Kitchen lighting is so important when designing your kitchen – it’s an aspect of your design you need to consider from the beginning of your kitchen refurbishment. You will need to think about task lighting – lights over your benchtops where you are preparing food, ambient lighting (overhead lights and light from window sources) and accent or decorative lighting. While many of us love to jump right in and think of decorating our island benches with stylish pendant lights, like any good design, you really need to have the functional lighting in place first. This article from the Houzz website provides some good advice on how to get the lighting right in your kitchen.
With so many colours, styles and lighting combinations from which to choose, it can be tricky to know where to start. You might love a design, but how will it look in your kitchen? And what if the light it gives off isn’t up to the task?
When it comes to pendant lighting, Dan Kitchens kitchen designer Vagn Madsen follows a few simple rules. “Don’t buy pendant lights without first checking the size by creating a mock-up,” Madsen advises. “That 50cm-diameter pendant light might not sound big, but when placed in the room it could easily look enormous.” He suggests bringing a sample home, cutting out the shape in cardboard, or simply measuring it out with a tape measure in situ.
TIP: Don’t choose a style of light that does not match the style of kitchen – it has the potential to be jarring.
Having several sources of lighting in a kitchen allows you to adjust it as needed – an important consideration given that kitchens are often part of an open-plan/dining zone.
The kitchen is a dynamic space used for different reasons throughout the day and evening, says Madsen. Someone sitting at the island to read the morning paper can benefit from the excellent illumination of a pendant light, for example, while turning on range hood lights, ceiling lights and wall cabinet lights makes it easier to prepare meals. Leaving the wall cabinet lights on softly enables people to navigate around the kitchen at night.
Madsen advises planning the lighting before or duringthe design of the kitchen, rather than leaving it until the kitchen is complete.
“To implement some forms of lighting afterwards would be impossible (under-cabinet lighting, for instance), and others very messy (like adding a skylight),” he says. The more you can plan beforehand, the easier it is for electricians to install lighting(not to mention cheaper), and the better the overall result.”
Having said that, Madsen says it can be very hard to visualise how a room will look after renovating (unless you have photo-realistic CAD drawings). “Some aspects of lighting selection can be left to the very end, such as choice of pendant lighting or whether to go with cool or warm white lighting.”
According to interior designer Sophie Seeger, ambience is paramount when choosing kitchen lighting.
“If you have an eating nook or island bench in the kitchen, then ambient lighting adds another dimension,” Seeger says. “It is a good idea to consider task and general lighting; I think a lighting combination that offers a range of lighting and that is practical and not jarring is LED downlights, some under top cabinetry, and pendants with dimmers for ambience.”
The Kitchen Broker’s managing director Brian Patterson says there is a difference in the way light can create ambience. “Isolation of light centres can add dramatically to ambience and feel,” he says. “Lighting floating down glass, stone or tiles on a splashback that can be seen from outer entertaining areas when all other lighting inside is off can deliver an experience of style and elegance.”
Dimmers allow you to control the intensity of lighting, and the more control you have over lighting the better. Not all lighting types are compatible with dimmers, however – florescent lighting, for example. Checking with the supplier is a must.
But should you choose white or yellow-toned light bulbs?
If Madsen had to pick between the two, he says he’d choose warm white, which is a soft yellow-toned light. It has a few benefits with only one small drawback. “Warm white LED lights make you feel warm and comfortable while generating little heat,” he explains. “It’s an emotional effect that is subtle, but when compared to the starkness of cool white LED light, this effect becomes obvious.”
Recent research suggests that cool white light is in fact bad for you because it suppresses your melatonin production – the hormone controlling your sleep cycle. “On the down side, warm white LEDs are slightly less energy efficient than cool white LEDs,” Madsen says.
Choosing pendant lighting to go over the island can be the most stressful for homeowners because a design can change the whole look and feel of a kitchen.
Madsen advises to firstly make sure the size of the pendant suits the size of the room. “Too often we have seen pendant lights installed that are too large, gaining too much attention to the eye and dominating a space,” he says.
Where possible, the designers at Dan Kitchens always try to bring an element of natural light into a kitchen, whether through windows or skylighting. “Natural light should provide plenty of illumination, and it also has an uplifting emotional effect,” Madsen explains. “For me, nothing beats walking into my kitchen in the morning with sunlight filtering through the window, creating a soft glow.” On the downside, direct natural light contains UV, which over time will fade some materials in the kitchen. If direct sunlight in your kitchen is an issue, check your kitchen designer is specifying UV-resistant materials in your new kitchen.
Getting task lighting right is crucial for preparing or cooking food – focused light on work zones will make life easy, but if it’s too bright, casts shadows or isn’t bright enough, it’s sure to annoy you over time.The Kitchen Broker’s Brian Patterson says lighting should be positioned not to throw shadows in the work centres. “This is achieved best by concealed LED strip lighting under overhead cabinets above the bench area,” Patterson says. “This achieves not only good light, but lovely even light that floods the bench area and evenly displays splashbacks and benchtops.”
Used the right way in modern, sleek kitchens, strip lighting can look fantastic, not just under the cabinets, but around kickboards, above cabinets, beneath open shelving and in bulkhead recesses. “We specify either florescent or LED strip lighting, depending on the application,” Madsen says.