Place lights over the areas that need them most Credit: John Cullen
Good lighting is about creating “layers” of different lighting effects. Just as an interior designer works with colour and texture in the home, the lighting designer will play with downlights on artwork, uplighters to highlight architectural elements and energy-efficient strip lights to turn shelving into a feature of the room.
Made from either solid brass or steel, this copper pendant light comes in a choice of finishes and would be perfectly suited to any kitchen, hanging just above the main island or kitchen table.
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Programme them to ward off intruders, energise or relax you, or to wake you up slowly in the morning. Lighting is clearly no longer just for illumination.
With glass cabinets, I prefer to light them internally. They become almost like wall lights, so make sure you don’t mind people seeing what you have inside them.
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Try to ensure that lights fitted near hobs fit flush to the wall or ceiling – making them easy to wipe clean. Using fittings with a covered glass is ideal.
By introducing different types of lighting, you can create zones within an open-plan room. “You can have a different atmosphere whether you’re cooking, eating or watching television,” she says.
For small kitchens, interior designer Penny Morrison suggests glass splashbacks between top and base cupboards with lighting behind. “This gives a great light without being too harsh,” she says.
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Antique style Squirrel bulbs are great when used without a shade, turning them into a feature in their own right. They give off a warm glow, reminiscent of the banned incandescent bulb.
Take a good look around a room in your house. What is missing? Are your best features on display or lurking in the shadows? It’s time we focused less on changing our paint colours or furniture and switched our attention to our lights.
The dining room might be defunct in most homes but the pendants, chandeliers and picture lights that once graced its walls and ceiling are finding their way into the kitchen. “This is the room we now live in,” says Clare Rydon of furniture retailer made.com. “We’ve used utilitarian spotlights in our kitchens for the past 20 years, but now we want to create a more ambient space.”
Emma Finch, whose husband is founder of lighting specialist Hector Finch, suggests using Fifties industrial-style ceramic shades over an island or, in a conservatory-style kitchen, incorporating a mixture of glass chandeliers and globes. She also recommends adding a few directional or static wall lights for atmosphere; made.com reported a 200 per cent rise in sales of directional wall lights last year.
Spots should be placed where you need the light. Selecting directional versions gives added flexibility. For example, lights over a kitchen counter often work best placed above the edges of the counter, but angled across it to create glare-free lighting.
Even wires have become decorative, rather than something to hide away under the sofa. Simple hooks with coloured flex running down the wall make a modernist statement.
Think creatively about where you put your light sources. For example, incorporating lighting below an island unit will make it appear to float. In kitchens with high ceilings, try adding uplights to the tops of cabinets. It adds general light to the space so you will need fewer downlights.
This lightbulb will add some vintage charm to your kitchen, and is available in clear and amber glass finishes.
There are affordable options, still. Lucio Longoni, chief lighting expert at Heal’s, recommends buying plug-in floodlights, such as their “funnel light” to put behind plants or sofas and bring light into dark corners.
“Wall lights in kitchens can be very effective,” she says. “You can mix up shapes and styles, classic and contemporary, for your lights. I’d just avoid mixing metal colours, and make sure all your fittings – taps, door handles, lights – are finished the same way.” Lacquered and antique brass is popular, along with stainless steel and chrome.
Albert cluster pendant in grey and blue, £79, made.com Credit: Made.com
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Perfectly on trend, this chrome spotlight is versatile, stylish, and ideal for making small spaces seem larger than they actually are.
The cord is the main draw of the quirky Design House Stockholm Cord Lamp where the bulb is suspended upright, as if by magic, by its cord and steel tube.
Simply having all your lights on diffusers can mellow the ambience, says Longoni. “Bounce light off mirrored surfaces for a smoky glow, use a diffuser sheet at the base of a ceiling shade. Opaque glass, perspex or coloured shades in warm ochres and browns also soften the light.”
“Lighting is a hidden and much underestimated tool,” says Sally Storey, design director at John Cullen Lighting. “It can make the simplest white tile in the bathroom look magical, or expensive marble look terrible if you get it wrong.”
Using a continuous Contour LED strip or individual fittings of only two watts is an easy way to create practical and attractive lighting.
Use spotlights to shine a light on the areas that need it the most, such as where you’ll be doing the majority of your cooking an eating.
5 The latest developments of LEDs means the most recent downlights are only eight or 10W rather than 50W. A large kitchen with 14 downlights and under-cupboard lighting can now be lit with only 200 watts.
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If you’re determined to do without basic spots, however, there are alternative task lights, according to Emma Finch. She recommends directional down lighters in classical or industrial styles, which can be angled to illuminate areas. “They create more of an atmosphere than spotlights and they will highlight a particular part of the kitchen rather than all the scuffs you get in a busy home,” she explains.
Heal’s has launched a useful service where customers can book a consultation in their ‘Light Box’ room and try out which bulbs, fittings and styles best suit their taste and home. Single “antique-style” bulbs, such as the Edison squirrel, where the filament is the centrepiece, wound in the shape of a cage inside the lamp, are a top seller. They have become a feature to display in their own right, without a shade, being some of the closest in colour to the warm, golden glow of the now banned incandescent bulb.
For an easy way to get recessed lights, try a lamp with a shade made from silk as this will diffuse the light and allow it out sideways. This silk tulip table lamp exudes a classic contemporary Chinese style.
Statement pendants or glass globes will add softness, warmth and intimacy to a functional space, according to Natalia Miyar of interior designer Helen Green. “A trio or cluster of pendants will give the greatest impact, adding a clean yet decorative touch,” she says.
Under-cupboard lighting is usually best for task lighting because it is well hidden and stops your shadow obscuring the worktop. The latest LED products have less heat output, which saves money and prevents cupboards and food becoming too warm.
Be sure to check the packaging for a colour temperature of around 2,700 Kelvin and a CRI (Colour Rendition Index) over 90 to ensure you end up with a warm, attractive light.
The key to creating an atmospheric living space, she continues, is to have multiple circuits on dimmers. “In an open-plan room you want to be able to switch on a certain circuit when your child is doing their homework at the table or when you want to hide the mess by the sink,” she says. “This way you won’t have your dinner party guests staring at all your dirty pots and pans.”
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This is not to say that the humble spotlight has had its day. Bright task lighting is still the backbone of any kitchen lighting scheme, according to interior designer Mary Graham of Salvesen Graham, and ceiling spots are an economic way to achieve it, particularly if you use eco-friendly LED bulbs. She doesn’t go in for illuminating cupboard interiors, but does recommend a light within a deep larder cupboard, plus strong lighting over the cooker, along with spots under upper-level units to illuminate the work surface.
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Let there be light: imaginative use of uplighting and downlighting can redefine a room and create a sense of space, such as in this John Cullen Lighting scheme, above
How to light your kitchen, Helen Green’s way Credit: Helen Green
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Having an entire energy-efficient LED (light-emitting diode) lighting scheme put in place does not come cheaply, at around £100 a bulb for a professionally fitted scheme, but the argument is in the energy and cost saved in the long term. “Instead of using the equivalent of, say, 60 watts in energy, you use 7 watts, with the same amount of brightness.” Storey recently lit an entire garden with just 60 watts – the equivalent of one traditional light bulb.
Add some pendants and lamps, spotlight your fireplace, coffee table, painting or uplight a window and it makes the space look as though it has been redecorated without buying a single scatter cushion.
Angle spotlights at the cupboards and walls to create the illusion of space Credit: John Cullen
If your kitchen or dining area is small, you can increase the sense of space by using directional spotlights angled towards the cupboards and walls. The light is reflected back into the room and is much more effective than shining the light straight down at the floor.
From reworking your downlight strategy to learning how to light glass cabinet, design director of John Cullen, Sally Storey, reveals how to get the right light for preparing food and setting the mood in your kitchen.
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Bounce light off mirrored surfaces for a smoky glow, use a diffuser sheet at the base of a ceiling shade. Opaque glass, perspex or coloured shades in warm ochres and browns also soften the lightLucio Longoni
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It makes sense to make use of any natural daylight, whether that involves pruning a large climbing rose or swapping bulky curtains for something less intrusive, she adds.
As well as adding impact and visual interest, a row of pendants over an island will help provide a visual divide between the dining and kitchen areas.
As an additional accent to an open-plan kitchen, Graham suggests adding a standard lamp to illuminate the corner of the room, or an Anglepoise on a side table. “You can have some fun just as you would in any other room in your house,” she says.
Layer the light. I’ve mentioned general and task lighting, but also add some accent and ambient lighting. Using a number of different sources lends a more ‘three-dimensional’ feel and so helps you create the mood you want.
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All your lighting doesn’t need to come from one source. Consider getting a floor lamp to illuminate task areas in your kitchen.
Shine some light on the dark corners of your home with this adjustable wall light from Rockett St George. The industrial style lamp has three points of adjustment, so you can position it exactly where you want it.
This article was first published in April, 2013. It has been updated for the current season.
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And if you want to do away with wires all together, new technology from Philips (philips.com) offers a bespoke “wireless lighting environment” where you can control, dim and bathe your room in all the colours of the rainbow from your smart phone or tablet (Hue, starter pack with three LED bulbs and router; £180).
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Or use an “angle light”, clamp light or extendable wall lights, such as the adjustable wall light from Rockett St George (£69.50) in an antique finish.
With so many lights, is there not a danger that your kitchen will end up looking like a Christmas tree? Graham agrees you don’t need more than three or four types of lighting.
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Natalia Miyar uses recessed lighting in coffered ceilings and in the architrave above upper-level cupboards to add a sophisticated glow, while in family homes Graham adds skirting-level lighting to guide children through the kitchen when it is dark.
Everything you need to know about lighting your kitchen Credit: John Cullen
If money is no object, Storey recommends recessed lights with a handmade frame to silhouette a particular work of art and movement sensors that automatically turn on low-level lights in a bedroom or bathroom. If on a budget, lamps with shades made from silk or parchment diffuse the light and allow it out sideways, “which can often be enough in a bedroom”.
Each source should be controlled individually so that the scheme can create anything from the feeling of bright daylight to an intimate atmosphere over dinner.
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“You can create interest and sculptural effects where you never thought possible – uplight a door, under the stairs, in small recessed spaces. Lighting the space beyond draws the eye and makes the spaces appear larger. If you light your garden or roof terrace it creates another room and adds to the sense of space.”
If using track lights, the key is to position the track so that spotlights never shine in your eye. Too often the track is located in the centre of a kitchen, meaning a central island may be lit effectively but people sitting to one side are in danger of being either in shadow or full glare.
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Lighting your kitchen needn’t be tricky: this is how to do it Credit: Helen Green
Forget grids of downlights; use light only where it is required. Work surfaces need good task lighting, whether it is from downlights or pendants.
Harriet wall light in brushed nickel, £144, hectorfinch.com Credit: Hector Finch
Lights below an island unit can make it appear to float Credit: John Cullen
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A cheap IKEA vase, says Storey, can look glamorous, if backlit properly. “With the right lighting, objects come alive. It can bring out texture in a garden, and create a dramatic effect in the shower, making it appear like a luxurious spa.”
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Kitchens are dirty, steamy rooms, so make sure lights can be easily cleaned – many glass globes and simple pendants can be put in the dishwasher. For a warm glow, consider naked bulbs. Their delicate filaments make them sculptural and decorative.
See Holloways of Ludlow. If you’re lighting glass cabinets, install glass shelves to spread the light throughout the cupboard. Make sure task lights above kitchen surfaces or under cupboards are positioned in front of you so that you’re not plagued by your shadow.
Ensure pendants are well above head height. If they’re over a table, consider a stretchable cord to allow them to be moved up and down. Put them on dimmers so that candles can still be effective.
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Instead of hiding away your cords, put them proudly on display with the Design House Stockholm Cord Lamp. The bulb is suspended upright thanks to its cord and the steel tube that encases it. Comes with a transparent 40W bulb.