-facing kitchen with overhead two overhead fixtures. I tried out the 5000 kelvin bulbs but they were two blindingly blue-white, so I got the brightest warm light bulbs. It looks ok in person but the room is quite yellow in photos and videos.

  13. I prefer table lamps with warm light. I do not like overhead light at all unless I dropped something on the floor and can’t find what I dropped. I have dimmers all over my house even in the powder room but I have a small lamp that I turn on when I have company. It is a nice touch. My kitchen unless I am preparing a big meal my lighting again is soft I don’t turn on the overhead unless I need it. Now I need to go look at my light color in the kitchen. Oh my.

  14. Michelle (above) mentioned color rendering index plays an important part in how we see color. She is correct! As an ASID (American Society of Interior Designers) member I’m required to meet annual CEU credits, one of my favorite topics is LED lighting. I have learned sunlight has a color temperature of 5500 K’s with a CRI of 100. Our industry seems to be moving towards CRI’s of 90+ as that it is what is required for Energy Star rating. Plus, colors read much truer at this level. The other, even more important thing to keep in mind is, when specifying under counter lighting, Kelvin Color Temp matters! It can change the color of raw beef from an appealing red to a ghastly grey.

  15. IMO…the absolute best light bulb EVER for ambiance is the GE soft pink light bulb. The led pink bulbs on the market today are horrendous. Once upon a time GE soft pink bulbs were available for flood lights, can lights, three way, and various wattages. Now I can only find them online in 60 watt bulbs. I frequently get compliments on my lighting and how warm and welcoming our home feels.
    The vendor (no longer in business) I used to buy them from once told me funeral directors and me were his best customers! Haha. Soft pink incandescence light bulbs make everyone look good.

  16. I love this post and I especially love Diane’s comment that she buys the GE soft pink lightbulbs online! I’ve looked for these at Home Depot, Lowe’s, Wal-Mart, Target, etc. for about 6 months now. Face palm moment! Duh! Online! Thank you Diane if you see this!!

  17. In 2014, I rented a rustic house with soaring ceilings. It had lots of wood punctuated by white walls.

    I put in some Soft White LED bulbs. Then I saw FULL-SPECTRUM Soft White LEDs and put in some of those. Same brand.

    The difference was obvious. The wood looked flat and yellow with the regular LEDs, but it looked rich and vibrant with the full-spectrum bulbs.

    At the time, the store guide indicated “Daylight” bulbs were super bright and for garages. Whereas “Full-Spectrum” was softer light with more true colors. I don’t know if this is a universal definition.

  18. I have both under the counter and over the cabinet lights. I rarely use the over cabinet lights, but on dark grey days I turn them on. I made the mistake once of putting daylight bulbs in. This was horrible and I quickly canged them out. Just too blue and cold a light. I don’t think anyone would want this in their home.

  19. Great topic! I re-read the majority of your posts, Maria. They comprise a reference library of sorts, for me.

    I’m in the Pacific NW, as are you, and crave a bit more warmth in lighting, since ambient light is so blue-gray compared to when I lived in Los Angeles and Houston.

    I love the warmth of 2700K LED, and use it in many living spaces, but for kitchen and bath go to 3000K for “true enough” lighting for cooking, putting on makeup, etc.

    It also depends quite a bit on the diffuser glass, if there is one–my vanity lamps in one bath have a creamy/almost yellowish cast to the glass, so much warmer light comes through than the overhead recessed, even though both are 3000K bulbs. Overall combination of both is just perfect (beautiful with the paint colors I chose with your blog’s help…BM Pure White walls and BM Super White trim to go with the faux Carrara marble tile).

    Similarly, fabric shades make a difference in effective warmth; my bedside reading sconces have a shade with an ivory cast, so a 2700K bulb is too warm in combination with the shade. I go to 3000K there and get good reading light, and a warmth that is similar to incandescent.

    3000K is the ‘coolest’ I will go! I know it is still considered ‘warm’!

    Another great post, thanks!

  20. We just bought and remodeled an 800-square foot condo. The kitchen and living room are open and side-by-side, so kitchen lighting influences living room lighting. The kitchen is white so I didn’t want to yellow my cabinets with warm lighting. But I also wanted to have warm cozy lighting in the evening while reading or watching a movie in the living room.

    For recessed lights throughout the condo, we installed Halo Selectable lights where we could select the Kelvin. I chose 3500 throughout, which for me is a happy medium between warm and cool. For kitchen undercabinet and toekick lighting, our electrician installed LED tape lighting that had only two options: 3000 or 4000. I chose 4000 because my backsplash is also white. In the bathroom, I chose 3000 for under vanity tape lighting because my sconces were LED 3000 and could not be changed. I like the warmer light in there, especially at night.

    Our solution for a warmer, cozier light at night are lamps with LIFX bulbs (LIFX – Mini 800-Lumen, 9W Dimmable A19 LED Light Bulb, 60W Equivalent – Multicolor). I also placed these bulbs in my kitchen pendants. You control LIFX bulbs with an app that allows you to make the bulbs whatever color you want. During the day, I’ll set the kitchen pendants and living room bulbs to 4000 to match the kitchen lighting. As the sun gets lower, I’ll set them to 3500. After sunset, I’ll change them to 3000. Once we’re settled down to read or watch a movie, we’ll turn off the kitchen recessed and undercabinet lights, and I’ll set the bulbs to 2700 or 2500, or sometimes 2000 for a deep orangey glow. It’s the perfect solution for our space.

  21. I love this post. We have been having trouble finding the right bulbs for the recessed lights in our kitchen. I thought I wanted a soft warm glow but our current bulbs make our off white cabinets slightly yellow/green at night, which feels more commercial than comforting. My husband loves Phillips Hue color changing bulbs. I just discovered they have a White Ambiance version that is a little cheaper than the full color spectrum version, and can be adjusted from cool to warm. Thanks to the other comments, I now know to ask about the CRI value before purchasing anything. I’m so grateful for this informative blog!

  22. Great post to go with your post on “white” paints and using lamp lighting. Only one more important component…lampshade colors. Thank you.

    • Most lampshades should simply be off-white. If they are stark white they look cheap and since every well lived home in your house should have at least 6 lighting sources, it looks better if the shodes are basically the same colour so you notice the atmosphere that’s created by the lamps NOT the colour of the shades. Hope that helps, Maria

  23. Hi Maria,
    This is a very interesting topic for me..
    I think colors and lightning are the most. powerful tools in the interior. Haha, of course we are all romantics and dream about the chimney in the house.. Really the lamps are associated with the real fire in our minds.. I have recently found a lamp imitating fire and was totally mesmerized with its live flame.. I love the latest LED solutions when one can illuminate sertain parts of the room. First of all it creates mood and makes room sooo cozy at no price – the most important aspects of the living space design.. I am sure Jeff and Cindy now feel like in a restaurant with LED lighting under the cabinets…
    Thank you so much for clever advices!! I will be thrilled to know more about modern lighting solutions from your blog … I even thought of opening a lamp shop one day haha.

  24. Ah yes! Popular post. We all have stories 🙂 so we purchased a color consult for our old home with Maria. Green based beige was the recommendation to work with the trim. Repainted and it was still yellowish… the edison bulbs definitely were the worst offenders so we went cooler and I switched the lampshades to whites. In this home we have not yet painted 90% of it but the north facing kitchen which is gloss blue and white cabs with track lights on all the time, had to have cool bulbs as everything was cream … no way I was going to have cream!

  25. I prefer a warm light regardless of the time of day or space I’m in. I just find that the warm light makes me feel more relaxed.

  26. Hi Maria~

    I just love your website! Here is my lighting story.

    I supervised the build-out of a medical office space that had a coffered ceiling in the reception room. I am NOT a designer. There is strip LED lighting along the outside edge of the coffer. The owner wanted the ceiling to be blue (in the interior, I hope I’m explaining it correctly) We tried several colors but they ALL showed up with lavender undertones. I tried many different colors. I could not get a true dark blue no matter what when the lights were on although it showed up as the true color when the lights were off. We went with Navel by SW and its beautiful and true to color but only when the LED lights are off. Now I know why.

  27. Yes, there is more to lighting than color temperature. PLEASE don’t forget to check the Color Rendering Index (CRI). A CRI of 85 or better is preferred. If the CRI is not listed or not available, steer clear. The CRI measures how true to daylight colors will appear. If the CRI is below 85, the colors will not appear correctly. Most people who purchase lamps (bulbs) are often unaware of this and end up buying lower priced lamps (bulbs) which typically have a lower CRI at their favorite big box store then end up miserable. Also, 3000K for kitchens and baths gives a nice clean light (similar to MR16, and will NOT yellow your cabinets. Just some thoughts….

  28. We changed all of our recessed lighting to 5000K and use Ecosmart 5000k light bulbs in our lamps and fan lights. We love it! I wish there were more options available for 5000k in ceiling mounted lighting and over the dining room table lighting. We have an open floor plan and in my line of vision with vaulted ceilings I can see my table lamps, a ceiling fan, my kitchen dining table light, ceiling mount kitchen light and light for my office off the kitchen. Trying to find complementary lights with the same 5000k temp has been impossible and we are seriously considering just adding more recessed cans instead. I’m curious if because we live in south Fl the 5000k seems natural to us and not overly bright because it’s always so bright outside anyways?