Courtesy Nora Lighting About three-fourths of kitchen renovation projects incorporate under-cabinet lighting, according to the 2016 Houzz Kitchen Trends Study.

Homeowners love the look of specialized lighting that highlights certain parts of the kitchen such as under cabinets and behind shelves. According to the results of the 2016 House Kitchen Trends Study, 74% of kitchen projects incorporate undercabinet lighting, 72% include recessed lighting, and 19% add in-cabinet lighting.

Tom Sargeant, vice president of product development for Generation Brands, parent company of lighting makers Seagull and Tech Lighting, attributes the recent popularity of these stealthy but impactful lighting fixtures to technical improvements in recessed LED lighting options. Greatly improved LED light outputs have allowed for smaller, streamlined fixtures with stylish trim and creative design elements. LEDs also consume less energy than traditional lighting fixtures. According to the Department of Energy, LEDs use about 25%-80% less energy than traditional incandescents, and can last up to 25 times longer.

“From the minimalist perspective, recessed light sources are getting smaller…and taking less physical space,” says Sargeant. “Aperture sizes continue to shrink while performance increases so it affords people to have smaller openings on the ceiling while drastically reducing energy consumption and not sacrificing output or light levels.”

There’s not one main reason why consumers are attracted to these lights, says Marc Thee, co-founder and principal of Winter Park, Fla.-based Marc Michaels Interior Design. The benefits of spotlighting specific areas of the kitchen are as diverse as the features themselves, he says.

He has speced a wide variety of recessed lighting options in his luxury projects, from strong, direct squares of light to soft, indirect features that spill over the edges of objects and highlight textures and designs on countertops or backsplashes.

“Recessed lighting is all about making somebody feel something. As a designer, that’s one of our secret weapons… You can choose to minimize the contribution of recessed lighting and make it hidden, indirect, and quiet, or you can maximize the use of recessed lighting to make it a major design feature,” says Thee. “The possibilities are endless.”

Manufacturers like Tech Lighting are meeting homeowners’ demand for creative recessed lighting. The company’s Element Reflections downlight has an attractive glass dome design that reflects its LED light.

Undercabinet and in-cabinet LED fixtures add design bling to sometimes overlooked areas of the kitchen. Ranging from small circles of light to thin, strips, they add a warm glow to previously underutilized spaces. Their lighting is generally indirect, with upward or sideways placements that follow the angles of their chosen space, but their positions can highlight the kitchen’s boundary lines and architectural features. They’re also good for illuminating cabinet displays, without causing harm to delicate objects. For instance, the DUO AC Line Voltage LED Light Bar from WAC Lighting - one of six products we've highlighted in recessed and under-cabinet LED lighting - directly mounts to cabinets, shelves, and other display spaces. It is ideal for illuminating heat sensitive perishables and color sensitive apparel and collectibles.

“In addition to being aesthetically pleasing and highlighting your gorgeous backsplash, undercabinet lighting is also functional and increases the value of your kitchen,” says design and marketing specialist Brooke Collins of Maryland-based Builders Design. “Lighting inside drawers and cabinets is an emerging lighting trend for good reason – it’s a gorgeous, unexpected feature and it’s totally practical.”