Transforming a dark, closed-off kitchen into an airy, light-filled space is a common renovation goal. Natural light makes cooking and socializing more pleasant, while an open layout blends the kitchen with living areas. However, a lighter, brighter kitchen remodel comes with trade-offs to weigh. This article explores the dilemmas around opening up kitchen walls, adding skylights and windows, and choosing finishes for light reflectivity.

Assessing the Existing Kitchen Layout

Before making structural changes, assess what you have.

  • What are the room’s current dimensions? Measure wall lengths and widths.
  • Note all window and door locations. Are they functioning well? Any issues?
  • Identify the locations of plumbing, gas, and electrical. Moving these gets expensive.
  • What is above the kitchen? Attic space offers skylight opportunities.
  • What is on exterior walls? Can new windows be added?

Also evaluate how your household uses the kitchen. Does it feel cramped with multiple cooks? Do you entertain often and need openness? Closed-off layouts have pros too—they contain messes and noise.

Removing Walls to Open the Space

Opening walls instantly makes a kitchen feel more expansive and flooded with light. However, there are structural considerations.

  • Load-bearing walls can’t be removed without adding beams or columns. Inspect carefully first.
  • Will an open layout impact noise levels? Appliance sounds and cooking smells travel more easily.
  • Removing walls costs more for new flooring, finishes, and lighting in the enlarged space.
  • More visible space requires keeping kitchens tidy. No more hiding messes behind walls.

If the cons outweigh the pros, consider a large pass-through window instead of total removal. This opens sightlines without huge construction costs.

Adding Skylights for Natural Light from Above

Skylights maximize overhead natural light. Place them to avoid direct overhead sun, which causes glare and heat. Consider:

  • Diffusers soften direct sunlight while still allowing light transmission.
  • Minor roof work is needed, impacting costs. Is attic accessibility above the kitchen reasonable?
  • Leaks can occur over time. Choose reputable skylight brands known for quality.
  • Ventilation and fans require electricity. Place skylights accordingly.
  • Add skylights in multiples for balanced lighting. Odd numbers prevent a tunnel effect.

Skylights on an upper floor require running wiring and ventilation through floors below. Place extra lights below to compensate for dimmer lower-level light.

Adding More Windows

Strategically placed windows can make a kitchen glow.

  • South-facing windows get the most natural sunlight in the northern hemisphere. East-facing windows also capture morning sun.
  • To ventilate cooking fumes, ensure windows open easily. Casements crank open fully for more airflow than double-hungs.
  • Using energy-efficient glass reduces heat and UV rays to cut HVAC costs.
  • Frame with shades, awnings or recessed windows to control light and heat as needed.
  • Meet code on window additions including minimum size requirements and safety glass near floor level.

More windows mean more opportunities for water intrusion. Ensure proper flashing, premium caulking and weather-resistant construction.

Reflective Finishes Boost Light

Paint and material choices make existing light bounce further, brightening rooms.

  • White or very light paint colors reflect and amplify light best. Darker paint absorbs light.
  • Similarly, lighter cabinets (white, light wood) brighten kitchens more than dark wood tones.
  • Glossy and reflective backsplashes like glass tile enhance light reflection compared to matte surfaces.
  • Countertops in white/light quartz or granite boost light versus darker surfaces.
  • Stainless steel appliances also reflect light well versus darker finishes.

However, all-white kitchens show dirt rapidly. Consider injecting warmer metals, textures and accents for balance.

Smart Lighting Design Complements Natural Light

Well-designed artificial lighting completes the package.

  • Install dimmers to control brightness as needed. Dimmers work with all bulb types, including LED.
  • Layer lighting for functionality and ambience. Overheads light tasks, while low-volt undercabinet lights create coziness.
  • Position recessed cans to spotlight counters and avoid casting shadows as you cook.
  • Accent puck lights or track lighting showcases display areas or artwork.
  • Consider “smart” options like motion-sensor lights in pantries and voice-controlled lighting.

Key Lighting Tips

  • Choose bulbs with high color rendering (CRI) to prevent food from appearing dull or odd-colored under lights.
  • Vary lighting temperatures. Combining warm and cool tones feels vibrant.
  • Install a lighting control system for total command of the kitchen’s lighting design. Systems can be programmed and controlled remotely.


The ideal kitchen lighting plan maximizes natural light through structural changes like removing walls, adding skylights and wisely locating windows. Reflective paint and material choices further amplify lighting. Smart, layered lighting fixtures and electrical planning completes the package. Balance desired brightness and openness with functionality, maintenance and costs when approaching a kitchen lighting redesign. Careful planning creates a kitchen filled with clean, beautiful natural light.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the easiest way to lighten up a kitchen?

The easiest ways to lighten up a kitchen are by adding reflective finishes like white or light-colored paint, installing lighting dimmers, and updating fixtures to layer lighting for brightness and ambience. Small updates deliver big visual impact.

How much do new kitchen windows cost?

Adding new windows costs $300-$1,000 per window depending on materials, structural work difficulty, energy-efficient upgrades chosen, and labor. Luxury brands with advanced glass technology, custom shapes or large sizes run $3,000 or more.

Should I remove upper cabinets for an airy look?

Removing upper cabinets gives a very open, airy look. However, consider the loss of storage and display space. Options to reduce visual weight but keep function include glass-front upper cabinets, floating shelves, and staggered cabinet heights mixing uppers and low open shelves.

What problems can skylights cause?

Potential skylight problems include leaks, difficulty accessing them for maintenance, excessive heat and light on hot days, loss of insulation value, and increased cooling costs. Choosing reputable brands known for good warranties and installing diffusers, blackout shades and ventilation reduces risks.

How much light comes through windows facing different directions?

South-facing windows get the most daylight in the northern hemisphere, followed by east-facing windows with morning sun. North-facing windows get the most indirect ambient light without direct sun. West-facing windows get hot afternoon sun that requires shading.

What are the best paint colors for light kitchens?

The best paint colors for light kitchens are white and palest neutrals like bisque, ivory, cream or lightest grey. Pure white can feel sterile, so soft hues add subtle warmth. Deep or bright accent colors in small doses boost these light backgrounds. Darker colors absorb light.