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,” says Rey-Barreau. “For about $20 per layer, you’re able to do most anything to modulate the mood and environment.” Whitehead recommends implementing zones, wherein each layer of lighting is on a different dimmer for easy adjustability.
Off to the side, a small stretch of countertop is illuminated by under-cabinet lighting. Glass-front Shaker cabinets help to break up the all-white cabinetry overhead.
Whatever your approach to lighting, by subtly incorporating a combination of all of the above, you can create a stunning, yet functional way to light your kitchen. Set a budget for your kitchen lighting and use your imagination to create the perfect design for your needs.
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According to Whitehead, 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.
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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.
Track lighting, up-lighters, directional eyeball lights and wall sconces are all accent fixtures. Whitehead recommends recessed adjustable low voltage fixtures to highlight artwork. The MR16 bulbs often used in these fixtures come in a variety of beam spreads. I the diameter of the art changes, a simple change of bulb will be all that is needed to illuminate the new art.
A good starting point is to break down lighting requirements by areas of the kitchen space. You’ll need bright lighting for zones in which you’re working, perhaps a more ambient choice of lighting in the areas where you’ll be entertaining in and maybe even a more decorative choice of light to showcase key features of your kitchen. To make it easier, we’ll look at each of the key zones individually:
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A pair of heavy chandeliers are full of medieval charm above the kitchen island. Open shelving and a stainless steel range hood counterbalance the light fixtures with contemporary sleekness.
Think creatively to find ways to incorporate light fittings which is not visible to the eye. This will help to ensure you achieve subtle background illumination throughout the space and this will create a beautifully welcoming atmosphere.
According to Rey-Barreau, 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.
This cottage-style kitchen implements a variety of storage over the countertop. Open shelves and glass-front cabinets display pretty dishware while closed cabinets conceal whatever the homeowners don’t want seen.
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According to Whitehead, 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.”
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. 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.
If you have a large kitchen also, the chances are that it could act as the main family room in the house too so it may also be a place to study, read or watch TV. Lighting choice will also depend on whether you have high or low ceilings and if chosen correctly, can complement the overall design.
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 Whitehead. Ambient lighting fixtures may include flush-mounted ceiling fixtures, a pendant hanging over the island and adjustable track lighting.
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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,” says Whitehead. “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.”
So you’re incorporating stunning elements in your kitchen design and you want to make them stand out….accent lighting will do just that by drawing attention to the main features. Recessed downlights placed under the rim of Kitchen Island worktops helps create this as a centrepiece. Lights placed within glazed framed doors can subtly illuminate display cabinets. Integrated lighting for in the plinth below the run of main cupboards will create a smooth flow across the flooring. These are just some examples of the ways in which accent lighting can work for you. Other factors to take into consideration is the amount of natural light you will have flowing into your kitchen space and at different times of the day.
According to Rey-Barreau, 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.
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.)
Sleek, white waterfall countertops reflect the light of the industrial lighting fixtures, adding an elegant and sophisticated look to this contemporary kitchen.
Sufficient lighting is a must in task based areas where hobs, sinks and even worktop surfaces are in use as this ensures safe cooking, washing and prepping. To achieve good lighting, consider under cupboard spotlights above the hob & sink areas and fit them as close to the front edges of the cupboards as possible to ensure the light shines outwards and is not lost close to the walls and towards the back of the worktops. Many different types and styles are available also to complement almost any type of kitchen design.Fluorescent linear lighting is cost effective but is not dimmable. Low voltage halogen bulbs for under cabinets are bright, reasonably priced and are available in a variety of styles and finishes and can also be recessed into the cupboard if you wish to make them completely invisible. It’s also recommended that these types of lights be placed around 500 – 600mm of each other to ensure a well-balanced spread of light and to avoid shadows on your walls and worktops. LED under cabinet lights are a popular choice also as they’re modern and energy efficient in terms of running costs. They are slightly more expensive than halogen lights but have a longer running life. Styles include strip lighting and spotlights and both can be dimmable too. Task lighting above the cooker will usually be taken care of by the cooker hood itself as most feature integrated bulbs. If not, one or two down lights will achieve exactly the same result if carefully placed.
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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 Whitehead, a lighting designer in San Francisco, and author of Residential Lighting: A Practical Guide. “It ends up being a “glare bomb,” visually overpowering everything in the space — including family and friends.”
“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 Rey-Barreau. 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, Whitehead installs lighting inside glass cabinets to illuminate collections of china and glassware.
Designer, Shane Inman, created a custom pro style kitchen featuring a custom designed stone island, deck mounted pot filler, custom hood mixed with state of the art appliances and a 25 foot long peninsula that seats eight people.
Lighting for dining areas needs to be flexible. Whether you have a breakfast bar area or perhaps a more formal dining table, it’s important to strike a balance between adequate lighting for eating and adequate lighting for entertaining afterwards. Usually this space can feature main ceiling lighting which can provide a main focus on the table and this can be a high or low hanging ceiling light. In addition to this, you should consider additional wall or freestanding lighting to create a more casual, welcoming space.
“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.”
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Decorative lighting is the most expensive element of your lighting design scheme. If you’re on a tight budget, Whitehead 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.
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Lighting that creates ambience in a kitchen can often be overlooked but this if considered carefully, can give a kitchen the most stunning effect and can transform a kitchen space better than anything else. Lights that are controlled separately are a perfect option if you wish to create an atmosphere in certain parts of your kitchen in areas away from the main cooking / prepping zone. Softer lighting can also be achieved through wall lights and dimmed lights can also allow for even more flexibility and can cleverly create the feeling of a softer space. Other examples of ambient lighting includes strip lights on top of kitchen cupboards which project light to the ceiling, particularly effective if you have high ceilings or lighting in the plinth below the floor cupboards to create a gentle warm glow.
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Jason Kisner, 2012, Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved
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