What about placement of the lighting? AP: It’s best to work with three levels of light in a kitchen: down lights (also called recessed), under-cabinet strip lighting, and hanging (or pendant) lighting. Wattages can vary based on the space, but typically, MR16 Halogens or LED lamps are used in the recessed fixtures, LEDs for strip lights, and incandescents for pendants. As for bulb color temperature, I usually opt for warm, golden tones.
What’s the biggest mistake you see when it comes to kitchen lighting? AP: Too many lights hanging from the ceiling. I typically tend towards having only one hanging-style fixture in the kitchen, whether it’s a pendant over an island or eating area, or a pot rack with integral down-lights over an island or cooking area. I usually prefer either/or—two competing hanging lights leave the ceiling plane feeling cluttered.
Want suggestions? Check out our kitchen pendant light picture gallery.
What if you’re lucky enough to have a light-flooded kitchen? AP: If the room is well lit, add accent lighting for interest. One idea is to float shelves at open cabinets, or cabinets with glass doors, and mount LED strip lights in the back of the shelves. This creates a wash of light at the back cabinet wall that highlights the objects on the shelves. Typically, you will want to leave approximately 2 to 2.5 inches of space between the back of the shelf and the back wall of the cabinet. Also, add a small wood stop or bumper at the back of the shelf to keep items on the shelves from being pushed into the light-strip gap. The Ledra Orion Sabre mentioned above works great for this.
Besides style, the most common difference you will find between pendant light fixtures is whether they are low voltage or standard line voltage.
Recessed lights waste power in two major ways: they use large, high wattage bulbs which suck up plenty of power, and they let room heat escape into the attic.
But one problem with recessed lighting is that of shadows. Because the lighting is at ceiling height, and because of obstructions such as kitchen cabinetry, shadows are easily cast upon the work area. Not only that, but recessed lighting is a notorious energy waster.
Make sure that the bottom of the pendant fixtures will be above your line of sight while seated. The last thing you want is to be staring straight into a light fixture when sitting at the counter.
Finally, recessed lighting is permanent. You need to think long and hard about where you think you will need the lighting because once the lighting is installed it is extremely difficult to move. And the problem with this is that most cooks do not really know where they will need the lighting until they have used the kitchen for a while.
If the pendants are going above a center island without seating, I recommend hanging them no lower than 36″ from the counter.
Flush mount ceiling fixtures probably have the least utility in the kitchen. A flush mount ceiling fixture is simply one or two bulbs covered by a translucent cover, usually in the center of the room.
If you are installing your pendants over a bar where people will be sitting, the general rule is the bottom of the pendants should be 30” to 36” above the surface.
Standard pendants usually cost less than low voltage, but not always.
Kitchen ceiling lighting is a tricky business. With most rooms in your house, you are trying to light up the room in general. Then, when you need to light up specific areas of these rooms–such as reading places, sewing machines, tool shop areas, eating spots, and so on–it is easy enough to add a floor lamp or a table lamp.
You can use any object, but balloons work great because they are light and you can easily make several sizes until you get the one that looks right for your kitchen.
Previous articleHow to Replace Old Kitchen Lights with Modern Recessed Lighting
Many homeowners have a hard time deciding on the number of pendants to install. Although there is no right answer, three is most common.
Which under-cabinet lighting do you like? AP: For task lighting at countertops, I often use LED strip lights like the Ledra Orion Sabre from Bruck Lighting because LED lights stay cooler than incandescents. They’re mounted behind the fascia board at the front of the cabinet, so they’re hidden from view and not shining in anyone’s eyes, but the light is directed down on to the counter. For the ultimate in under cabinet systems try Legrand’s adorne which allows you to hide outlets and USB ports as well as light your counter.
Line voltage pendants use standard house current, so they don’t require a transformer. The glass usually hangs from the canopy by adjustable metal rods or by a cord that you cut to length.
Low voltage pendants, also known as mini-pendants, use a tiny transformer to convert the standard house current of 120 volts down to 12 volts. This allows the pendants to hang from a thin cable or that is barely noticeable. They also use a more compact lamp that is usually halogen or LED. If it is small that you are looking for, then low voltage pendants may be the way to go.
The stovetop hood light takes on a lot of work because it often serves to illuminate both the stove and portions of the countertop area. But this should not be so. Countertop areas deserve their own lighting, not spill-over light from other areas.
How about pendants? AP: They’re ideal over islands and dining areas to bring a warmer, more ambient light. They provide light at a lower level in the room than recessed ceiling fixtures, which allows for more balanced overall lighting and some stylistic and visual interest. I typically prefer for pendants to hang approximately 40 inches above the island or tabletop so they’re not in the sight line of the average person standing or sitting in the space.
Pendants offer a nice combination of style and brightness, and can be the perfect finishing touch to your kitchen remodel.
How can you provide specialized work lighting in a room that does not lend itself to moveable lights such as floor lamps? Answer: Bring it down from the ceiling.
If you have a question that I missed here, please contact me and I’ll do my best to answer it for you.
In this post I’ll answer the most common questions I hear regarding choosing and installing pendant lighting in the kitchen.
One answer to the quandary of kitchen ceiling lighting is to install hanging pendant light fixtures. Hanging pendants bring the lights down to just above head level and are often vertically adjustable. Hanging pendants can be fixed in place or can be inserted into track lighting tracks.
One bit of advice regarding kitchen pendant lights: go sparingly on them. Recessed lights can be multiplied almost endlessly because they are mounted flush with the ceiling and are not very noticeable. But because pendant lights are hanging down, adding more than three or four begins to make the kitchen look cluttered.
General Lighting: Ceiling lighting powerful enough to encompass the entire kitchen area; and Work Lighting: Lights that illuminate small, specific zones, such as places where food preparation or cooking will be done.
So, lighting in the kitchen area needs to perform two functions at the same time:
What’s the difference between low voltage and line voltage pendant lights?
Track lighting is installed on the bottom of the ceiling, and individual light fixtures along the track can be moved easily wherever needed. Also, these individual fixtures can be added or removed if you need more or less light. Because no holes are cut into the ceiling, air leakage is not a problem. However, track lights do consume a lot of energy. Track lights have much of the same shadowing problem as to recessed lights. Yet because track lights can be moved, it is possible to move a light either forward or backward to avoid the shadow problem.
Track lighting provides good lighting for the kitchen and has risen in popularity in the last several decades. Track lighting has many of the same good qualities of recessed lighting, with few of recessed lighting’s flaws.
Blow up a couple of balloons and tie a string on each one. Then tape them to the ceiling to hang like a pendant.
Kitchen ceiling lighting doesn’t have to mean banks of boring fluorescent lights. Nowadays, anything can go! The Craftsman Lantern Style Kitchen Pendant from Signature Hardware provides adequate light to small spaces and has a great, antique look. If your kitchen island needs light, the Lakewood Windsor Bronze Kitchen Island Light Maxim stretches a full 45 inches long and uses three bulbs within three separate lamp fixtures.
As a general rule, count the number of place settings that could fit on the counter, bar, or island, and place a pendant over each one.
Inside the kitchen, it’s a different matter. Floor lamps do not belong in the kitchen; and in only very rare instances may you find a table lamp.
That being said, I’ve seen many kitchens when three is too many and two is more appropriate (like over a small breakfast bar).
Kitchen Ceiling Lighting For Both General and Work Areas Illuminating More than Just the Room
If it is a counter where people will be seated, the fixtures should hang 12″-18″ from the edge. If the pendants are going over a counter or island without seating, try to center them over the work surface.
Kitchen pendant lighting has been around for years, and is popular in modern kitchens thanks to the large variety of colors and styles that are available.
Yes, whenever possible (or feasible), I recommend that the pendant fixtures be controlled by their own switch. If you’re not sure what to do, just ask yourself if you would ever want to be able to turn on the pendant lights by themselves – without having the rest of the kitchen lights on at the same time? If so, then put them on their own switch.
What are some universal tips to keep in mind when lighting a kitchen? April Powers: The kitchen has become about so much more than food prep; it’s inevitably where everyone will congregate when entertaining, so it’s important that the lighting is both task-oriented as well as ambient and friendly. Avoid anything overly bright. Also, all fixtures should be dimmable so the light can be adjusted to meet specific needs. And since so many kitchens are located directly off a great room, it’s nice to be able to lower the lighting levels once the food prep is done.
For many people, the kitchen is the hub of the home these days. “That’s why it has to be functional, comfortable—and tied together with the right lighting,” says San Francisco–based interior designer April Powers. Here, Powers, whose contemporary yet timeless designs have been featured in publications such as Architectural Digest, offers ideas and tips on how to light a kitchen.
Flush mount ceiling fixtures are great when you first enter a room. You flip the switch and suddenly you can see where you’re walking. But beyond that, they don’t do much to illuminate counter space. They are mounted high on the ceiling, yet do not have the same wattage as recessed lights.
But if your pendant lights are spaced out intelligently, they will adequately illuminate your work surfaces. Add in a flush mount ceiling fixture or a couple of recessed lights in the center of the room, and now you have covered both workspaces and the general kitchen area.
The classic solution to the kitchen lighting problem is recessed lighting. These are sometimes called can lights. With popular diameters of 4″, 5″, and 6″, recessed lights provide more than enough illumination to certain required areas of the countertop or kitchen island.
The size of the pendants you decide on is a matter of personal preference, but I do have a trick that will help you better visualize how they will look in your kitchen.
Why are down lights important? AP: Recessed lighting in the ceiling is best for general room illumination and combats glare and shadows. I like the Tesla 2” High Output LED 0-30 degree Adjustable Reflector because it has a small aperture so you’re not punching an enormous hole in the ceiling. Recessed lights also work well in areas of circulation, like walkways, and the space between the island and kitchen sink. You can install them wherever you need them so they are good for task lighting, such as over sinks.
A nice option over an island is Tom Dixon’s Pressed Glass Tube Pendant, which I like to use with clear bulbs. It offers a decorative accent and a softer, diffused light that filters through the hand-blown glass. A good option for the dining area is the Moooi Round Boon Pendant because the black shade will direct the light more specifically onto the table surface and the ceiling above. It creates a more moody effect than a typical fixture that glows from all sides.