wide closeup of the lit liquor bottles in the liquor cabinet with the doors open

It’s Easy and Cheap to Add Lighting Inside Dark Cabinets

The Issue: Frustrating Cabinets

Base cabinets tend to be dark. They are also harder to get into. Add the two together and you have a potential hotbed of frustration.

That was certainly true for us with our new bar area.

A year ago, we made over what was basically a wide dining hallway into a proper dining room with a built-in banquette.

Finished dry bar cabinet with quartz top and shelves for glassware above

On the end that opens to the family room, we added this dry bar with open shelving above. But our liquor is stored below in a closed cabinet.

It’s less than ideal, but I didn’t really want the booze on display at all times. After all, this space serves as so much more than just our rec room.

So this arrangement is the best for our situation.

Our dry bar is a source of both entertainment and frustration. While I love having the collection of liquors and mixers out of the pantry, navigating the dark cabinets to find a specific bottle always felt like a gamble.

Not anymore!!!

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Solution: Add Interior Lighting

Step into any high-end bar or restaurant, and you’re likely to see beautifully illuminated cabinets showcasing their liquor selection. 

This inspired me to bring that same touch of sophistication and functionality to my own home dry bar – and the best part is, it was surprisingly easy and cheap to achieve!

Why Add Interior Cabinet Lighting?

inside of the liquor cabinet with no lights.

Interior cabinet lighting will:

  • Improve visibility to easily find what you’re looking for
  • Enhance ambiance and welcoming atmosphere
  • Increase safety where all the glass is involved

Planning Your Interior Cabinet Lighting-

To choose the best lights for your situation, be sure to:

  • Assess Your Needs: Cabinet size, power source availability
  • Choose the Right Lighting: LED strips, puck lights, battery-powered options
  • Consider Installation: DIY-friendly options vs hiring an electrician

Our cabinet’s interior is 29-inches wide, and a custom depth of 17-inches. It has one half-depth shelf.

The inside top of the cabinet is the bottom of a full-width drawer. So lighting cannot attached to this inside top of the cabinet. However there is a stationary frame across the front inside.

As for power, we had an electrician pull power from the wall behind the banquette and bring it through the side of the cabinet for an outlet on the side of the cabinet. So there is power there, but not easily accessible, and would require an electrician.

With these factors in mind, I wanted a DIY solution that is battery driven.

I also prefer the ambiance of a thin, almost disappearing led strip to light up the bottles evenly.

How to Install Cabinet Lighting (Easy Step-by-Step Guide)

view of the light strip packaging and instructions on a quartz countertop

The exact lights I chose are now discontinued, but I did find some of them on Ebay unopened and at very good prices. If I hadn’t bought those, I would buy these now. They are a bit warmer white than mine.

The instructions included in my rope lighting had a four step installation plan.

  1. Measure LED at desired location
  2. Cut LED strip, peel off backing and stick in place
  3. Install 3 AA batteries
  4. Add included double sided adhesive tape to back of battery compartment and press in place

However, I re-ordered the steps and it worked great for me.

  1. I installed the batteries and turned the lights on
  2. I used painters tape to hold the compartment in place
  3. I experimented with painters tape to hold the LED strip in trial locations
  4. Once I decided on the placement, I removed the backing and installed the LED strips
  5. Cut off any excess
  6. Used the included double faced tape to install the compartment.

closeup of the painters tape holding up the battery compartment and some of the ed tape

I used Painter’s tape to temporarily install the length of LED lights around the interior of the cabinet so I could see how it lit things up

inside of liquor cabinet is shown with the led strip running all the way around the cabinet at the top
inside of liquor cabinet is shown with the led strip running across the back at the top and then under the shelf along the front lip

First, I tried the light strip running around the top. Compared with no lights, it was a great improvement, but I wasn’t happy with the back of the bottom shelf and the reflection of the front LED’s on the back wall.

Option 2 solved both of those. The lights will be located in the small opening behind the drawer on the back wall above the half shelf. They will wrap to the right side wall and down to the half shelf where they will be applied to the very front of the underside of the half shelf.

Above, they are just attached with painters tape to test the layout.

TIP: When installing, I removed the drawer to reach through and apply the sticky strip in a nice straight line across the back.

Additional Tips and Considerations

There are many options available with lighting! Explore the options too get what fits your situation and your budget:

  1. Choosing the Right Color Temperature (Warm vs cool white LED lights)
  2.  Dimmer Switches for Adjustable Lighting
  3.  Using Motion Sensors for Hands-Free Convenience

1 For Me) The Kelvin scale referenced on most packaging, refers to the temperature of the light emitted. Common lighting usually rates from 2700 to 5000. The higher the number, the colder the light.

My lights are in the 3500 – 4100 range, often loosely referred to a “Cool White”. If my cabinets were doorless or had glass doors, I would have gone with a bit warmer light.

Because my cabinets are white and my walls are white, I preferred a more true white (cool) over the warm whites that often look better with wood tones. I definitely did not want to go any cooler that produces more of a blue white tone.

2) For Me) Inside this cabinet did not need a dimmer switch. Again, if this was an open cabinet or one with glass doors, I probably would have opted for a dimming feature for more control over the aesthetics.

close-up of the lights control box with motion detector and option switch

3 For Me) Motion activation was an important feature for me! I wanted the light to come on when the door is opened or someone reaches in to find something. But I also want it to turn off by itself.

This set does just that.

I can set it to turn off after 20 seconds or 60 seconds of inactivity. I can also set it to a steady on or steady off.

If you are lighting open shelving, glass door cabinets, bookshelves or similar, motion-activated might drive you crazy.

I know it would me! I would want to be able to turn those on and off intentionally.

view of the dry bar base cabinet with the drawers open and the lights installed

What a difference, right?

view of the cabinet at night with one door open a nd the lights illuminating the bottles

And then at night!

Plus I am thrilled with how inexpensive, quick and easy this was to install!!!

If you have a dark cave-like cabinet, give this a try.

You can thank me later 😉.

Before we go, if you found this helpful, please consider subscribing for more inbox help and joy:

Thanks bunches!

And let’s face it, at some point, frustration is going to send you to the brink and you’re going to want this info handy! So be sure to pin its to remember it:

before and after images of the same cabinet are seen below the Title "Let Your Cabinets Shine"

So where do you want to add some lighting?

round image of Diane smiling next to a Signature that reads: With Joy, Diane

1 Comment

  1. missy

    Wow! What a difference the lighting makes! Not just practical but so pretty! You inspired me to dive into the “dark places!” ~Missy


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