KITCHEN LIGHTING GUIDE
Much has been written about kitchen design and workspace triangle set-up that many times lighting seems an afterthought. Designers however, understand that aside from the task lighting, which is critical to the space, additional ambient lighting is one of the most important design elements. Kitchen designers consider ambient lighting as the base layer that makes the room not only usable, but beautiful as well.
Ambient lighting really is the primary source of light for rooms. It serves as the foundation of all the lighting of a room, improving not only the look but the sense of warmth and space. The four main categories of ambient lighting as the term applies to kitchens are: Chandeliers, pendants, island lights and wall or flush-mounted lighting fixtures. A good lighting plan for kitchens should involve balancing the amount of light; you don’t want to try to illuminate every corner of the kitchen, nor do you want to leave other areas in shadows.
The key to ambient lighting is to provide a consistent light layer, and any recessed lighting should work in concert with the other lighting choices. When laying out recessed lighting in a kitchen, you’ll want to focus on areas that aren’t covered by other fixtures like pucks or undercabinet lighting. For a galley-style kitchen or walkways created by an island, a single row of appropriately spaced recessed lights will complement the other fixtures. Well-powered flush-mounts can be equally effective if you choose locations that provide even lighting throughout the space. Let’s break down the best practices for the other fixtures:
Chandeliers and Island Lights
Size does matter when it comes to finding the right chandelier to hang in a home. A large room can swallow a small chandelier and create an unbalanced space. A chandelier that is too large risks overpowering the space. A good rule of thumb as far as dimensions is as follows: Use a fixture that is 12” narrower than the width of the table or island you are lighting. The bottom of a chandelier over a dining table or kitchen island should hang 30 to 32 inches above the top of the table or island. No one wants to be staring into the light source. If you are hanging the chandelier on an open floor, the chandelier’s bottom should be seven (7) feet away from the floor. Island lights are a more linear version of a chandelier, so the same rule applies as far as dimensions.
Pendant lights are ideally placed directly above sinks, standalone islands or work areas, dining or kitchen tables, and other hubs of activity. You should avoid placing them directly above appliances with their own built-in lighting, such as stove ranges or refrigerators. To minimize glare, make sure to mount the pendant no closer than two-and-a-half feet from the surface it’s lighting. When hanging pendants over a kitchen island, the distance between the bottom of the pendant lights and the countertop should generally be between 30″-36″. A basic rule of thumb is to use approximately 25% of the length of the island to find the right sized pendant and factor in that there should be 24″ between the pendants which will dictate how many to install.
Wall or Flush-Mounted
For general illumination, flush-mounted ceiling fixtures are an excellent solution. The best types shine light in all directions, including up toward the ceiling. To determine the size of the flush-mounted fixture, use this rule of thumb: in feet, add together the width and length of the room then convert this sum to inches. This will give you the approximate width of the flush-mount size.
Ambient and task light fixtures: Opt for bulbs with a color temperature of 3500K to 4100K to ensure that floors and work surfaces are lit with a neutral, true white light.
Incandescent, LED, and compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs for the kitchen come in one of three color temperatures that describe the color characteristics of the light the bulb emits. There’s Soft White (2700K to 3000 Kelvins (K)), Cool White/Bright White (3500K to 4100K), and Daylight (5000K to 6500K). The higher the bulb temperature, the cooler (i.e., bluer) the light it emits; the lower the temperature, the warmer (i.e., more amber) the light. Choose the color temperature best suited for the function of the fixture.