Experts shed light on the ins and outs of kitchen and bath
BY BARBARA CAPELLA LOEHR
Proper lighting directly affects how people feel about a space and
the way people see, move and work in a space. In fact, most kitchen
and bath designers would even say that light could make or break a
kitchen or bath design.
That’s why most kitchen and bath designers agree that an
effective lighting plan is a critical portion of the design
process. However designing an effective lighting scheme involves
more than throwing a grid of recessed fixtures onto the ceiling.
Rather, it entails choosing an array of fixtures that offer the
right combination of general, task and ambiance lighting, and then
picking the right the bulb (lamp) type and color. It also includes
determining the correct amount of light needed for the entire space
and the proper spacing of each fixture.
While this may seem like a lot to consider for lighting, there
are some simple rules of thumb to follow. This month, lighting
experts interviewed by Kitchen & Bath Design News offer some
“bright” ideas to help fellow designers meet the functional needs
of their clients and showcase their designs in the proper
LET THERE BE LIGHT
The first thing designers
should remember is that kitchen and bath lighting is meant to not
only provide light for daily living and the tasks associated with
it, but also to enhance the design itself.
For that reason designers need consider the impact of light on
surface colors, wall coverings, fabrics selected and so on, notes
John Bachner, director of communications for the National Lighting
Bureau (NLB) in Silver Spring, MD. “The color that’s seen in the
store, under one type of lighting, may look different under another
type of lighting at home, in the kitchen or bath,” he adds.
Indeed, “depending on the colors of the room, you need to decide
whether incandescent, halogen or xenon lamps should be used.
Halogen and xenon are crisper, but not as good with earth or
cream tones,” says Peter Ross Salerno, CKD, CBD and president/owner
of Peter Salerno, Inc. in Wyckoff, NJ.
“I like halogen because it’s the closest to daylight and really
enhances wood grains, stains and colors,” notes Mick De Giulio of
de Giulio Kitchen Design, Inc. in Chicago, IL.
“We specialize in low-voltage halogen because it gives off a
pure light spectrum, and it’s the closest to daylight,” states
lighting designer Mark Carmel, who co-owns Rockville Centre,
NY-based Illuminations with business partner Philip Finkelstein.
Carmel collaborates with designer Steven Haas, co-owner of
Rockville Centre, NY-based Architectural Kitchens and Baths, on
many of the firm’s kitchen and bath projects by guiding the
Jane Grosslight, LC, of Tallahassee, FL-based Jane Grosslight
Lighting Designs, Ltd. and author of the book, Lighting Kitchens
& Baths, recommends using incandescent reflector lights with
PAR or MR16 bulbs over kitchen sinks and eating areas because they
“give very good direct light for sink areas and add sparkle to
table- and glassware.”
Then there is the matter of incandescent versus fluorescent. In
some states, like California, designers are required to use
fluorescent lighting as the primary source of light. But, there are
ways to seamlessly incorporate fluorescent lighting.
“[For instance], I use color-corrected fluorescent,” says DeWitt
Beall, principal of DeWitt Designer Kitchens in Studio City, CA. “I
put them over and under cabinets, then I use line- or low-voltage
halogens, depending on the budget. I make the halogens the accent
lighting by switching it at one post, and then make the over- and
undercabinet lighting the primary source of light since I switch it
all in one doorway.”
There’s also the matter of determining the right amount of
light. And while there are formulas and tables designers can use
and consult, designers agree that there are no set answers.
“I must admit that my sense of lighting comes from 30 years’
experience. It becomes intuitive,” notes De Giulio. “A lot of
lighting experts do FootCandle computations to figure out the
amount of light needed in a space, but practical experience will
help you even more.”
However, for those in need of specific numbers and charts, there
are some such as the Coefficient of Utilization (CU) Tables that
will help designers in their calculations. Michael De Luca, CKD,
ASID, NCIDQ, the San Diego, CA-area-based owner of Michael De Luca
& Associates and Enviro-Systems/www.lightcalc.com, also
recommends using the Lumen Method and the Inverse Square Law.
De Giulio along with Carmel and Haas also recommends consulting
lighting experts as a way to ensure an effective lighting design in
a kitchen or bath.
Beyond experts and calculations, client needs and preferences
also must be noted when planning for kitchen or bath lighting, note
designers. For instance, some clients simply prefer moderate
lighting, while others may have light sensitivities that call for
dimmer lighting solutions. Likewise, some clients prefer very
bright light, while still others may actually have vision problems
that require special lighting solutions.
In addition to meeting functional needs, designers need to look
at what lighting can bring to the table aesthetically, according to
Joan Eisenberg, CMKBD, ASID, of JME Consulting, Inc. in Baltimore,
MD. “Lighting should enhance the design by adding depth to the
colors,” she notes.
After considering space
and client needs, there are three key components to a properly lit
kitchen, note designers. The first is general, which should
illuminate the entire kitchen. This usually derives from recessed
lights, but could also come from decorative fixtures such as
pendants, Eisenberg explains. The second is task, which should be
located at each workstation, she says. The third is specialty, or
ambiance, lighting, which is any lighting that creates a mood or
highlights a feature such as crown molding or cove.
However, the types of lighting chosen for a kitchen are less
critical than the placement of those fixtures, stress
“The positioning of recessed lights is very important. They must
be properly laid out, otherwise there will be heavy shadowing in
between each light,” notes Carmel. In this case, directional lights
usually help solve this lighting dilemma, he says.
Beall concurs, noting that he uses a “pan 360° lamp that tilts
40° in any direction. It offers the ultimate flexibility when
combined with beam spreads.”
To avoid uneven lighting, designers also need to consider the
FootCandle level. “The FootCandle level is extraordinarily
important, and should be at an even distance across the room,”
notes De Luca.
Further, they need to consider the beam spread and the spacing
of recessed lights from the wall. “You need to account for deeper
cabinets, such as 24″-deep pantry units and appliances, such as a
33″ or 36″ wall oven, recessed into cabinetry,” Salerno notes.
Carmel also warns designers against installing recessed lights
too far out from the work area. “If they’re placed too far behind
you, then you are working in your own shadow,” he says.
This is where task lighting comes into play. “Illumination of
all of the countertop surfaces is key. In some cases, this more
important than the general lighting. However, there needs to be
good balance of both types,” believes Haas.
“The task lighting should be 2.5 times brighter than the general
lighting,” adds De Luca.
Switching is also a key lighting issue designers need to
consider. “I believe lighting controls are as important as the
lighting itself what controls what light is critical,” notes Alan
Asarnow, CMKBD, CR of Ulrich, Inc. in Franklin Lakes, NJ.
“A lot of times, switching in a kitchen or bath is overlooked,”
adds Salerno. “For instance, you can control the strength of the
ambiance lighting with dimmers… You can use them to create
different atmospheres, which is especially good when
Beall agrees that having everything on a dimmer allows users to
have better control over their lighting. And, in some cases, Beall
and De Giulio both agree that an even better choice is installing a
Lutron lighting system, which allows users to preprogram
different lighting scenes, such as those for parties, everyday use
and romantic settings.
“Proper placement of switches is also key,” notes Haas. “This
goes to ease of function. There should switches at each threshold
of the kitchen so users don’t have to enter a dark room at
BATHED IN LIGHT
In terms of general and task
lighting, many of the same principles apply to baths. There needs
to be enough light to illuminate the entire bath, and task lighting
should be placed at the vanity, in showers and over tubs, and over
the toilet, notes Eisenberg.
However, according to Beall, “There are some different rules for
baths. For instance, in the kitchen you are basically standing, but
in a bath you are either sitting or lying down in a tub, so you
don’t want to be zapped in the eye with lights. So I will angle the
lights toward the wall to avoid this situation.”
Beall advises designers to mindful of lighting in relation to
mirrors, as well. “Move the light closer to the mirror to bounce
the light on the face, not the head, to avoid shadows,” he
recommends. For general lighting he uses low- or line-voltage
downlights, and believes sconces add light while offering the
ability to create gentle mood lighting.
Eisenberg adds that the color and type of bulbs used in a bath
should be the same as those used where the client will be seen
during the day whether that place is in an office with cool
fluorescent lighting or somewhere with warm incandescent lighting.