Approaching a Kitchen LED Retrofit
According to our expert, make the most of a tight budget by supplementing recessed LED cans with a pendant light to fill the space.
As an alternative to using multiple pendants over an island, a single long rectangular version is a viable option. This one made by Newton Gallery ( can be ordered with dimmable GU24 lamps inside the pillar candles.
I am changing out the appliances and countertop in my parents’ kitchen, which has an 8-foot island, and we need to change the lights to LED. We’re on a tight budget and can’t do under-counter or accent lighting. If four cans will have to do it all, whose fixtures would you recommend? I’m also wondering if I can get away with 4-inch openings.

You are asking these four recessed LED cans to do a lot, my friend. When your parents face the counters to do food prep, their backs will be to the recessed fixtures so they will be blocking the light. That’s why undercabinet lighting is so important.

The light that comes from four recessed fixtures — alone — will look like the light coming out of four bright flashlights pointed downward. The ceiling will be dark and these lights will cast harsh shadows on people’s faces. It will make the room very uninviting. If you have a center island or a peninsula, I would highly recommend hanging a pendant fixture or two to help create some fill light for the space.

You have a wonderfully long island. There are so many ways that you could creatively use that surface … I’m thinking Slip ’n Slide. You can hang a long rectangular pendant or two 24-inch-diameter pendants over the island, centering one fixture on each half. Be sure to pick a good scale pendant. People tend to lean toward smaller fixtures, which can look dinky above a long island. It’s like Cher wearing diamond stud earrings; the scale just feels wrong.

As far as recessed LED recessed fixtures go, one company I would have you look at is Cree ( The company’s 4-inch-diameter can is dimmable and is available in a color temperature of 2700K. The one that has a little something extra is made by Juno Lighting ( and is called the WarmDim. It actually gets warmer in color when dimmed, mimicking the feel of incandescent light, which gets more amber in color when dimmed.

Please be kind and give your loving parents the lighting they deserve. They always loved you best anyway.

Randall Whitehead lighting designer
Randall Whitehead, IALD

Randall Whitehead, IALD, is a professional lighting designer and author. His books include "Residential Lighting, A Practical Guide." Whitehead has worked on projects worldwide, appeared on the Discovery Channel, HGTV and CNN, and he is regular guest on Martha Stewart Living Radio. Visit his website for more information on books, upcoming seminars and the latest lighting trends.

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