One of the most satisfying phases of any kitchen project is when we come by to take photos of the completed renovation. It is during this time that we can adjust the various lights to create many different mood settings and appearances. This is the beauty of having a great lighting system, the ability to dim and switch lights to fit the room depending on the amount of natural light and needs of the homeowner at the time. This also has to be one of the most intriguing aspects of the new kitchen for our clients as well, it is as if they just opened a new birthday present and can’t help to try out each light switch to see what pleasant surprise the next one brings.
When consulting a homeowner during the design phase I like to break down what we see as 4 major types of lighting that go into creating a smooth lighting layer: task, ambient, accent, and decorative light. Of these 4 types of light one particular light can serve more than one purpose especially if the bulb is on a dimmer switch.
Once the cabinet layout has been set we will be able to identify where the work zones are and for these areas there must be adequate task lighting. Task lighting can be achieved by positioning canned lights in the ceiling slightly in front and overhead the person who is opening a cabinet, accessing the oven, or preparing food. The key is to avoid locating the canned light directly overhead or behind the user otherwise they will cast their own shadow in front of the area they need to be able to see. Task lighting can also be achieved with under-cabinet lighting to illuminate the counter space, track lighting that can be directionally positioned to shine light in specific work areas, or pendant lights that will bring light closer to the work space as seen often times on an island.
A sufficient amount of canned lights in the kitchen will also go to create a flood of ambient light. Ambient light is what softens the room and eliminates the sharp lines and shadows within the kitchen. For example, good ambient light will tend to eliminate the wrinkles on the faces of the people in the room. In addition to canned lights, ambient light can also be achieved by from sconces, overhead ceiling fixtures, under-cabinet lights, and any source of natural light. For good ambient light the idea is to avoid having one or few bright spot lights but rather many softer contributing lights.
Accent lights go a long way to bring our the style of the homeowner. Often times they have a piece of art or memorabilia that they want to incorporate into the new kitchen before the even beginning the remodel. For these special items accent lights can be directly positioned to illuminate the focal point. Accent light can also be used inside a cabinet with glass doors to show off the homeowner’s collection of china. For kitchens with tall ceilings or decorative beams uplighting (from track or sconce lights) can draw one’s eye to the detail of the kitchen. Rope light can also be placed under the cabinet toe kick to accent the flooring and cabinets (it also can be dimmed to work as a unique night light).
Decorative lighting is what I call the focal lighting attraction in the kitchen, usually achieved by a single chandelier. Decorative light can also be achieved with complimentary colorful sconces or pendant lights. In many cases the homeowner will procure a custom lamp and or shade to bring their style into the new kitchen. A couple reminders for decretive light is that one single chandelier can often times be more expensive than all the other lights combined. Often the homeowner’s budget doesn’t allow for their dream chandelier at the time of the remodel. If this is the case I still encourage them to plan for the future when someday down the road they might want to add a chandelier. They should still add an electrical box and even an inexpensive fixture so that the wiring is all ready to go when the time is right for an upgrade.
Another tip when it comes to chandeliers is to select one that fits the size of the kitchen. It’s one thing to add decorate light but its another when the light starts to look like a alien space ship thats taking over your kitchen. Maintain balance with your chandelier and make sure that the light is not too low as to expose the light bulbs themselves or too high as to not provide enough light. After all, you paid a lot of money for that piece make sure its doing it’s job and providing the room with decorative light.
The diagrams are courtesy of National Kitchen & Bath Association
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