The most effective lighting for the kitchen involves layering, which means mingling different kinds of fixtures together. Combine task, ambient, and accent lighting. In the kitchen, this typically translates into ceiling lights (ambient), under-cabinet lighting (task), and in-cabinet or above-cabinet lighting (accent). The end result: a warm and inviting environment that works with your other design elements to create a practical workspace and lively entertainment area.
Task lighting is exactly what it sounds like: lighting to help you accomplish the tasks you set out to do in your kitchen. Whether it’s preparing meals, washing dishes, paying bills, or helping kids with homework, all of these jobs would be difficult to complete with poor lighting. Task lighting sources include:
- Recessed or “can” lights — there should be one over the sink, one for every four feet of counter space (at a minimum), and also over the island, if not using pendant lights.
- Pendant lights over the kitchen island serves three purposes — they provide task lighting, make a design statement, and serve as a visual distinction between the open spaces.
- Under-cabinet lighting, in the form of compact fluorescent lights, is another great option for task lighting in the food preparation areas.
Ambient light is the general, overall light that fills in shadows, reduces contrast, and lights vertical surfaces to give the space a brighter feel. Ambient light is what you need for casual activities in your rooms. If the kitchen has light colored surfaces and lots of windows you should have plenty of natural ambient light during the day. But kitchens are used from before dawn until after midnight — we can’t rely on windows and skylights. Kitchen lighting can be achieved with either recessed lighting or a central, decorative chandelier.
Recessed lighting is best placed around the perimeter of the room and approximately 30″ away from the wall.
Chandeliers can be used in addition to other lighting in the space. In the kitchen, it is best to use chandeliers with semi-transparent glass shades instead of fabric shades because the glass is much easier to clean.
Accent lighting is used to draw attention to the unique details of your kitchen. Accent lighting sources include:
- Puck lights to illuminate glass front cabinets, much like in a curio or china cabinet.
- Toe-kick lights to focus attention on flooring with a unique texture or design. They are also helpful to those who like a midnight snack but don’t want bright overhead lighting waking them up.
- A table lamp on the counter adds a warm glow to visually soften the hard surfaces of a kitchen. This looks particularly attractive near the desk area of the kitchen, keeping it away from the prep stations and kitchen sink.