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My three priorities for brightening up our farmhouse kitchen lighting

Find out why these black iron cage lights were selected for a farmhouse kitchen.

Lighting was a tough one in our kitchen design. Not because I didn’t know what I wanted…but because I knew exactly what I wanted down to minor details, and it took months of searching to track down. Our farmhouse kitchen lighting design started with three key priorities.

Priority #1

Ironwork. The main lights would have to be made from black iron. While Early-American Colonists didn’t have electric lamps, they did have ironworkers. Blacksmiths lived in every community and provided all sorts of everyday essentials. Plus, they handcrafted special items, like a peek-a-boo door on our 18th century beehive oven.

Of course, as soon as I knew they’d be black iron and Colonial-street lamp-inspired, I got a vision of cage lights…no glass, on chains…stuck in my head.

Now, in the two years since I was on the hunt for this exact style of light, they’ve popped up everywhere, but back in 2017, it took me two months of online searches to find these lights. I was particular about the number of light bulbs in the middle and about the loop that connected the light to the chain. To keep a Colonial look, I didn’t want that loop to have a funky, modern shape. It had to be a simple circle.

Black iron cage lights against a cathedral ceiling with reclaimed beams

Nothing is easy.

The lights are two feet tall. When they first arrived I was really nervous that they’d be too big. My husband and I lugged one of those lights up a 10′ ladder several times to test the size relative to the scale of the new kitchen. It worked.

On the day the electrician finally came to install them, I was so happy I skipped around all morning waiting for him to show up. We had been living with half of our downstairs gutted for four months, and finally, it would have light again! He took the first one out of the box and saw that a bolt at the top had snapped. The bolt on the next one snapped, too. In all, cheap, metal bolts snapped on four of the six lights.

Find out how I prioritized and recreated a blacksmith-forged ironwork lighting design for my Early-American farmhouse kitchen renovation.

What now?

Thankfully, I knew of a local vintage lighting shop that repairs and rewires lamps. We stuffed the four broken lights into my car, and I brought them to the kind, reasonable people at Connecticut Lighting Center’s Restoration Gallery. This is not a paid ad for them. I am a long-time customer of theirs who appreciates their honesty and collection of vintage lights. Gorgeous Art Deco antique lights. Crystal chandeliers. Love it. They fixed my lights in a few days for a reasonable price.

The electrician installed the six black iron cage lights between the reclaimed beams in our new kitchen. This farmhouse kitchen lighting is a key design statement when you first walk into the room, and that’s really the point.

You should think about two things when choosing your farmhouse kitchen lighting:

  1. Is it a statement light or do you want it to be subtle?
  2. How will it draw the eye around the room?

Priority #2

Unobstructed view. The back wall of our kitchen is meant to be a focal point. As a result, I didn’t want any pendant lighting to obstruct the view through the center of the kitchen. Pendants can be beautiful. I just didn’t want them to catch the eye on it’s way to the range and historic brick surround.

But, I did like the idea of having spot lighting on the island. And, sometimes you don’t want all six iron lights on, even though everything is on dimmer switches. It’s just too much.

semiflush black iron lights

The compromise was two semi-flush lights in the center beams, which cast a warm, subtle lighting in the kitchen. My husband found gorgeous vintage-inspired light bulbs that create a star-shaped pattern of light on the white marble countertops. I like to put simple mason jars filled with handpicked flowers right in the center of the stars. I wish the light bulbs were a whiter, brighter light, but my husband prefers the soft, warm glow.

Priority #3

Draw the eye to the back wall. Immediately after noticing the six overhead lights, guests should look to the back wall. To enhance that visual sequence with lighting, we concealed under-cabinet puck lights in each of the four upper cabinets. The only other lighting in the kitchen is in the hood vent above the range and on the range itself.

Notice something different about those cabinets? No toekicks. Find out why I made that choice:

How (and why) there are no toekicks under my kitchen cabinets