Kitchen Lighting: Ambient, Task and Accent Lighting From Start to Finish

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kitchen lighting

Beautiful and functional kitchen lighting breaks down into three categories: Ambient, task and accent lighting. Incorporating all three into your kitchen layout will provide you with a well-lit and attractive space. Considering how much money goes into outfitting a kitchen with cabinets, counters, sinks, appliances and flooring, it's a wise to approach the task with a solid grasp of kitchen lighting options.

Ambient lighting

Ambient lighting is the overall background lighting of a room. The obvious benefit is that it enables you to navigate the room without bumping into things, but when put on a dimmer it can also serve as mood lighting for entertaining. Here are some popular kitchen ambient lighting options:
• Drum chandeliers are the hottest kitchen-lighting trend. These playful lighting options look like giant, illuminated lampshades suspended from the ceiling.
• Casual chandeliers add drama, style and function in larger kitchens that have a ceiling height of nine feet or higher.
• Ceiling fixtures add style and function in smaller kitchens with a ceiling height of eight feet or lower.
• Recessed lights spaced evenly through the kitchen.
• Up-lights tucked behind decorative objects on top of the cabinets.
• Rope lighting tucked behind crown molding or beneath the upper cabinets. These lights will illuminate softly and cast a glow over the kitchen, which looks particularly elegant for evening entertaining.

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Great Kitchen Makeovers
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Kitchen Lighting: Ambient, Task and Accent Lighting From Start to Finish
Whether you give your kitchen a new look with a few tasteful upgrades or rip it out and start over, being creative where you cook is the key.We asked kitchen remodeling and design pros for examples of what can be done, and at what cost. Here are six projects that cost between $37,000 and $100,000. For each kitchen, we show a BEFORE and AFTER view, with details of the work done and the materials and appliances used.
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BEFORE: This outdated kitchen in Sacramento, Calif, needed more than a face-lift. The counter height and lack of space made it nearly impossible for the resident, who used a wheelchair, to prepare a meal.
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PRICE: $75,000

Designer: Darius Baker, an award winning California contractor

AFTER: The widened doorways, lower counters and open floor plan make this kitchen highly accessible. There are roll-out shelves, lazy susans, and a sink that is wheelchair accessible. The finishing touches: stainless steel appliances and granite counter tops.
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BEFORE: As part of an addition onto the back of the house, the homeowner wanted a bigger kitchen with a breakfast area. This Houston (Tex.) home was built as a 1930s-style English Cottage, and the homeowner felt the kitchen wasn't reflective of the home's original design.
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PRICE: $100,000
Designer: William L. Shaw Jr., Winner of 5 Texas 2007 Star Awards for kitchen design
AFTER: By adding space, the kitchen area was truly transformed. New cabinetry, granite counter tops and layout make the kitchen feel more organized and functional. This was an expensive renovation, but some of the stainless steel appliances were reused, and the original oak floor planking was restored.
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BEFORE: The homeowners of this kitchen in Tallahassee (Fla.) wanted a complete overhaul. Besides the washer and dryer being located in the kitchen, the 1960's feel and layout left much to be desired.
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PRICE: $37,000
Designer: Rachel + Michael Stiles, owners of Kitchen Solvers
AFTER: By arranging the kitchen against the far wall, thereby flipping the layout, this renovation gained a lot of space. New cabinets and Corian countertops complete the picture, making for an attractive, economical overhaul.The tile floors, backsplash, and new appliances added a more modern element.
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Task Lighting

Task lighting is exactly what it sounds like: lighting to help you accomplish the tasks you set out to do in your kitchen. Whether it's preparing meals, washing dishes, paying bills, or helping kids with homework, all of these jobs would be difficult to complete with poor lighting. Task lighting sources include:
• Recessed or "can" lights -- there should be one over the sink, one for every four feet of counter space (at a minimum), and also over the island, if not using pendant lights.
• Pendant lights over the kitchen island serves three purposes -- they provide task lighting, make a design statement, and serve as a visual distinction between the open spaces.
• Under-cabinet lighting, in the form of compact fluorescent lights, is another great option for task lighting in the food preparation areas.

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Mouth-Watering Kitchens
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Kitchen Lighting: Ambient, Task and Accent Lighting From Start to Finish

Aspiring chefs, gourmets and gourmands -- feast your eyes on these delectable kitchens, plucked from some of the finest homes on the market today. If the kitchen truly is the heart of the home, get ready to fall in love with some of the best-kept, cutting-edge and well-equipped tickers this side of Lyon. Bon appétit!   

Location: Brookline, Mass. 
Price: $6.95 million
Beds/Baths: 6/14
Sq. Ft.: 9,838

Newly renovated, this Gambrel-style mansion boasts a sweeping English garden that encloses its one acre. The home's amenities include a home theater, wine cellar, three-car garage and... 

See more images of this stunner.

....a  stone pizza oven! 

See what else this home has to offer.

Location: Rome, Ga. 
Price: $2.5 million
Beds/Baths: 5/6
Sq. Ft.: N/A (9 acres)

Touted as "your own resort on almost nine acres," this property offers pastures and stables along with a pool, spa, tennis court, putting green, 20-seat theater, billiards room and wine cellar. 

See more images of this Southern manse

Pictured here is the residence's lavish gourmet kitchen, which boasts top-of-the-line restaurant-grade appliances. 

See the listing for more details. 

Location: Atlanta, Ga.
Price: $12.5 million
Beds/Baths: 7/13
Sq. Ft.: N/A

This stately Georgian mansion, labeled a "smart home," has pretty nifty tech features that include computerized lighting, audio and security. Amenities include a screening room, gym, sauna and pool.

See the listing for more details. 

The slick, sconce-lit kitchen is nearly cavernous in size and includes a wet bar and sprawling kitchen island. 

See a slideshow of this beauty. 

Location: Atlanta, Ga. 
Price: $12.5 million
Beds/Baths: 5/10
Sq. Ft.: N/A

This home is outfitted for large-scale entertaining and has the amenities to show for it: There's a paneled library, butler's pantry, office, pool, guest suite, massage room, spa, home theater -- phew! -- golf room, gymnasium, gift-wrapping room and living room. 

See the listing for more details. 

And what would a grown-up party house be without an over-the-top kitchen? Crammed with state-of-the-art appliances, this expansive culinary laboratory has two kitchen islands and encompasses a breakfast area with a fireplace. 

See 25 photos of this home

Location: Nashville, Tenn. 
Price: $3.2 million
Beds/Baths: 4/6
Sq. Ft.: 5,598 

Sitting on nearly three acres, this four-story mansion offers plenty of space and a pool. And guess what else? 

See the listing for more details. 

A futuristic, eat-in kitchen with ample cabinetry. 

See the listing for more details. 

Location: Beverly Hills, Calif. 
Price: $40 million
Beds/Baths: 9/13
Sq. Ft.: 13,885

They don't get much more expensive than this giant (though, believe it or not, there do happen to be quite a few houses that dwarf it). This gated mansion offers a swimming pool, tennis courts and, clearly -- at this price -- a whole lot more.

Get a taste of its other features by viewing the listing. 

Armed with a lavish pantry and cherry-stained cabinetry, the home's kitchen is a dream come true for a gourmet chef -- let alone, a movie star's spouse. 

See a slide show of this one-of-a-kind mansion. (There's a pretty thrilling arial shot thrown in.)

Location: Beverly Hills, Calif. 
Price: $27.5 million
Beds/Baths: 5/10
Sq. Ft.: 13,227

This Beverly Hills manse boasts a four-car garage, solar-heated pool and guesthouse. It also offers easy access to community features like tennis, paddle and basketball courts. 

See the listing for more details. 

Gleaming with fine finishes, the kitchen offers a sizable island and pantry, and is stocked with a wide array of appliances. 

See what else this home has to offer

Location: Los Angeles, Calif.
Price: $34.95 million
Beds/Baths: 6/10
Sq. Ft.: 15,000 Sq Ft

You can’t buy happiness, but this stunning architectural home is about as close to a Zen investment as you’re likely to find this side of Nirvana. With six bedrooms and 10 baths, you could start your own religious commune in this sprawling contemporary home. And speaking of food for the soul …

See what we're talking about

Get a load of this divinely feng shui kitchen, complete with dazzling views of the Pacific. Feed your friends (trust us, you’ll have plenty) and entertain in this multifaceted, high-tech kitchen.

See the listing for more details. 

Location: Colleyville, Texas
Price: $7.4 million
Beds/Baths: 7/12
Sq. Ft.: 12,194

Oh, would that we were real Disney princesses! Well, there’s also the princely sum this property costs, but we can dream, can’t we? This palatial estate -- in the Lone Star State, no less -- has everything an aspiring royal could ever want, including a grandiose gourmet kitchen.

Get regal

This Tuscan-style palace is just what fairy tales are made of -- rustic stone walls, golden chandeliers, and a kitchen island to die for. We may be highlighting killer kitchens this week, but the rest of this modern palace has to be seen to be believed. Swoon!

Location: Sunny Isles Beach, Fla.
Price: $7,500,000
Beds/Baths: 3/5
Sq Ft: 4,141 Sq Ft

Sitting on a small fortune but aren’t much into mowing the lawn? Then try this tropical fantasy condo on for size. With cerulean blue around every corner of this luxurious beachside home, sit back and enjoy a Mai Tai in your spacious and airy dining room.

View the listing for more details. 

If you’re so inclined, walk over to your state-of-the-art kitchen and whip up something to snack on before the evening’s stunning sunset.  

See some of the other wild rooms in this mansion

Location: Santa Barbara, Calif.
Price: $19.995 million
Beds/Baths: 5/6
Sq. Ft.: 13,875

The listing touts this single-story home as a “redefining structure within modernism.” Called the Glass Pavilion, its rambling 14,000 square feet sit on 3 1/2 oak-dotted acres in Montecito.

See the listing for more details. 

The glass-box kitchen is a chef’s dream -- provided the chef is obsessively neat. We're willing to bet it’s tough to keep really tidy where there’s a thousand-bottle “wine room”  only steps away.

See the gorgeous features of this home

Location : Newtown, Pa.
Price: $5.9 million
Beds/Baths: 6/8
Sq. Ft.:  13,000

This sprawling brick manor started life as circa-1789 farmhouse, but you have to squint hard to see it. Inside, it’s old meets new, with an expanded and updated interior that spares no modern amenity.

See the over-the-top details here.

The kitchen has every top-of-the-line convenience, including a six-burner range, a built-in grill, a butler’s pantry and acres of storage space.

See a slideshow of the home

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Accent Lighting

Accent lighting is used to draw attention to the unique details of your kitchen. Accent lighting sources include:
• Puck lights to illuminate glass front cabinets, much like in a curio or china cabinet.
• Toe-kick lights to focus attention on flooring with a unique texture or design. They are also helpful to those who like a midnight snack but don't want bright overhead lighting waking them up.
• A table lamp on the counter adds a warm glow to visually soften the hard surfaces of a kitchen. This looks particularly attractive near the desk area of the kitchen, keeping it away from the prep stations and kitchen sink.

One final recommendation: Put each light source on a separate control and a dimmer. This gives you infinite options for creating the perfect ambiance for any situation.

See also:
10 Home Improvements That Are a Waste of Money

Home Improvement: Do's and Don'ts From a Pro
Remodeling: When It's Worth the Cost


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