Kitchen Lighting


“Contrast is good—it creates drama,” , ¬ Rosemarie L. Allaire, IALD, professional lighting designer.

Lighting is an important aspect to look into when remodeling a kitchen. A dark dreary-looking will not only be uninviting to guest, but even to the home owners themselves. Lighting can effect the overall look and feel to a kitchen, either providing you with a refreshing, warm and welcoming atmosphere or a total put-off that would just make you eat out at all time. 

Your kitchen lighting design is one of the most important design considerations of your kitchen. Good Kitchen lighting design is functional but it can also be used to enhance the décor. Todays kitchen lighting design provides for decorative lighting, recessed lighting and accent lighting.

Your kitchen lighting design should provide adequate lighting so that you can perform daily functions in areas where most of the work is done, for example the island or at the counter. Since the kitchen is now being used as a home office, a homework area for children as well as a gathering area for friends and family good kitchen lighting is very important. The right kitchen lighting is able to create just the right atmosphere for entertaining.

Kitchen Lighting Design Question


How do I start planning my kitchen lighting layout? Where do I need the most light?  

Selecting just the right kitchen lighting can be a simple process. You first need to identify the main areas of the kitchen that need sufficient lighting. With specific tasks over the range or cook top, you can use an energy efficient fluorescent tube along with a standard range fan, or a recessed down light in the general area of the stove. One or two track lights over the sink area can provide the correct amount of illumination that would be needed for washing dishes and scouring pots and pans.

  •  Start your kitchen lighting plan by taking your cabinet layout and using it as a “base” plan to break down your lighting needs for each area.
  •  First, break down your kitchen layout into four “lighting layers”.
  •  Label one layer “task surfaces” and mark the locations of the counters, sink and stove. Label each of the other layers: “general,” “display,” and “decorative.”
  •  The purpose for the separate layers is to make it easier to determine what needs to be lighted before the “how to light” it possibilities can be addressed. Analyze the needs in each layer separately. For example, counters need lateral light for food preparation, and sink and stove areas need down light for more precise tasks.
  •  Of the four layers, lighting for the work surfaces is the most important and needs to be the brightest. Start planning your work surface areas first.
  •  Second for importance is “General room lighting and this needs only to be bright enough to ensure safe movement around the room.

For the sink, and countertops a combination of track or recessed lighting, and under cabinet lighting will be to achieve best results in lighting up the countertop and creating a work area that is well lit and free of shadows. Mount the lights as close to the back of the cabinets as possible to avoid creating glare and off the work surfaces. Try to select energy-efficient fluorescent fixtures that will cover at least two-thirds of the of the counter\’s length.

For the breakfast area a good overhead light is useful since this area is also frequently used for reading. For more kitchen lighting ideas you can consider such lighting systems as chandeliers to high-tech flexible track lighting with decorative pendants. With a dimmer switch these ceiling-hung fixtures will produce adequate task lighting for family activities. You can also lower the light for entertaining.

When considering kitchen lighting design it is important to create multiple layers of lighting including ambient lighting, accent lighting as well as decorative lighting. Examine the amount of space and try to imagine the opportunities that you have in considering different categories of kitchen lighting design to create an inviting and livable space.

Ambient Lighting – This is the general light in the room. This type of kitchen lighting is needed for all casual activities. This can be achieved through the use of reflected light for different surfaces. An example of this is track lighting.

Task Lighting – An example is under-cabinet lights since they make excellent task lighting. This kind of kitchen lighting is commonly achieved with small light sources using higher and more focused levels of light with a combination of under cabinet lights and overhead lights that are strategically located. This type of lighting will be mostly found in closets, pantries, cabinets, or drawers.

Decorative Lighting – This type of kitchen lighting can add sophistication and color to a space.

Down Lighting – Down lighting is energy efficient and consists of small aperture cans in the ceiling. They can produce a longer lamp life, minimize glare and produce a bright crisp light.

Low Voltage Track and Mono Rail Lighting – These lighting systems can offer an interesting and more flexible type of lighting and are easy to install. They can be hand-bent and shaped to provide architectural interest. Low voltage lighting dims more easily and lights decorative objects and surfaces dramatically.

How can I make the low ceiling in my kitchen appear taller?  

There are two things you can do to make your low ceiling “appear” taller.

One technique is to add indirect light to your room. If you have wall space, select a decorative wall sconce that directs light upward. The other technique is often used by interior designers. If appropriate, consider painting the ceiling the same color as the wall color.

What are the most-often lighting layout errors made when planning kitchen lighting? 

The most-often lighting layout error is attempting to light your kitchen with one ceiling fixture mounted in the middle of your room. Not only does a single light source become “glare” any time you look into the kitchen, but also you don’t get the light you need on your countertops. Every time you bend forward to do work on your countertops you are working in your own shadow.

The second most-often lighting error is to planning your recessed lighting layout in a grid pattern without any relationship to your cabinet plan or lighting needs. The first question to ask when planning your lighting is: “why light?” Once you know why, then you can plan the type of light you need.

The third most-often lighting error is not planning for adequate wall space to locate your lighting controls. Many times a full height refrigerator end panel is placed too close to a room entry. Other times there is a tall cabinet placed nearest to the entry. In each of these examples there is no room to place the lighting controls.

Tip: At each room entry location, you want to allocate enough wall space to locate a 3-gang wall plate. Since the gang boxes are recessed and fastened to the stud, measure from the stud, not from the door opening. If this is new construction, make an allowance for your door trim.

Creating space with lighting.

Strategically placed lighting can cast lights over the colours or texture of counter tops, islands or flooring to give the effects of space. Lights spaced out on refinished wood floors can create a light and airy look.

Before : With inadequate, outdated lighting, this kitchen kept its homeowners away after dark. Task lighting and under-cabinet lighting were missing entirely from this layout. The table, detached from the cooking area by a peninsula, separated the host from her guests.

After : While the kitchen still connects to the living room, it now features its own gathering place: a granite-topped island with an attached round dining-height kitchen table that matches the cabinets. Removing vertical blinds from the sliding glass patio doors allows more natural light to enter and shows off the Mission style grille pattern that matches the picture window and glass cabinet doors. Recessed lighting throughout the room provides extra illumination for evening gatherings.