It's All in the Details: In-Cabinet Lighting & a Giveaway

5 years ago

Lighting is such an important part of interior design.  When looking at the lighting and electrical plans of clients' homes, I'm not only looking to make sure there is enough task lighting for each room, but also that there are decorative options as well.  I want to make sure I have outlets for lamps, picture lights, clock plugs, spot lights, in-cabinet lighting, etc.  All of these together help create the ambiance in a room.  Also, I like for all my light switches to be put on dimmers, this helps control the ambiance as well can help with you electricity bill.

Example of lighting/electrical plan, Interior Graphic & Design Standards


While there are many types of lighting details I'd love to share with you (expect more in the future), today I'm focusing on in-cabinet lighting.  In-cabinet lighting is a great accent light for your built-ins and cabinets.  There are two standard ways to incorporate in-cabinet lighting.  First there is the fixture built into the top of the cabinet, second there are clip lights that can be installed on the sides of the cabinet, third there is above cabinet lighting, and fourth under-cabinet lighting.

Divine Kitchens LLC via


There are options for in-cabinet lights installed in the top of the cabinet/built-in, such as battery operated or line operated (installed directly to your electrical).

LEDme Button Light by W.A.C. Lighting

LEDme Mini Recessed Adjustable -Round by W.A.C. Lighting


Generally when designing cabinets and built-ins with a fixture in the top of the cabinet, I have to allow a "bonnet" for housing the fixture (if the cabinet/built-ins don't go to the ceiling).  Depending on the depth of the light fixture will determine the actual depth of the bonnet.  I generally finish off the tops with a crown or decorative detail, so the piece looks finished.

John Kraemer & Sons via 


Or sometimes you do not want to hide the fixture.  

Vining Design Associates


Also when installing in-cabinet lighting, I will select glass shelves so the light can disperse through the entire cabinet.  If want that wooden shelf look, a shelf with a wooden frame with glass inset can be made, or if you want full wooden shelves, the light fixtures can be installed into each shelf (they just won't be adjustable).



Vining Design Associates


When installing side in-cabinet lighting, you will need to make sure that there is a lip that protrudes out further than the light fixture being used to conceal it.  You will need to know what type of fixture before designing the cabinet or built-in.


Example of a hand drawing to give a contractor showing detail of how to house side in-cabinet lighting.



Falk Designs LLC via


LED strip lights or Xenon clip lights are examples of low voltage with low profile lights used for this purpose, but note, that these will need separate transformers for the voltage load.  Also, with clip lights strips check to see what the distance between each light is because you could be able to see spots of each light on the inside cabinet side.

LED Tape Light from NORA Lighting

Xenon Clip Lighting by Pegasus Lighting

Festoon lighting in different options, NDSC-20 by Nora Lighting

Under-cabinet lighting might also need to have a  lip installed at the bottom of the cabinet (a nice trim piece) to hide the fixture.  You can use boxes or the above fixtures for under-cabinet lighting or above cabinet.  Fortunately for above cabinet lighting, there is typically a crown to finish the cabinet, so you do not always need to have a lip to hide them, but if you have modern cabinets, then a small lip will need to be accounted for in the cabinet design.


An example of above cabinet and under-cabinet lighting

Vining Design Associates


Factors to think about when installing in-cabinet lighting:

  • heat output
  • depending on type of fixture, there may need to be a separate transformer installed for voltage
  • depth of fixture can affect the actual cabinet or built-in storage space
  • distance between clip lights and tape lights
  • fixture housing
  • fixture housing colors


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