Poor track lighting. The ‘80s and ‘90s overdid the trend, leading many of us to scrunch our noses at the thought of it. But is it time to rethink track lighting? Short answer: yes. It’s DIY friendly, versatile, and if you look hard enough, can come in contemporary designs. Kitchen track lighting is particularly making a comeback and can be especially useful in a galley kitchen, which is long and skinny, just light the fixtures themselves.
Caitlin Murray, founder and creative director of Black Lacquer Design, is on board with track lighting—when done well. “Track lighting notoriously conjures images of chunky 1980s fixtures that were very much function over form,” she says. “But, it's definitely due for a rebrand—and now is the time.”
Track lighting notoriously conjures images of chunky 1980s fixtures that were very much function over form. But, it's definitely due for a rebrand—and now is the time.
Meet the Expert
Caitlin Murray is the founder and creative director of Black Lacquer Design.
To get a modern look while using notorious dated-looking track lighting in your kitchen, Murray recommends opting for fixtures that are sleek, sculptural, and done in luxe finishes, like bronze or brass. “I would avoid anything that looks low quality or overly-industrial,” she says.
Like all design elements, track lighting has its upsides and drawbacks. “Track lighting can provide significantly more brightness than a typical ceiling mount fixture and fill a space more evenly,” Murray explains. You can't deny the convenience of being able to adjust and angle the bulbs to point to the spots that need the most light, like workspaces or wherever bar stools are.
“On the other hand, it can be difficult to come by pieces that are design-forward and pull their weight in a well-executed space.” Time to change that, don't you think?
If you're ready to embrace the track lighting again, scroll on for 10 kitchens that have bright, beautiful track lighting.
Go Slim and Sleek
Exhibit A that track lighting can be contemporary: see above. Murray knows track lighting is in need of a rebrand, so here she's putting forth her own effort to do just that.
In this kitchen, a slim, sophisticated brass fixture features compact bulbs that barely take up any space (especially in terms of track lighting, which can be bulky and clunky) but brings a big punch of personality. By placing it between the stovetop and island, where most likely you'd be moving back and forth to chop and sauté, the kitchen is evenly lit, no matter where you are.
Highlight Shapes and Angles
Hello, texture! Hello, pattern! Oh, hello, track lighting! For such a contemporary space, you may be surprised by the addition of track lighting, but that's exactly the point: track lighting can be contemporary. Filesof5 worked with the slope of the ceiling, emphasizing the angle with a white track lighting system, which shines bright on the chevron flooring and wonderful wood peninsula.
Rethink What You Know of Track Lighting
If you can't think past the generic, boring image of track lighting you have in your head, forget it. Think more of a bulbous brass fixture like In Detail Interiors used in the kitchen above. It's both pretty and practical—our favorite combination. It's not quite track lighting in a traditional sense, but it gives you the same effect. By placing this kind of lighting over a peninsula, you'll illuminate the spot where you and your family will belly up to eat breakfast, do homework, and socialize.
Double the Track Lighting
Why stop at one track lighting fixture when two bring double the drama? In this sparse industrial kitchen, Inglis Architects took advantage of ultra-tall two-story ceilings to hang these two parallel fixtures. (Though with all those windows, here's guessing the homeowners don't need too much extra light in the daytime hours.)
The white, black, wood, and brick color scheme creates a calming, cool neutral space that lets the architectural elements steal the show.
Pair with Pendants for a Coordinated Look
Say you're working with an open-concept kitchen and dining room, and you want to include similar (but not the same) lighting options in each space. Here's your solution. While the kitchen island is lit by beautiful black pendants, the nearby dining area, with its long table, is outfitted with equally as long track lighting systems. They're similar and coordinating, but help differentiate the spaces.
Embrace the Length of Track Lighting
If you're working with a long, narrow kitchen—a cramped galley kitchen, perhaps, or one like the design above—track lighting is your friend. A long track allows you to arrange and angle a multitude of bulbs each in slightly different areas to wash your whole kitchen in light. For slimmer galley kitchens, track lighting tricks the eye into elongating the space, playing up its strength.
Opt For Contrast
To call attention to track lighting in your kitchen, opt for a stark contract in color from your cabinetry. Here, a matte black track lighting system balances a nearly all-white kitchen, adding both visual interest and practical, adjustable lighting. There's a reason simple black track lighting heads have stuck around for decades.
Sometimes Simple is the Best Solution
This neutral kitchen begged for an unassuming neutral light fixture. Enter this simple, straightforward track lighting system, with four bright bulbs evenly spaced to illuminate the high-traffic area. Here's proof that sometimes it's best not to overthink a design decision, and make the obvious, easy choice.
A Dimmer is Always a Good Idea
If you're lucky enough to be washed in sunlight through big windows in your kitchen, like in this modern blue beauty, you may want to opt for low-voltage bulbs in your track lighting. That way you're adding a subtle glow to your kitchen, where you're constantly doing eye-straining tasks that require concentration, without illuminating it too bright. (This is especially helpful in a bright, white, open concept kitchen.)
You could also install a dimmer on your track lighting, allowing you to add just the right amount of light no matter the time, season, or occasion.
Blend Track Lighting In With Your Cabinetry
Isn't this kitchen relaxing just to look at? It's visually uncluttered, in part to the slim, sleek, and symmetrical track lighting that pairs perfectly with the black cabinetry, delicate bar stool legs, and dining table chairs. One catch to track lighting: it lends itself best to modern homes with clean architecture.