Guide to Home Lighting: The Kitchen

Modern kitchen

The kitchen is the most popular room in the house, and not just for cooking. It now serves as a place to entertain, to pay bills, do homework, and gather as a family. With so much time spent in the kitchen, homeowners should pay close attention to the type of lighting in this gathering space.

A beautiful and hardworking kitchen needs to have three types of lighting to maximize the multitasking: task, ambient, and accent lighting lights for accenting inside the cabinets.

Ambient lighting

Ambient lighting is the overall background lighting of a room. The obvious benefit is that it enables you to navigate around the room without bumping into things, but when put on a dimmer it can also serve as mood lighting for entertaining. Ambient lighting sources include:
  • 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 9 feet or higher.
  • Ceiling fixtures add style and function in smaller kitchens with a ceiling height of 8 feet or lower.
  • Up-lightstucked behind decorative objects on top of the cabinets.
  • Rope lightingtucked 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.

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 4 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.

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.

Incorporating all three types of lighting in your kitchen plan will provide you with a functional and attractive space for today's active lifestyle. Considering how much money goes into outfitting a kitchen with cabinets, counters, sinks, appliances and flooring, it makes sense to do your best to plan for beautiful lighting to make the most of your effort.

One final recommendation for kitchen lighting is to have each light source on a separate control and a dimmer. This gives you infinite options for creating the perfect ambiance for any situation.

Barbara Green is The Design Diva and owner of Sensibly Chic Interior Design. She creates one-of-a-kind interiors that reflect your taste, lifestyle and budget. Follow on Twitter @thedesigndiva.
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