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 frequently used room in the house. Besides the obvious preparation of meals, kitchens today are also a place for the kids to do homework, parents to pay the bills, reading, eating and watching TV. For this reason it is important that the light not only be adequate but flexible.
The first place to start in any room when devising a lighting plan is to address general lighting. This is the light that will be used most of the time. In the case of a very small kitchen, one light in the center of the room will provide the general light. With most of today’s kitchens being larger, a single light fixture in the center of the room probably won’t satisfy your lighting needs. The most common solution is recessed lighting. Depending on what part of the country you are in they may be called high hats or pot lights or can lights. All these terms mean the same thing. Recessed lighting is a good way to provide general lighting in a kitchen in a neat and clean way.
The placement of the lights is very important. When designing a layout for the general lighting in a kitchen, we want to take into account the areas where tasks will be done. This includes counters, islands and tables. In most cases, by designing the light to illuminate these areas, the rest of the room gets a good spread of general light as well. Try to have the recessed lights fall out on the ceiling so that they are directly above the outside edge of the cabinets. The key here is getting the lights close enough to the work area so that you don’t create a shadow with your body. Putting the lights to far away from the counters is a sure formula for shadows. Don’t overlook any nooks that may be dark.
Islands can provide a great outlet for adding a decorative fixture or fixtures to the room. There are a multitude of pendants to choose from that can really enhance the room. I find it is probably one of the most commented on aspects of a kitchen lighting plan when the homeowner sees the finished product. Simply installing 2 or 3 pendants in line over an island can be quite stunning.
The next step is the task lighting. In a kitchen this is the light directly over the counters, stove and sink. Having one or two small recessed lights on a separate switch over the sink is both attractive and useful. The stove these days is almost always lit from a fan hood or microwave but if it is not it should be addressed. The way the counters are illuminated is with under cabinet lighting. This can be in the form of simple fluorescent fixtures on an economical level. A very nice effect is to use low voltage linear track. These can be dimmed and provide very good light to the counters. There are also xenon fixtures and halogen fixtures. If you can try and stay with xenon as they burn cooler and have a longer bulb life than halogen.
After you have your general lighting and task lighting covered the last thing to consider is any accent lighting. On some kitchens where there is a space above the cabinets, lighting on top of the cabinets can look spectacular. Tray ceilings with crown molding can also benefit greatly from this type of lighting. Using either a low voltage type track or rope 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 lighting and electrical field for over 25 years. He has helped countless homeowners across the country with their lighting needs through his website. He will be appearing on an upcoming episode of “It Takes a Thief” on the discovery channel installing some security lighting.