Your kitchen, more than any other room in your home, needs a good, well thought-out lighting plan. Today’s kitchens have many more functions than just cooking a meal. For many families it is the most used room in the house. In addition to the obvious meal prep, today’s kitchens are also a place for kids to do homework, parents pay bills, read, eat, and watch TV. That is why it is important that the light is not only adequate but also flexible.
The first place to start in any room when designing a lighting plan is to tackle general lighting. This is the light that will be used most of the time. In the case of a very small kitchen, a light in the center of the room will provide the overall light. Since most kitchens today are larger, a single lamp in the center of the room probably won’t meet your lighting needs. The most common solution is recessed lighting. Depending on what part of the country you are in, they can be called tall hat lights or boat lights or tin lights. All of these terms mean the same thing. Recessed lighting is a good way to provide general lighting in a kitchen in a clean and tidy way.
The location of the lights is very important. When designing a distribution for the general lighting of a kitchen, we want to take into account the areas where the tasks will be carried out. This includes counters, islands, and tables. In most cases, when designing the light to illuminate these areas, the rest of the room also receives a good diffusion of general light. Try to drop the recessed lights into the ceiling so that they are directly over the outside edge of the cabinets. The key here is to bring the lights close enough to the work area so that you don’t create a shadow with your body. Moving lights away from countertops is a safe formula for shadows. Do not overlook any corner that may be dark.
Islands can provide a great outlet to add a decorative accessory or accessories to the room. There are a multitude of pendants to choose from that can really enhance the room. I think it is probably one of the most talked about aspects of a kitchen lighting plan when the owner sees the finished product. Simply installing 2 or 3 pendants in a line over an island can be quite impressive.
The next step is task lighting. In a kitchen, this is the light directly on the countertops, the stove, and the sink. Having one or two small recessed lights in a separate switch above the sink is attractive and useful. The stove these days is almost always fired with a range hood or microwave, but if it isn’t, it needs to be addressed. The way counters are lit is with under cabinet lighting. This can be in the form of simple fluorescent luminaires on an inexpensive level. A very nice effect is to use a low voltage linear track. These can be dimmed and provide very good light to the counters. There are also xenon accessories and halogen accessories. If you can try to stick with the xenon as they burn cooler and have a longer lifespan than halogens.
Once you’ve covered general lighting and task lighting, the last thing to consider is any accent lighting. In some kitchens where there is a space above the cabinets, the lighting on the top of the cabinets can look spectacular. Tray ceilings with crown molding can also benefit greatly from this type of lighting. With a low voltage rail or string light, you can add that extra touch that makes your kitchen unique. For more lighting tips and lighting design help, visit the links below.
Paul Forte has been in the field of lighting and electricity for more than 25 years. He has helped countless homeowners across the country with their lighting needs through his website. He will appear in an upcoming episode of “It Takes a Thief” on the Discovery Channel installing some security lights.
(c) Copyright 2005 Paul Forte. All rights reserved.