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Successfully Illuminating your Kitchen

Lighting is no simple task; however, lighting if done right can make a big difference in enjoying your kitchen. In the past, when it came to illuminating your kitchen, some builders would simply install overhead fluorescent ceiling fixtures and consider the job done. Today, elegant and beautiful lighting has climbed to the top of most people’s wish lists.

The most effective lighting for the kitchen involves four layers blended together: task, ambient, accent and decorative lighting. If implemented correctly, the end result will be a warm and inviting environment that works with your other design elements to create a practical workspace and lively entertainment area for family and friends. Lighting the kitchen is not a complex matter, but it is important to remember that ‘layering’ is key to creating that warm and inviting space.

Task lighting is what most people and designers consider first when designing the lighting system, mainly due to the fact that preparing food is one of the key activities within a kitchen. Ensuring that you have adequate task lighting is imperative for any design. It is important to remember that if task lighting is misplaced, it can actually create shadows, hindering the ability to work efficiently in the newly designed space. Task lighting can include undercabinet lighting (which can act as ambient lighting as well), pendant lights over an island or peninsula, in a pantry where you will be reading labels, as well as anywhere you will be reading recipes, and preparing food.

Sleek modern kitchen with large bay window behind the sink
Task Lighting, Taken from Studio S Interiors, 2013

Ambient lighting is an important layer that is often overlooked in the kitchen. Lighting designs are typically done throughout the day, when daylight is a premium in the space, so many do not think there needs to be any other lighting aside from task lighting. Ambient lighting sets the mood of the space; it softens the lines and shadows on people’s faces, and can create a warm and inviting space in just about any kitchen.

Accent lighting is the least common layer in the kitchen, but as it is becoming more common that people prefer to entertain in their kitchens, accent lighting is an important aspect of lighting to highlight or accent an object. Types of accent lighting include track lighting, up-lighting from the floor or wall washing, wall sconces or directional recessed fixtures; all of which can light up and accent a piece of art, glassware or even a specific detail in cabinetry.

Indoor living area with a large skylight above a fireplace
Accent Lighting taken from Studio S Interiors, 2014

Decorative lighting tends to be the most expensive element within your lighting design scheme. Two major considerations should be made when determining what type of decorative fixture you will incorporate into the space; the scale and the type of shade. Depending on the size of your kitchen, the decorative lighting should be considered in direct proportion. For example, the larger the space, the greater importance chandeliers and other hanging fixtures play within the space. If you have a smaller kitchen, you may opt to choose a lighter decorative fixture.

Lighting can be fun, and can make or break any space. Ensuring that the layers all work together is very important. Coordinating the lighting levels can be done by installing dimmers on all fixtures, so that adjusting the lighting to any mood is just a switch away.