Strategic kitchen lighting does more than illuminate your daily tasks; it also brightens your entire mood.
The key is to find the right mix of lighting types -- whether it’s day or night -- using a combination of sources.
Even if your kitchen is flooded with natural light through the windows, additional support will need to be called in.
For instance, if you’re chopping vegetables, you want to minimize the chance of accidentally cutting your fingers. That is where task lighting comes in.
And when the family gets together for a meal, some sort of ambient lighting will let you know exactly what you’re eating!
Accent lighting typically focuses on specific items, such as a work of art; with more and more of today’s kitchens blending into adjacent living areas, accent lighting has become as invaluable in the kitchen as any other space in the home.
The role that windows play in kitchen lighting
An ample amount of natural light can decrease the need for artificial light sources and also add a natural heat source. However, in sunny Southern California, it’s important to install shades or curtains to control the amount based on your preference.
Place windows high enough to deflect the sun’s rays off the ceiling for ambient lighting or put them at countertop level for task lighting. Or you could kill two birds with one stone and make them tall enough for both tasks.
Forgoing wall cabinets on exterior walls is also an option, in favor of adding more windows, unless storage space is an issue (because you need the cabinet). In that case, consider adding skylights.
Well-though-out kitchen lighting plans have the right balance
Ambient lighting offers overall illumination. This makes it easy to move around the room and without harsh shadows. During the day, natural light can provide the bulk of the ambient light your kitchen relies on.
At night, pendants and chandeliers, recessed lights, track lights, and/or concealed above-cabinet fixtures are all great options for ambient light.
Task lighting is perfect for work areas. Countertops, cooktops, sinks…task lighting should be used to illuminate these areas.
Undercabinet fixtures of all shapes and sizes provide task lighting, as do pendants, track lights, and recessed can lights.
NOTE: Task lights positioned close to the workspace are more efficient than lights positioned on the ceiling.
Accent lighting shines light on specific objects. Track lighting, in-cabinet fixtures, sconces, and recessed fixtures that can be focused act as accent lights. There is a bit of overlap, as accent lights can also be seen as decorative and could also serve secondary purposes like task or ambient lighting.
Quick word on kitchen lighting controls and receptacles
With a touch pad, you can program in many lighting scenarios using automated control systems. While these systems are convenient, they can also be expensive.
Alternatives include rotary, slide, or touch dimmer controls to wireless systems.
Receptacles do not have to be soar on the eyes or haphazardly put together throughout the kitchen. Something like tucking plug molding under a wall cabinet or along the backsplash, or simply stacking multiple receptacles in one convenient (but not attention seeking) place.
A two-height island offers a perfect backsplash location for island receptacles; a hollowed-out island leg can also provide a good place for them.
In addition to maximizing the natural light provided by the windows in your home, utilizing a variety of ambient, task, and accent lighting are the keys to strategic kitchen lighting.
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