Five Tips for Optimal Kitchen Lighting


The heart of today’s home is the multi-functional kitchen. A place that bustles from before dawn to after sunset; where people cook, do homework and bills, read the paper, visit with friends and family and just relax.  Optimal lighting is an important design consideration in creating a friendly, functional and efficient kitchen.  Five tips that will help you optimize your kitchen lighting include making a detailed plan, proper task lighting, clever ambient lighting, minimum use of accent lighting, and appropriate decorative lighting.


Tip #1:  Make a Plan

The first step in creating a well-lit kitchen is the planning.  To create a warm, welcoming kitchen, layers of light should be present: recessed or down lights, under-cabinet lights, and hanging lights.  Also, your kitchen’s size, layout, look, color and natural lighting must be considered when determining the overall number and placement of fixtures.  For example, taller ceilings and darker finishes call for more light.  And, for safety, well-lit work zones are essential. In general, lighting must be both task-oriented as well as ambient and friendly. And, ideally, fixtures should be dimmable so the light can be adjusted to meet specific needs depending on the time of day.


Tip #2:  Task Lighting

Optimal Kitchen LightingTask lighting is  just for doing precision work in the kitchen but also for safety and energy efficiency.  It is best to light task areas with bright, soft, shadow-less lights from two or more sources.   For example, combine the general room lighting with focused fluorescent un­der­cab­i­net lighting.  A rule of thumb is the task light should be about 30 inches above the work area.


Tip #3: Ambient Lighting

Optimal Kitchen LightingAmbient kitchen lighting is the light that fills in shad­ows, re­duces con­trast, and lights ver­ti­cal sur­faces to brighten the room.  The goal of ambient light is to create a warm, inviting glow in the room.  One trick is to mount fluorescent tubes on the tops of wall cab­i­nets aimed at the ceil­ing; the light will then reflect back evenly into the room.  Recessed lighting in the ceiling also works well for combating glare and shadows.  A rule of thumb for placement of recessed lights is they should be 24-42 inches apart and should work to light the entire room.


 Tip #4: Accent Lighting

Optimal Kitchen LightingAc­cent light­s should be used sparingly to em­pha­size spe­cial ob­jects or highlight a wall of cabinetry.  For accent lights to be effective, they should be three to five times brighter than the sur­round­ing am­bi­ent lights.  Accent lighting typically uses halogen, xenon, or LED bulbs because they are small enough to fit into small fixtures yet produce bright light.


Tip #5: Decorative Lighting

Optimal Kitchen LightingDecorative kitchen lighting, like a hanging vintage-style lantern, not only adds character but can also fill the visual voids above islands and peninsulas while providing necessary illumination for work areas.  Decorative lighting also tends to be the most expensive element of your lighting design. The general rule in selecting decorative lighting is it should reflect the size of your kitchen; the larger the space, the larger the chandelier and other eye-catching fixtures can be.



Optimizing the light in your kitchen will create a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere for your family and friends to gather and enjoy food and fellowship.  Don’t be overwhelmed by all the options. Take it one step and at a time, and soon you will have a beautiful space to enjoy day and night, summer and winter.  For more information on design ideas visit Falconcrest Homes

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