Most of the info on the web calls for lights to be centered at the counter’s edge. However, my upper cabinets are going to be 24” deep - basically matching the counter.

The upper cabinets, as well as the range hood will have an led lighting, so lighting for counters is not a huge issue. It’s mostly to light the immediate area of the cooking area. There will also be a soffit right above the cabinets, that is housing duct work. The soffit is stepping out another 1.5-2” from the cabinets edge.

In front of this area (about 40” from the counter) there is also an island that will have its own recessed lighting.

How far should I place the lights from the upper cabinets’ edge?

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  • After taking a look at the measurements, I'd put a light directly over each of the 4 corners of the island, and perhaps one more in the between them on each long side. then dispense with the planned lighting over the island. Commented Nov 11, 2020 at 19:37
  • I was planning to put two lights lengthwise centered above island controlled with it’s own switch. Lights between island and counter will be part of the “main” kitchen lighting cluster.
    – David
    Commented Nov 11, 2020 at 19:44
  • Interesting layout. Main areas of concern, as others have said, walk way/cabinets/countertops/island. I'm thinking lights in a line 1ft from cabinets would create a light cone which highlights the cabinet fronts when closed but gets light into the cabinets when open. Countertop lighting will need to be of enough quantity/lumens to provide enough work area light. LED cabinet lights "might" be enough or 2 rows of mini puck lights. A kitchen island 42" wide offers you opportunity to create a functional yet artistic feature in the kitchen. Perhaps a long chandelier with crystals on the sides.
    – user68386
    Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 23:20

4 Answers 4


Your situation is bad for cans

The reason why you're seeing advice to set your recessed fixtures ("cans") in line with the counter's edge is so those cans can provide additional light to the work surfaces in the kitchen, as standard undercabinet solutions just aren't good enough on their own to meet IES standards of 50 footcandles at the prep surface. However, your deep upper cabinets make that approach impossible, so you'll have to find another solution. Furthermore, without cans near the cabinets to at least somewhat illuminate open uppers, it's going to be very dim when you're rustling around for a plate or a bag of pasta up there.

As a result, I'd jettison recessed lighting entirely in this situation, instead using a low-profile, but projecting, fixture over the island to throw ambient light both down and over (a standard ceiling-mounted linear LED is fine, provided the diffuser wraps around the sides) and a double shot of undercabinet lighting to provide the task lighting, with one set of undercabinets at the front edge and the other at the rear edge. Note that you'll need some seriously hotshot undercabinets to pull this off; most garden-variety home-improvement-store fixtures aren't going to have the output required, nor will things you scrounge up on Amazon Marketplace or such.


Although code is not a limiting factor the light density will be. Based on homes I have built and redecorated I would have under cabinet lighting at the stove top, and a light above at each end shining down on the fridge and oven. Then 2 or 3 in-line at the island. The actual spacing depends on the fixture themselves.

Some recessed lights have a narrow beam some are quite wide. I tend to split the width of the oven and fridge in this case and mount the fixture centered and 1/2 the with of the opening away from the cabinets. With this method any openings at the bottom or top have light. If two close the bottom shelves are dark, and the cabinets reflect the light away from where it is needed. Two far away the upper shelves are dark and you have shadows when standing there looking.


Regarding under-cabinet lights this is more a question of aesthetics rather than meeting construction/electrical regs. The reason they suggest placing them at the front edge is so the reveal at the front edge of the cabinet will block the light from shining into the eyes of anyone sitting at a table or anywhere in the kitchen that is lower than the light, such as at the island seating you show in your sketch.
The further back toward the wall you move the lights the more of an issue it might become. So it's your call.
I suggest that you sit at various points in the room to see how visible the light may be from each point. A lot also depends on the type of light. LEDs can be very bright but most all have diffusers or tend to direct the light down, such as hockey puck lights.
Just play with them a little until you find the optimum location for your situation.

  • 1
    I think placing them at the front edge is to reduce shadow on the workspace. Not an issue here. Commented Nov 11, 2020 at 19:38
  • Not sure how that reduces shadow on the workspace but whatever works for you.
    – HoneyDo
    Commented Nov 11, 2020 at 19:52
  • 4
    It means the light isn't behind you casting a shadow onto the cutting board. Commented Nov 11, 2020 at 20:21
  • I misread part of the OPs question. I should have been clear that my answer was only dealing with under cabinet lights not ceiling lights. I'll do an edit.
    – HoneyDo
    Commented Nov 12, 2020 at 19:03
  • Ah. I see the confusion now. Commented Nov 12, 2020 at 22:19

I know I'm very late to this discussion, but did this get built the way it was described? No one addressed the idea of the upper cabinets being 24" deep. Upper cabinets are shallower so that people can lean slightly forward and look down to see the counter. While there aren't any readable dimensions shown in the original SketchUp image, it appears the bottom edge of the upper cabinets is lower than the top of the refrigerator, so approximately 5'-8". No one much over 5'-4" would be able to stand at the edge of the counter without hitting their forehead. Anyone over 5'-8" probably can't even see the counter surface while standing at it.

  • It did get built exactly like this and it is great. Lot of the "standard" is completely arbitrary and I learnt to make things the way I want and the way it works for me, not the next buyer of my home after decades. If you want exact dimensions I can measure and post them here. We routed for LED lights under the cabinet but ended up not using them. Instead, our hood has ample LED lighting that we use during cooking. We centered the lights above the island counter instead.
    – David
    Commented Dec 7, 2023 at 21:45

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