A common complaint we hear about older kitchens is that they are too dark or need better lighting. It’s definitely true that poor lighting makes working in a kitchen difficult. It’s important that once the kitchen planning starts that lighting is not overlooked. Lighting choices will have a huge impact on the final look, appeal, and functionality of a remodeled kitchen. The following paragraphs review areas of lighting found in modern kitchens.
Natural Light: It’s ideal if a kitchen can be designed to maximize natural light. An added benefit is that the cost of natural light is zero, it’s free. Of course adding windows or installing new and larger windows is not free, especially if structural framing with interior and exterior finishes is required. The benefit of increasing the number of windows for more light may be offset by the loss of cabinet wall space. One less expensive option is to replace double hung windows with casement windows (the ones that crank out). Casement windows have less of a frame as the window is one large sash and opposed to two smaller sashes. Another choice is to replace a solid kitchen door with a new glass door or a door with wood panels below and glass above.
Direct Lighting: Direct lighting is what you need to the light the main areas of the kitchen, including the entire room, over an island or counters, and over appliances. Typically this is either recessed lights and/or pendant lights over an island, table, or counter. This is usually the brightest lighting in the kitchen, although the lights can be installed on dimmers. Different lighting areas are usually controlled by separate switches, so individual areas can be turned on as needed.
Task Lighting: For task lighting we usually think of lighting under the wall cabinets to light the counters where most of the work in a kitchen is performed. There are several types of under-cabinet lights available, florescent, low voltage halogen, and LED. Our preference is LED, a very small light that rarely burns out, is energy efficient, and easy to work with. Range hoods also have lights to illuminate the cook-top or range, another form of task lighting. It is also good to consider some sort of task lighting at the sink area, such as a recessed light or pendant.
Ambiance: Ambiance lighting creates a mood. This can be contrasting bright lights or soft lights, lights on the tops of wall cabinets, or along the kick space of base cabinets. Lighting inside of wall cabinets with glass doors or lights that highlight a special piece of artwork or decorative feature in your kitchen are other examples.
Layering: Layering is the hot trend in kitchen lighting. Basically it is a combination of all the lighting noted above using different types of lighting for different locations and at different height levels in your kitchen. Layering maximizes not only the functional use but also the visual appeal of your kitchen.