“Sconces with silk or linen shades on either side of a window over the sink in a formal kitchen provides an elegant look, especially [since they] are an unexpected lighting solution for a kitchen. Wall sconces bring the ‘living room’ feeling into the kitchen and serve well as mood lighting.
” The sconces shown here are so understated, yet they really add an impressive design [element] to the kitchen, making it not only functional but stylish,” says Mager. “The brushed-nickel finish, white fabric hard-back shade and clear-glass casing on the finials make an unexpected statement of luxury, subtly injecting a dose of traditional style into the contemporary, clean lines of this contemporary kitchen.
” Photo courtesy of Hinkley Lighting.
Under-cabinet lights can be a hidden asset in any kitchen, providing task lighting as well as soft ambient lighting to give the room a warm glow with the touch of a dimmer switch. Strip lights are a popular choice, long linear bulbs or a string of lights contained in a single fixture.
Another popular option is a puck light system, made up of a series of hockey-puck shaped halogen lights.
“I really love dining chandeliers,” says Serra, and we agree! Here, two glittering mini chandeliers add a luxe feel to a bright, beautiful kitchen. Mager adds, “Kitchen lighting has definitely evolved beyond the typical flush-mount application (one large overhead fixture flush against the ceiling).
Chandeliers were installed only in dining rooms or large foyers, but [today] in high-end, luxurious kitchens, chandeliers are right at home.” Photo courtesy of Susan Serra.
According to Randall Whitehead, a lighting designer in San Francisco, and author of Residential Lighting: A Practical Guide., the most effective lighting for the kitchen involves four layers blended together: task, ambient, accent and decorative lighting.
The end result: a warm and inviting environment that works with your other design elements to create a practical workspace and lively entertainment area. Design by Joel Snayd
From the fixtures to installation, get inspired with these clever and functional kitchen lighting ideas.
The idea behind a layered lighting design is to have a variety of light levels available at your fingertips. “Dimmers and switches are the most economical way to coordinate lighting levels,” Joe says. “For about $20 per layer, you’re able to do most anything to modulate the mood and environment.
” Randall recommends implementing zones, wherein each layer of lighting is on a different dimmer for easy adjustability. Design by Shazalynn Cavin-Winfrey
“Accent lighting is the least common layer in the kitchen, but it is becoming more common as people spend more time in the kitchen for casual entertaining,” says Joe. You may want to hang a piece of artwork on the wall behind the breakfast table, or a tile splashback over the sink may be a decorative focal point.
Occasionally, Randall installs lighting inside glass cabinets to illuminate collections of china and glassware. Design by Roger Zierman.
According to Serra, the dreamiest, most upscale kitchens today are likely to feature some distinguishing elements: “Innovative designs, first and foremost, will clearly differentiate truly fabulous lighting from the rest,” she says.
“Quality materials with quality finishes further differentiate the upscale from the ordinary. In addition, it is often the details the small crystal ball, nickel chain, hand blown glass, luxury fabric, reclaimed wood that clearly communicates quality as well as authenticity.
Chandeliers featuring waterfalls of crystals, pieces of luxury metals, feathers and fabric add both strong texture and luxury to a room. Here clean, modern pendants light the island, while a classic crystal chandelier graces the dining area.
Photo courtesy of Susan Serra.
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According to Joe, key locations for task lighting include underneath the overhead cabinets and over the island — anywhere you’ll be chopping, slicing and reading recipes. The pantry is another place where you’ll want bright, focused lighting.
“Layered lighting can be used to supplement the intensity of light or to overlap fields of light, creating interesting shadows and manipulating the dimension of areas the light is directed toward,” explains Serra.
“Lighting, when layered, can add a wonderful dimension of shadows and color to feature and enhance natural characteristics of woods, stones and metals. In many kitchen designs, a focal point is a prominent feature of the space and lighting can immediately focus attention to one or more special areas to guide the eye into the design.
” Here, recessed lighting, accent lighting, over-counter task lighting and pendants work together for a welcoming, warm result. Photo courtesy of Susan Serra.
Most frequently seen over an island workspace, pendant lights are as striking as they are practical. The pair here is “clean, classic and timeless. The brushed nickel finish and clean design of these striking pendants add a ‘wow’ factor, combining the best of form and function,” says Kim Mager, Marketing Director at Hinkley Lighting.
“Adequate wattage of bulbs for pendants, and the number of pendants used, have a direct effect on the quality of the light on the island for food preparation. Take care when placing pendants above an island to avoid them being too close to those seated at the island or too close to the cooktop, if one is installed on an island,” suggests Susan Serra, CKD, CAPS of The Kitchen Designer and President of Bornholm Kitchen.
Photo courtesy of Hinkley Lighting.
“Upscale kitchen lighting must be beautifully designed. Its form and proportion should be scaled properly to the space. The size of a fixture should not be too small, especially over a table, as luxury often is communicated by size,” recommends Serra.
“The style of a lighting fixture should complement the decor of the kitchen and surrounding rooms. It should also relate, but does not have to match, the finish of other fixtures,” she adds. Here, the clean, warm lines of this kitchen are echoed in the mission-style pendants and matching fixture above the window.
Photo courtesy of Susan Serra.
Track lighting, up-lighters, directional eyeball lights and wall sconces are all accent fixtures. Randall recommends recessed adjustable low voltage fixtures to highlight artwork. The MR16 bulbs often used in these fixtures come in a variety of beam spreads.
If the diameter of the art changes, a simple change of bulb will be all that is needed to illuminate the new art.
Decorative lighting should be considered in direct proportion to the size of your kitchen — the larger the space, the greater importance chandeliers, hanging pendants and other eye-catching fixtures play.
“There are two major considerations when it comes to decorative lighting,” Randall says. “You want to make sure that the scale of the fixtures is right for the space, and that the shade material has enough opacity to effectively hide the light bulb.
“Decorative lighting is the most expensive element of your lighting design scheme. If you’re on a tight budget, Randall recommends installing the infrastructure for decorative lighting — the junction box and/or recessed box in the ceiling — then, purchasing the actual fixture down the road.
“Hand blown glass is popular, as its wonderful imperfections and artisan elements add warmth to any kitchen,” says Serra. The gorgeous cobalt glass pendants here add a pop of color and unique appeal to a contemporary setting.
“Natural materials in lighting fixtures such as reclaimed wood and distressed metals also add that authentic element we crave. Imperfections are desired and coveted…in context, of course!” Serra says.
A side note on pendant fixtures, Serra adds, “I love layered pendant lighting groupings of pendants set at different heights, creating a singular form. I also like multiple pendants placed close together, say, four to six across an island.
It is simple yet makes a strong design statement.” Photo courtesy of Susan Serra.
“Smart” homes are the wave of the future. You can preset and administer lighting in all rooms of the house through one centralized computer network, all through a computerized keypad. “The biggest advantage of smart systems is the high level of control,” says Randall, who recommends this option for new houses, but cautions that it can be quite expensive for a remodel.
“You can preset a large number of scenes and turn on lights in any room of the house from your car or your bedroom.”Just as the layers of lighting are combined in a variety of ways, so are the methods of controlling them.
According to Randall, homeowners are typically use four-scene presets in all of main rooms, including the living room, dining room, kitchen and master bedroom. Standard switchers and dimmers are usually used in the secondary rooms, such as children’s bedrooms, bathrooms, the basement playroom and the office.
The best part is that your lighting options just keep expanding.
Lighting your kitchen doesn’t need to be a complex matter, but it is layered. “The most common mistake people make is trying to light their entire kitchen with one fixture centered in the ceiling,” says Randall.
“It ends up being what I call a ‘glare bomb,’ visually overpowering everything in the space, including family and friends.”
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“Task lighting is what people think of first when designing a lighting system in the kitchen because it’s integral to preparing food,” says Joe Rey-Barreau, director of education for the American Lighting Association.
“However, if task lighting is misplaced it can actually hinder your ability to work efficiently, throwing shadows on your workspace.”
The trendiest fixtures today express strong visual design statements. “Lighting that makes a statement is now,” enthuses Serra. “Oversized fixtures make for a bold entrance into the kitchen. Simple shapes, often with heavy textures, vintage styles and Edison-style bulbs are all saying, ‘Look at me!'” Mager shares, “If you want to update your kitchen lighting, think about adding one of the hottest trends in lighting design: a linear chandelier.
Not only will it provide more light, it adds a dramatic and stylish focal point to the room, immediately upgrading the overall design and elegance of the room.” Photo courtesy of Hinkley Lighting.
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“The use of accent lighting is all about atmosphere, and the kitchen can and should have the ability to communicate a feeling to family, friends and guests, just as other rooms do,” Serra says. “Accent lighting is used best when it is designed to feature specific areas of detail, whether architectural elements, artwork or decorative areas in the kitchen.
” This dramatic, domed ceiling glows with accent lights that highlight the architecture, the hand-painted floral detail and the grand chandelier. “The color of the bulb, spread and intensity [of the lighting] will create dramatic or soft shadow effects and add dimension to the areas the light is focused on,” Serra elaborates.
Photo courtesy of Susan Serra.
The kitchen used to be strictly for food preparation and children who were not to be seen or heard. Now, floor plans are more open and parties often flow from the living room through the dining room and into the kitchen.
“Ambient lighting will attract people into the kitchen and make them feel welcome while eating appetizers and sipping wine at the island,” says Randall. Ambient lighting fixtures may include flush-mounted ceiling fixtures, a pendant hanging over the island and adjustable track lighting.
The drawback of dimmers and switches is that while it’s easy for you to enter a room and tinker with the light levels, it’s equally easy for children, grandparents and guests to take the same liberties.
If your budget allows, you may want to consider a “scene” integration system that allows you to preset, typically, four different lighting levels. (For example, daytime, food preparation, dinner and evening entertaining.
)According to Joe, a standard scene integrator that is hardwired into your electrical system and controlled by a switch plate with a limited number of scene choices will run under $1,000. Of course, more scenes and a higher level of technology are available — for a price.
When it comes choosing light fixtures for a dream kitchen, some “rules” are made to be broken. “I do believe that any style of lighting has a place in the kitchen,” Serra says, “whether in a fabulous breakfast room or in the center of a kitchen work area.
” “These contemporary pendants are actually made for outdoor use,” reveals Mager, “but they are so modern and chic, they look just as fabulous inside. The seeded glass and minimalist, stem-hung design adds an urban edge while providing excellent task lighting that reduces eye strain while preparing a meal or doing homework at a kitchen island.
” Photo courtesy of Hinkley Lighting.
“Layering light is a technique that is often used in dining rooms or living rooms but, until recently, wasn’t utilized in the kitchen,” says Mager. “Now kitchens have become the hub of the home, being used for socializing, eating and entertaining, as well as homework stations or home offices.
” “Layering light is the best way to provide task as well as ambient lighting,” advises Mager, “striking just the right balance between function and mood.” This farmhouse-style kitchen includes a pared-down chandelier and matching sconces to “complete a cohesive, stylish environment where you want to spend time, regardless of whether it’s for relaxation or entertaining,” according to Mager.
Photo courtesy of Hinkley Lighting.
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According to Randall, ambient lighting is an important layer that is often overlooked in the kitchen. “This indirect lighting is what I like to call the humanizing ingredient to any lighting design,” says the designer.
“It softens the lines and shadows on people’s faces and creates a warm inviting glow in the room.” Design by Beth Haley.