Design Tips

Achieving Kitchen Lighting Nirvana

By: Charity Swift, Design & Lighting Consultant
Colonial Lighting

I think by now everyone knows that the kitchen is the heart of the home; inviting guests to pull up a chair and stay awhile. The kitchen has become a more relaxed, casual atmosphere offering greater opportunity for interaction as the meal is prepared and entertaining after the meal is served. This being said, lighting should be one of the main focuses of the space; providing not only adequate lighting, but also ambiance that will make guests feel comfortable. You want to create a look that is just as inviting as the rest of the home; no unflattering fluorescents in the center of the kitchen that cast a glare bomb or grid like recessed lights poking out from the ceiling that look like a tic-tac-toe board.
The key to achieving lighting nirvana in the kitchen is layering. Layering is the use of various light sources to create a comfortable, functional lighting design. For a kitchen you would want to consider the following light sources:
General Illumination

Also known as ambient lighting, general illumination plays a crucial role in the overall lighting design of the kitchen; it provides the soft light that helps create a relaxed atmosphere. This type of lighting can be achieved in a variety of ways; a series of mini-pendants, semi-flush fixtures or small chandeliers hung over the island or center point of the room. There are also many different styles of island fixtures available with a choice of two or three lights.
2 LT Island Fixture ImageMedium Chandelier ImageMini Pendant Image.gifSemi Flush Image
Under-Cabinet Lighting

Lighting mounted below the upper cabinets in the kitchen provides an even level of task lighting along the countertops. Linear style task lighting now comes in incandescent, fluorescent, xenon, and LED; offering the perfect solution for any kitchen’s needs. An additional piece of trim called a light rail can be added to the bottom of cabinets to help camouflage the under-cabinet lighting. LED tape is also available now and becoming more popular for a less obtrusive, integrated look. It is a good option when working with high gloss finishes on countertops and backsplashes.
Undercabinet ImageLED-Tape-Image
Accent Lighting

Above-cabinet and toe-kick rope lighting are both good ways to add additional accent lighting to the kitchen. Accent lighting can also be useful to highlight art that you may have in the space. One useful effect is to put the ambient and task lighting on a dimmer that can be brought down to a soft glow, accentuating art once the party has moved on to other parts of the home.
Colonial Kitchen Image