When it comes to illuminating your kitchen, think “lightscape.” Just as landscaping can beautify your exterior space and highlight activity zones, kitchen lighting can beautify your kitchen’s interior while defining and improving the functionality of work areas.
Kitchens require three types of lighting: ambient, task, and accent. Ambient lighting is the overall light in the room, generally provided by larger fixtures and natural light from windows. Task lighting is focused and calibrated to specific work areas, such as counters. And accent lighting does just that — accent and highlights architectural details or objects within your redesigned space, such as kitchen lighting that points up from the top of your cabinets or rope lighting lining the undersides, which, incidentally, is a really easy do-it-yourself project.
When designing your light plan, realize that more light in the kitchen is not necessarily better. Smart lighting is. Make sure to match the amount and quality of light to the function in each area of the room. Compact fluorescent lamps, for example, use 25 to 35 percent less energy than incandescent lamps, provide the same amount of illumination and last 10 times longer.
There’s no shortage of fixture styles and sizes to choose from for each of these lighting types. And it’s definitely okay to mix and match fixture styles. Put chandeliers over the dining area and install interesting pendants for task lighting. And to shed additional light on the subject, we love sticking little halogen puck lights under cabinets.
Set the Mood with Dimmers
In addition to better windows and designated light fixtures, consider incorporating dimmers into your lighting plan. Easy to install, dimmers work well to deliver just the right amount of light, depending on your mood. With dimmers, you can keep the lights at full brightness while preparing your meal, and then dial them down when it comes time to serve and entertain.
Try the “Naked” Look
Kitchens are a great place to forgo window treatments and create the “naked” window for maximum light. Since windows contribute to the ambient light in the room, leaving window coverings off can boost the brightness level significantly. Installing a bay or bow window or skylight can help to maximize the flow of sunlight while creating an expansive, open feeling in the space. Placing mirrors across from the windows amplifies the effect.
No Window? Trick the Eye
If a window won’t fit in your kitchen, try a little stagecraft. Buy a light box or create your own with fluorescent tubes and decorative wood. Insert a transparent photo of your favorite vista, or create a piece of stained glass artwork to be illuminated from behind when placed over the plastic top of the box.
Let the Sunshine In
VELUX Sun Tunnel skylights are tubes that run from the roof to an interior ceiling on any level. Sun Tunnels are mirror-coated on the inside so that they can bring in a lot of natural light without the expense of building a traditional skylight. When these are installed in a kitchen and track lighting is added above the cabinets, it can create some interesting colors in combination with the skylight.
Go Green with Natural Light
Not all kitchen lighting has to add to your electric bill. Make use of natural light for a warm, welcoming kitchen with the following:
- Minimize window treatments to allow more light in and create a transition to the great outdoors.
- Add a bay, bow or greenhouse window to capture the light and create new space for seating, storage, or decorative displays.
- Bring in sunshine from above with traditional skylights or light “tubes” that shed natural light into dark spaces via their reflective linings.
Ample kitchen lighting, whether artificial or natural, makes cooking and other tasks much easier and also creates a warm, inviting space. It can also be adjusted as needed – from mood lighting for romantic dinners or parties to bright lighting for the kids’ homework. With the kitchen serving as one of the home’s main gathering places, good lighting design is paramount.