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A great kitchen is all about the details, and even a simple element such as lighting can make or break the design. The newest trend in kitchen lighting is using LED, or light-emitting diode, technology. These long-lasting and energy-efficient bulbs give off almost no heat, making them perfect for reducing fire risk in the warmest room of the home.
Position these above the edges of the counter top and angled across to create glare-free lighting; alternatively angle them on the cabinets – the light will be diffused down the cabinet doors, but will help to illuminate the insides when open. Using some directional light on artwork is another good technique as it reflects off the paintings and becomes additional countertop lighting.
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The best approach is to ensure there are more layers of light all around the room and less lights in the ceiling—that way you can create pockets of mood and atmosphere easily.
Chandeliers aren’t just for dining rooms anymore. The juxtaposition of the hardworking kitchen sink and a crystal chandelier works in this simple white kitchen. When mixing styles, a simple background, such as white cabinets, white walls, and a bare window let the pretty chandelier take center stage.
Get inspired by these kitchen lighting ideas and learn how to develop an appropriate lighting plan for your kitchen.
A set of three pendant lights gives this large island plenty of direct task lighting for chopping and prep, but they’re not all business. The bold red drum shades steal the show — adding personality and drama to this kitchen. In the scheme of a kitchen remodel, pendant lights are less expensive than switching out cabinets or countertops, making them a great place to take a risk. When you need a change or grow tired of the color palette, it’s an easy change.
Pendant Lighting Ideas Don’t hang pendant lights in your kitchen until you read this.
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This essential light should be included over the cooking surface, at the sink, over the counters, and over any table or other work surface. These fixtures should be about 30 inches above an island, peninsula, or table, but might be higher if you are taller or are placing the light over a raised surface or an area such as a cooktop.
Kitchen designers recommend using a variety of LED fixtures to create layers of light. Even in the smallest kitchen, a single light source cannot provide all of the illumination needed to make the space functional. A good design plan starts with overhead lights, such as ceiling fixtures or track lighting, for general, or ambient, lighting. Next, use task lighting, such as under-cabinet fixtures or recessed cans, over each work zone to give extra light without casting annoying shadows. Finally, add visual interest by using accent lighting to call attention to architectural details or decorative items (for example, use rope lights to highlight a toe-kick or panel lights in a cove).
This island is often a focus of the kitchen that tends to divide the space between the working kitchen and the living or entertaining area. As a result, it’s a good place to include a decorative lighting element, such as a row of statement pendants. They will set the tone and the mood of the room and can be supplemented with more practical lighting. Also, unlike a dining table that you might want to move for a larger party, over-island pendants won’t get in the way. Add some downlights in between the pendants to ensure that you have good task lighting on the work surface below and put them on a separate circuit so you can turn up the task element, but dim the pendants for ambience.
Add function and personal style to your kitchen with these 5 easy decorating ideas.
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Cookers that are recessed into a chimney space provide a good spot for waterproof downlights set flush in the plasterwork. Ours are safe enough to use in a shower, so are totally sealed and wipeable – critical in the space above a cooking area. Two or three of them, positioned quite close to the back wall, work well to create drama out of splashback tiles or glass.
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If there’s a mantelpiece or shelf above the cooker, I sometimes like to use a warm LED strip such as the Contour HD24 which has a Tungsten-equivalent light that washes over any decorative plates or sculptures.
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Use accent lighting to bring a wall of cabinetry to life. Linkable low-voltage puck lights, strip lights, or recessed mini cans can be installed inside glass-front cabinets to emphasize collectibles. Accent lighting typically uses halogen, xenon, or LED bulbs because they are small enough to fit into diminutive fixtures yet produce bright light. Halogen is falling out of favor because of the high cost, relatively short life, and high heat output. Xenon bulbs are similar to halogen without the drawbacks. To save on energy, choose compact fluorescent lightbulbs for fixtures that won’t be turned on and off frequently. Warm white CFLs are affordable and resemble incandescent bulbs in the color of light they emit, yet use less energy and produce less heat. If you’re remodeling or building new, check local building codes for guidelines on kitchen lighting.
Pendant lights come in a variety of styles, shapes, sizes and colors. They work well to fill the visual void above islands and peninsulas, while providing necessary illumination for the work area. In this cottage kitchen, vintage-style lanterns are suspended above the island, adding another layer of chic to the room.
Puck or recessed mini can lights bring sparkle underneath and to the interiors of cabinets. Although usually outfitted with xenon or halogen bulbs, new easy-to-install puck lights are also available with LEDs (light-emitting diodes), the newest green alternative for lighting. LEDs use much less electricity to produce light, they last much longer, and they produce less heat (which affects home cooling bills). For example, a 2-watt LED spotlight bulb emits as much light as a 25-watt incandescent bulb and lasts up to 18 times longer.
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In this large kitchen, recessed can lights are evenly spaced on the ceiling to provide general illumination. The decorative chandelier over the island provides concentrated task light on the surface, and undercabinet lights along the far wall supplement the general lighting and ensure good visibility for food preparation.
The size of your kitchen helps determine how many fixtures you will need for adequate illumination, but color makes a difference, too. White reflects light, bouncing it back into the room and making the space feel brighter. With many white surfaces, you might be able to lower the wattage of bulbs used or even cut back on the number of fixtures and still have a well-illuminated room. In this kitchen, a reflective white ceiling, white walls, and white countertops maximize the light provided by the pendant lamps. The pendants use a photographer’s trick to maximize light: They bounce light off the white ceiling, and the light reflects back down to the white marble countertop, spreading a soft general illumination the length and width of the large island. The uncovered window brings in natural light during the day, cutting down on the need to use electric lights until early evening.
Monorail lighting systems allow you to create functional sculptures for the ceiling. The metal track can be shaped into graceful curves to suit the design of your kitchen, and because it is suspended from the ceiling by hardware called standoffs, it can be mounted on ceilings that might not be perfectly smooth and level. Most monorail systems are low-voltage, operating on 12 or 24 volts. Shades are available in an enormous range of colors, shapes, and materials to suit the style of any kitchen.
For a softer light, wall lights work well here – be they modern up-and-down lights or something more traditional. I also like to use a narrow-beam downlight to focus on the centrepiece of the table. Either side of this, I’d use two wider-beam downlights to create enough light for homework or reading the paper. Then, I might add some table lamps and, if there’s a dresser with a display, this is another opportunity to introduce a further light source by running a linear LED either vertically down the insides of the dresser or horizontally across the shelves. It introduces a soft glow to the room.
Kitchen lighting, particularly in large kitchen-breakfast rooms, needs to be the most flexible scheme in a house. It makes sense to approach a large kitchen as three different spaces: the kitchen, the dining table and the living area.
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In addition to a big price tag, another downside of LED lights is their color, which can have a cool, bluish tinge that some people find too clinical and unrealistic. Check the Kelvin rating for bulbs before buying. A 4,000 rating is a crisp white popular in Europe, while a 2,700 rating is the warmer tone more common in America. It’s a good idea to look at the bulbs in a real setting before deciding if they suit your tastes.
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The secret to successful kitchen lighting is creating a variety of moods at different times of day, says Sally Storey.
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I like to use a very low watt narrow beam to uplight both sides of a window or windows. Setting it into the window reveal gives the impression of candlelight at night time. If you’ve got French windows in the room leading out into the garden, consider adding some lights to the immediate area outside – it helps to draw the eyes and enhances the feeling of space when the curtains are open.
Grids of symmetrical positioned downlights often only light the floor and not the task areas. Small, flat under-cabinet lights are an ideal alternative as they ensure the best shadow-free light in the area where you do most of the work. A more contemporary look would be to fit a linear LED strip under the cabinets. Further task lighting can be introduced through using small downlights such as Polespring LEDs.
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Downlights set into the space behind a cooker create a sense of drama
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When shopping for LED fixtures for your kitchen, be prepared for sticker shock. They are the most expensive lighting option, with an up-front cost about six times higher than traditional incandescent lights. However, that price differential is more than made up over the lifespan of the bulb. LED lamps last about 50,000 hours versus 1,200 for a regular bulb (that’s 6 years versus 50 days, if left on 24 hours a day). Also, LED also uses about 10 times less electricity, which translates into a lower utility bill and a more environmentally friendly product.
Make over your kitchen lighting with easy under cabinet lighting. See how to add two different types of undercabinet lighting.
In a brand-new kitchen, it’s easy to create a lighting plan that uses only LED fixtures. Upgrading an existing space to LED is also possible thanks to new remodeling kits that allow you to easily replace your current fixtures with LEDs.
The darker the colors in your kitchen, the more sources of light you’ll need to make sure you can see what you’re doing. Dark surfaces absorb more light than white and light-color surfaces do. According to the National Kitchen and Bath Association, a kitchen with dark surfaces needs about one-third more light than a kitchen with lighter surfaces.
Pendant lamps usually hang at a standard height, but for variety and interesting effects, consider adjustable cable pendants with a center weight. The pendants can be suspended from a low-voltage ceiling fixture or a track-mounted transformer. Raise the pendant by pulling the counterweight down; to lower it, simply pull on the lamp.
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The layout of your lighting is important. Learn helpful tips and tricks here.
I love lighting glassware by placing a strip at the back of a shelf as the light bounces off the back wall and the glassware is silhouetted by light from behind. In my kitchen, I’ve backlit the shelves from above and below so they look like they’re floating off the wall – it means that there’s one less need for a downlight.
Another way of lighting the island – especially one that has a breakfast-bar element to it – is to add a little LED strip below the overhang. It’s a trick employed by hotels and bars and throws light on the stools which can be particularly effective if they are brightly-coloured. Equally, some kitchen islands stand on legs so another technique would be to put a strip around the bottom edge that makes it look as if the island is floating above the floor. It adds another element of warmth and soft light to the room.
Light up your counters with undercabinet lighting. Learn more here!
Create warmth and ambience by combining a variety of lighting that can be controlled independently. In this kitchen, there are none of the usual recessed ceiling lights. Instead, pendant lights over the island provide ambient light, supplemented by accent lighting inside glass-front cabinets, under the cabinets, and under the range hood. Each work zone is well lit, and the combined effect is glowing rather than harsh and glaring.
To see deep into the corner of cabinets, install a micro switch or motion sensor that activates the puck or LED light when the door is opened and turns it off when the door is closed. Costing $20-25 per switch, this allows you to maximize the space in your cabinets and find what you’ve stored.
If you’re tired of the recessed can lights in your kitchen and want to add stylish pendants, use recessed can converters. The switch is as simple as screwing in a light bulb. A socket adapter with a cord spindle plugs into the socket, and a cover plate masks the recessed-can opening.
A well-lit work area is a safety essential in a kitchen. Lighting can also be used to create ambience. The key to good kitchen lighting is to rely on a cast of lighting sources and to layer your lights, mixing ambient (overall), task, and accent or decorative lighting with natural light.
A grid of lights in the ceiling means it’s really hard to create a distinct atmosphere in each zone, so, instead, employ washes of light on the walls and art, atmospheric or intimate pools of light over specific elements and strong task lighting on work surfaces. Dimmers are essential to set these moods, but you don’t want more than four as a larger bank just becomes confusing.
Recessed, or can, lights that provide ambient lighting for the room should be 24-42 inches apart and should work to light the entire room — not just areas without task lights.
Recessed undercabinet lighting and a hidden spotlight lend drama to dishwashing duties when the over-the-sink view is beautiful tile. Create subtle mood lighting in architectural coves or areas with accent tilework with programmable LEDs. Like theatrical set lighting, the color and intensity can be adjusted to create a mood.
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For task lighting under open shelving, fluorescent undercabinet lighting sheds even light across the countertop, allowing you to see clearly. Look for a low-profile design less than 1 inch deep, so the fixture won’t be noticeable from standing height. The fixture should be almost as long as the shelf and mounted close to the front edge to provide the most even lighting on the work surface. The color of the light is particularly important over the counter — cool white bulbs will make food look unappealing and will also affect the way you see the colors of your cabinetry and countertops. Visit a lighting store to see how your skin, your dinnerware, and a piece of fruit look under the different colors of light and select the one that seems most natural and pleasing.
Equally, don’t forget the space above the cabinets if the room has very tall ceilings, as here you can put some uplights that, again, reduce the number of downlights required.
A simple control system—I use Lutron or Rako – is definitely a way to overcome this and, these days, the functionality is so much better that it doesn’t need to be overly complicated. I tend to include four lighting scenes in kitchens that are preset: daytime, casual supper, more formal dining and minimal night lights for TV watching – these give the perfect balance.
The number of fixtures and placement of fixtures greatly depends on your kitchen’s size, layout, and look. For example, taller ceilings and darker finishes call for more light.
Setting low-watt lights into the sides of a window gives the impression of candlelight, while some directional light on artworks reflects and becomes additional countertop lighting
If a kitchen remodel isn’t in the cards, but still want to improve your lighting? You can, with this easy DIY installation. Watch and see two easy ways to add undercabinet lighting without any major rewiring.
Kitchen Planning Guide Download this FREE guide before you start your next project.
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