How to design your kitchen lighting.

How to design your kitchen lighting.

Good Kitchen lighting is one of the easiest and most important ways to switch up the atmosphere in a room. Lighting can help set the mood, define your style, and bring attention to all the wonderful artwork and architecture you may have in your kitchen.

If you're smart about it, you can use different lighting tricks to give the illusion of having more space than you actually do.

"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."

Here are some of the different types of lighting you should consider.

Ambient lighting

Also referred to as the general lighting, this lighting serves to light the entire space while creating a welcoming mood. The lighting should be bright but diffused, not focused like task lighting (see below). Overhead recessed lighting is the most common choice to brighten the space and eliminate shadows and glare while creating a warm environment.

If your kitchen is small, a fixture or group of pendants above the eating area along with an overhead light in the work triangle could do the job for general illumination. However, if your kitchen is very large, with one or more islands, and part of a great room, then recessed lights will also serve to brighten transitional spaces, like a hallway into the kitchen, or the area between the island and clean-up and cooking areas.

Task lighting

Essential for any area where the work takes place, task lighting assures a safe place in which to wash dishes, cut vegetables, or do paperwork for that matter. For long runs of countertop, undercabinet lighting such as LED strips are ideal: they are hidden from view and don’t shine in anyone’s eyes, even from a distance, and the light is directed right on the counter. LED strips or ropes also stay cool and last a long time before requiring replacement. You should consider getting light rail molding to lower the face of the cabinet and hide the lighting.

For an island orbar, you can install recessed spotlights, or opt for a pendant or cluster of pendants, to bring warm, focused lighting when you want to switch to a softer atmosphere once the meal is ready. Pendants also allow you style statement opportunities, with plenty of choices for shades and bulbs, and arrangements.

You will need focused light over the sink; if the basin is placed under a window, opt for a recessed light in the ceiling overhead that you can control with its own switch. This is a good light to leave on solo in the kitchen after dark, as it lights the way to get a glass of water or return a dish from an evening snack.

Accent lighting

As the name indicates, this type of lighting serves to single out features that deserve attention for their decorative qualities; it can also do double duty for task lighting. Most typical options are LED strips at the backs of shelves or cabinets to create a wash of light, highlighting dishware, glasses, or collections or an architectural detail like carved molding.

These strips also make a striking statement under the perimeter of a glass counter or a toe kick (the area between the base cabinet and the floor), to create visual interest and, in the case of the counter, keep someone from bumping into it late at night.

An important note about light switch placement

Plan for light switches at each entry point to the kitchen, to light the way to your destination. Have separate switches installed for each light area—each individual task area as well as the general lighting—to provide the greatest flexibility. You might also want to investigate electronic sensors for automatic control and safety at night.

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