Renos - Where to Start #6 10 Tips to Kitchen Lighting

Thanksgiving. The entire family has shown up for the weekend. Siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews, the house is packed with conversation. Where does everyone end up? The kitchen. The focal point of any home. Food preparation is a key part to any day. Many important conversations happen while you are preparing a meal, feeding the little ones.

As such the kitchen can be a highly productive and active area. Proper lighting design and fixtures can make even the simplest kitchen designs become a beautiful extension of your homes design and feel. Given how much time is spent preparing meals, having proper, adequate lighting ensures this process will be more enjoyable and less fatiguing,

Here are some tips to kitchen lighting designs:
  1. Start Early in the Design Phase - If you are designing a kitchen for a new build or for a renovation, consider the lighting needs at the inception. Don't let lighting be an afterthought. Cabinet and flooring color with impact the perceived amount of ambient and task light in a room. The darker the surfaces, the more lumens (see My Lumens are Hot the difference between lumens and wattage) you will need to create the same perceived lighting intensity.
  2. Work with Natural Light - Have you ever done dishes staring at a wall? Sinks and dining areas placed near windows eliminate the need for artificial lighting throughout much of the day. If you are in the design phase, splurge on larger windows near the sink and dining areas. You won't regret the investment.

  3. Layered Lighting - kitchens are diverse rooms with multiple architectural elements. Cabinets, dining areas, breakfast bars, islands, pantry's, appliances, prep areas, windows, patio doors, etc, all potentially require different lighting needs depending on how you intend to use the space. Ambient, task, and accent lighting all have their specific place in a kitchen. A pendant lighting fixture will not provide enough light for an entire kitchen, nor would under cabinet lighting. They both have their purpose.
  4. Ambient Lighting - Maximize your lighting needs with effective ambient lighting first. This is general lighting when you enter the room. This should provide you with 80% of your lighting needs to make a snack, get organized, find your car keys, etc. throughout the day. This can be achieved through strategically placed LED recessed lights for a larger kitchen (providing a mixture of ambient and/or task lighting) or one to two flush or semi flush fixtures depending on size and layout.
  5. Task Lighting - fill in the voids not addressed by ambient lighting. Under cabinet lighting is a MUST in any new kitchen. Small LED pod lights or strip lighting are effective in these areas. Also a light over the kitchen sink is another MUST. If you have a window by the sink, recessed pot lights work well here. Light the surfaces you will be working at the most, directly.
  6. Accent Lighting - Under cabinet lighting can be dual purposed. I often leave the under cabinet lights on in the evening to create a soft low light that can be calming in the late evening. Open cabinets or glass doors with glass shelves are great for in cabinet lighting. Up lights form wall sconces or top cabinet lighting can create ambiance in any room. Dimmer switches give you more control to create the lighting you need.
  7. Islands/Breakfast Bars - Often a feature of any kitchen, mini pendant fixtures are a must. With endless styles, materials and colors, there is a mini pendant to highlight any island. It also can provide both accent and task lighting depending on the fixture of choice.
  8. Mini Pendant & Recessed Light Placement - a general guide for spacing: Using an island as an example, take the longest dimension and divide it by the number of fixtures (pendants or recessed) plus one. So if your island is 60" long, you are going with two fixtures, so 60"/3 = 20". So a fixture will be placed every 20", so 20" and 40". They would then be placed centered across the shorter dimension. For recessed lights being used for ambient lighting, you would want to avoid placing the lights so that they are directly over your head or slightly behind you as this will create unwanted shadows as you stand at the counter. This places the recessed lights more along the edge (outside third) rather than closer to the middle/center of the area.
  9. Light Switches - One-way, two-way, three-way or dimmer switches? How many entrances do you have into your kitchen? There must be a switch for at least one light in the area for safety and code requirements. Consider where you will place the various switches for each type of lighting in the room. Sit down with your electrician and work through those details. Get it right the first time. It can be timely and $$$$ to make changes once the paint is on the walls.
  10. Tall Ceilings - Draw the eye lower using long pendants or mini pendants to lower the source of the light. In combination with top cabinet lighting this will create a sense of layers and texture in the room.
There is much to consider when piecing together a lighting design plan for a kitchen. Talk to your electrician or designer about what you are looking for and how to best achieve that goal. 

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