Kitchen Lighting Tips
kitchen lighting

Kitchen Lighting Tips

kitchen lighting

Being an interior designer means more than helping clients with the pretty stuff.  It also means staying current on technology and trends.  This week, to stay current with my design certification, a class on kitchen lighting was in order.  Even though I know the basics, it’s always a good idea to have a refresher now and then to learn something new.  And, of course, I love to share it with you!

The most important take-away for the class, that I can’t stress enough, is the need to plan.  We plan our vacations, our road trips, and even our days.  In a remodel, we plan our cabinet layout and our appliances.  But how many of us don’t even think about planning the best type of lighting we need in the kitchen?  We know that we need overhead lighting.  And if you’re “lucky enough” to have a fluorescent box on your ceiling, you know that you want to get rid of it!  But what should you replace it with?  Let’s take a look at the three essential layers of lighting that are important in every kitchen.

Layer 1 – Ambient Lighting is the general lighting that brightens our kitchen and is the foundation for all the other lighting in the room.  The goal with ambient lighting is to have even distribution throughout the space so we don’t have dark pockets that make it hard to see.  

In the past, builders and re-modelers turned to the flush mount light fixture, or the lovely fluorescent box centered in the work space.  The trend today is to use recessed can lights.  And then we always have the questions…How many cans should we use?  How should they be spaced?  The answer to this is based on the ceiling height, the colors in the room and how they reflect, and…your age.  Yes, our eyesight gets worse as we age, and some of us feel more confident with more overhead lights.

accent lighting
Krieg Home. Shooting for Home Forge Remodeling. June 27, 2006.

Layer 2 – Accent Lighting

Most of us love this layer because it’s the “jewelry” for the kitchen.  A few ideas of where to place them are:

  • Pendants over an island or table
  • Over the cabinets, tucked away behind the crown molding
  • Inside cabinets with glass fronts to show off what’s inside
  • Lighting in a tray or cove ceiling
  • Under counters
  • On floating shelves which are popular today
  • Toe kicks…especially good for late night visits to the kitchen so you can find your way!

Layer 3 – Task Lighting is especially needed to help us see better when we’re working around the kitchen.  Things like reading the buttons on the coffee maker or dicing vegetables are all made easier with task lighting. 

We all want to have our counter work space illuminated so that we can see better and avoid dark spots.  That’s why it’s so important to install under cabinet lighting in your home

To get the best coverage and light up your whole counter, the lights need to be installed to the front of the cabinets.  LED tape strips offer the best opportunity for this.  And the length of the light strip needs to correspond to the width of the cabinet.  A big no-no would be to try to save money and install a 12” light strip on a 36” cabinet.  Doing that would create shadow pockets on your counter, and make seeing difficult.

Unfortunately, on tight budget projects, this is often the first thing to get deleted off the want/need list.  And it’s the one thing that clients regret not including.  I can’t stress how important it is to find other ways to stay within your budget.

We plan everything else in our kitchens, so why not take the time to plan our lighting.  Remember before you run out and buy the pretty fixtures, put some thought into where you want the lights, where you plan to do the most work, and then where you want that WOW factor of beautiful pendants.

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