Bringing kitchen brightness into the light
Just as important as any other element of a kitchen remodel, a lighting plan should be considered an important aspect that needs its own attention to detail. Oddly enough, it seems that lighting is usually the last thing considered in a new kitchen design and the first to be cut when the budget gets tight. The truth of the matter, it is obvious to nearly everyone with a little home improvement experience that a kitchen will not look great or function optimally unless it is properly lit. There’s much involved, certainly beyond the specification of certain stylish fixtures. An effective plan tastefully blends the light from different sources to create a room in which its architectural and decorative details are tastefully revealed.
You certainly do not want to attempt to light the entire kitchen with a single ceiling mounted fixture (unless, perhaps, you live in a small apartment). All that serves to provide is an overbearing glare that saturates the space in an unflattering manner. Even recessed lighting isn’t much of an improvement, whether it is installed in a generic grid or not.
Sadly, kitchen lighting is approached incorrectly far too often, creating too much light in certain areas and shrouds of shadows in others. Novice decorators are unable to articulate the imagery they’re looking for, which more often than not, is a layered look.
It is not possible for all the necessary light a kitchen needs to be provided by one source. In fact, a kitchen that is lit ideally layers and blends FOUR distinct kinds of light. It’s a subject that has been researched and refined over years. Here is the breakdown:
- Task Lighting – The most important source of light, providing ample illumination for kitchen routines such as reading recipes or prepping food. When placed just right, the light is situated between a person’s head and the work surface (thus, lighting below the upper cabinets becomes particularly effective). If you have or are adding a pantry you’ll want to extend task lighting to it as well.
- Ambient – Characterized by a nice warm glow, ambient lighting may soften shadows and help create an instantly welcoming atmosphere. In instances where cabinets do not extend to the ceiling, the open space is ideal for ambient light. Of the four types, this one is most commonly neglected.
- Accent – This is the source of added depth and dimension to a kitchen. You may have noticed accent lighting used as fixtures set inside glass front cabinets to spotlight fine china, glassware or any number of collectibles. It is also created by recessed adjustable low voltage fixtures that are designed to highlight art.
- Decorative – there’s so much you can do with clever lighting. You can add a dazzling image to any space. It can complement or even add to the architecture by adding an intended style in which light is blended in a specific manner.
The perfect lighting setup includes dimmers for task, ambient, accent and decorative lighting. The ability to adjust the level of light in any room – not just the kitchen – is preferable. With all the work of preparation and cleanup before and after a meal, you need a bright space to make the entire process a bit easier. Obviously, during a meal, you can determine just how intimate you want the atmosphere to be by dimming the light to the perfect level. Ideally, you want multiple dimmers in the kitchen. The results are spectacular and the possibilities endless.
If you’re truly serious about being hands-on and making maximum use of light, consider hiring a lighting designer. If you already have a remodeling team it’s a no-brainer. A specialist will analyze the kitchen layout, consider its design elements, factor in specifics such as ceiling height, natural light and surface finishes (and gauge their shine) to ultimately determine the amount, placement and strategy of space lighting. Can’t afford a designer? Check out the endless resources available online or in how-to books.
If you are still undecided what specific lighting approaches you want to take at the time of a remodel, look to have at least three junction boxes installed during it. This will allow you the freedom to add whatever fixtures you finally decide upon at a later date. Having the perfectly lit kitchen not only creates a great atmosphere, but ideally, it offers options to adjust the lighting style to accommodate any occasion.