Need Kitchen Lighting Ideas? It’s Easy If You Do It Smartly
The kitchen lighting is without any doubt an essential aspect of the kitchen, and the ideas are intimately related to your real needs and wishes.
Also, the kitchen may be used as gathering place for dinning or other activities, therefore its lighting requirements will depend on its simplicity or complexity and the size of the same.
Your kitchen is the lab, there you can develop wonderful recipes, and while you cook you play with fire, knives and so on. These critical tasks require special and dedicated lights to achieve yummy meals, but with safety!
I want to briefly mention the three basic types of lighting that you’re already probably using at your home:
#1 General lighting
It’s also called ambient light. As the word “general” says, are lights that cover areas with a basic and comfy level of illumination without producing glare, and also you can walk plus to do primary tasks with comfort.
These tasks should not be of intense requirement in term of level of light because, if this is case, we need to go the second type: the task lights.
#2 Task lighting
It’s normally concentrated for focused tasks like reading, cooking, working and so forth. Usually these types of lights are like spot-lights that don’t provide glares and shadows. E.g. track lights, desk lamps, undercabinet lighting, etc.
#3 Accent lighting
It’s the typical light that performs a decorative function like to illuminate plants, pictures, sculptures, landscapes, etc.
Also, it is used to highlight textures of brick walls or similar surfaces. To make effect, the intensity of the light should be at least three times compared to the general lighting that is available at the room.
Generally speaking, the kitchen lighting ideas will mix a bit of the three type of lights mentioned. Whether you’re remodeling, updating or designing a brand new kitchen, the idea should be to achieve a fresh and bright look, in an economic & efficient way.
The overall kitchen lighting can be done with a central chandelier, track lights along the kitchen, or with perimeter recessed cans covering the room to give a nice and ambient light in your entire kitchen.
Can you add a dimmer to the existent lighting in your kitchen? You’ll save several bucks and the same time, you can add flexibility with new light-dimensions into the same space.
A good option is to have under cabinet lighting with a separated switch of the general switch of the kitchen; you’ll have more control or dimmable lights getting an energy-efficient system.
Place the undercabinet light to not be stuck to the wall, in that way you’ve a better distribution of the light in this space.
In-cabinet lighting isn’t new, but more and more LED lighting products are being used for that function. LED fixtures are designed with a modern look and are elegant, plus very slim: LED linear cabinet lighting, LED puck lights, and LED flexible tape lights can be examples of these uses.
Sure, you’ve still halogen and fluorescent fixtures, but the LEDs are the stars today for their extreme long life. As it’s the latest technology, manufacturers made them in the way you can update your existent standard light bulbs for new LED versions. The only caveat: LED bulb costs.
Lighting over the sink, can be accomplished with downlights (recessed lights or can lights or recessed cans – different names for the same things) to have an appropriated level of illumination for daily tasks, such as cooking.
Be aware to control the light concentration of them, because you’ve floodlight or spotlight versions. The downlight shapes can be round or square to tailor your wishes in the decoration.
If for some motive, the access to the ceiling of your kitchen is difficult on that space (e.g. several beams), try instead a track lighting system that do not require making big holes in the ceiling.
For that reason, the light over the kitchen table must be general and a task light, at the same time.
Decorative pendants with good CFL bulbs or LED lamps can give enough light, and also add character to this space.
About the height to mount the pendant from the ceiling, I suggest to take in consideration your height and light fixture should stay above your eyesight level, or at least at the same level of the bottom edge of the pendant.
In that way you cover the entire table; higher and the light would be flood, and lower would be too narrow, then it would not cover the whole table.
Having more than 20 years of experience in technical lighting and design, I can assure you that the lighting for kitchens must be planned like any other part of your house and not to put any type of lights, just for its color or to suit only the decor.
We need to distinguish several factors to determine the necessary lighting fixtures for your kitchen.
So here we go:
- What type of colors has your kitchen?
- Wall color? Cream, white…coffee is darker, need more light.
- Whitish or darkish cabinetry?
- Kitchen cabinets create important shadows on your countertops? If the answer is a yes, perhaps you’d think of adding undercabinet lighting.
- Ceiling color? White or soft colors tend to reflex better the light than dark colors.
- Floor color? Darker floors tend to absorb the light (it doesn’t matter if the light is artificial or natural)
An aspect of the design that is underrated. You need to have clear, the measurements of your kitchen to have an idea of how many lights and of what wattage would be the bulbs (this is called iluminance and, in few words, is the quantity of light that is available e.g. on your table)
High or very high: you’d consider brightening your kitchen, with pendant lighting, regardless the style of the same (pendant lights, a series of mini-pendant lights, chandeliers, etc.)
Not too high: then an option could be semiflush fixtures, flush-mount, recessed lighting or track lighting.
Island counters normally, require a combination of general lighting and the same time, task lighting. Good solutions are groups of miniature pendants according to the measurement of the island and the ceiling height, choosing the quantity of pendants proportionally to these factors.
On kitchens, I don’t recommend fabric lamp shades because are harder to clean, instead use crystal or semi-crystal lamp shades.
Lighting fixture performances are intimately related to the light bulb used.
They are popular and are widely used. They are cheaper, but are the worst in terms of energy consumption per light offered.
Their lifetime is 1000 hours and can be less depending on the fluctuation of the power that shorter the lifespan.
The basic shapes are: the standard bulb you know, the globe and decorative like flames, etc.
You can increase the performance of incandescent bulbs with reflector bulbs that irradiate the light only onward, instead of all directions.
On modern kitchen lighting, you’d try avoiding these types of bulbs for more efficient light solutions like, halogen bulbs, fluorescent lights, CFL or led kitchen lights. We’ll see them next.
Halogen incandescent bulbs
They are brighter, and have a white light not a yellow-white light like the general A incandescent bulbs. They have a shelf life of about 2000 hours and give more light per watt consumed.
You can find them for your normal line voltage (120 or 220 volts depending of your country) and for 12 volts, low voltage (this require a transformer) and is much safer than the line voltage.
The T3 double-ended bulbs (a small transparent tube) are the standards on homes on living rooms, kitchens, bath lighting fixtures and outdoor floodlights. The indoor lighting fixtures that use them can be pendants, wall-sconces (direct and indirect lights), etc.
Specifically in lighting for kitchens, other types are low voltage 12 volts like MR16 bulbs (most of them are dichroic lamps).
The lighting fixtures are track lights with MR16 track light heads, recessed light trims (adjustable or fixed) and halogen multi-lamp ceiling fixtures.
Other uses are with the famous bi-pin bulbs (T4). These bulbs are small-light-torches that allow manufactures to play in a myriad of designs, typically used in undercabinet lighting, kitchen cabinet lights, pendants with multiple arms with bi-pins at the end of 10/20/35 or 50W, low-voltage track lighting and certainly, in halogen desk lamps.
Of course there are more shapes and wattages in halogen bulbs, but there aren’t find normally in kitchens. They are more for outdoors, but today CFL or LED lamps are the actual replacements for their better performances.
These are the typical fluorescent tubes found in ceiling fixtures, recessed lightings, strips, slim kitchen cabinet lights and so on. T8 or T5 bulbs are the fluorescent lamps and they need ballasts (magnetic or electronic).
Electronic ballasts has less loss, heat and no hum, but caution: only if they are of high quality, if not you must replace them often and it can be a nightmare 😉
The lifespan is 10.000 to 30.000 hours (it depends a lot of the manufacturers), and are better than incandescent bulbs in energy-consumption versus light emitted.
The colors you can find are warm (pinkish), natural (white) or cold colors (bluish).
Bear in mind, that warm tones have more red and highlight better all the spectrum of reds, while cold colors emphasizes blues and greens. Red meat, lighted with a cold fluorescent tube can looks ugly – this is why supermarkets should use warmer colors to light the sections of red meats 🙂
Just for your information, the different colors have what is called, color temperatures.
Shapes are straight, circles (great in round ceiling fixtures for kitchens, for low ceiling heights), U-tube and the well-known compacts or CFLs.
Fluorescent kitchen lighting benefits from the Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs), because these small fluorescent bulbs allow a plethora of designs for them. The idea is to replace incandescent lamps, so the CFLs use standard lamp sockets.
Shapes for CFLs are mostly helical, and tubular-types, and are compact to fit in the existent fixtures.
Fluorescent lighting can be potentially dimmable, but you must be sure that the bulbs are to be used with dimmers.
Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) light bulbs are based on chips (the same used in electronics). They are so small and have a great efficiency, plus are constantly improved.
These are cutting-edge technology and the latest trend seem to replace several lamps, fluorescent and halogen. Their life is from 20.000 to 50.000 hours (once more, the quality is a paramount factor).
Normally, in all the markets are mixed low quality and high quality of them, so you’ll notice why one led fixture was cheaper than the other, because the light will plummet or directly, it’ll stop working later on.
LED kitchen lighting has a lot of hype, and they are ideal for undercabinet lighting, strips, recessed LED lighting, LED dimmable track lighting kits, LED rope lights, compact pucks and so forth.
Kitchen lights with led technology are excellent but, you can have a problem: they are very expensive. Sometimes, the cost of the bulbs themselves are more expensive than the own light fixture! On the other hand, in the long-haul you’ll decrease the energy bills, so you should make the calculation if it’s worth or not, as a first stage.
Warning: before pursuing any type of led lighting, find out if the power supply (driver) is included or not, and if the bulb is included or not, too. You might get nasty $$$ surprises when you receive the fixtures and you see that is lacking some part that is pretty expensive.
Only trust in vendors that sell quality LED lighting fixtures & bulbs, have good support and the LED kitchen lights come with detailed instructions to install all the parts, or it comes mostly already assembled from factory.
This advice perhaps is obvious, but you’d match the style of your kitchen with the corresponding light fixtures. You’d not put a very modern “UFO”-style mini-pendant with halogen or LED lights in a rustic kitchen. In that case, it suits better a rustic lighting with rustic handmade chandeliers, or to search for antique or vintage lighting fixtures. However, if you wish, you can sure mix different styles of modern & antiques, because in tastes there is all under the sun 😉
But one thing you’d have present, that it doesn’t matter the style you’re looking for, you should follow the technology choosing energy-efficient bulbs and fixtures according to your budget.
High-tech gadgets are popping up and populating on your entire home, and the kitchens are following this trend with more sophistication.
Kitchen light fixtures are on the same track, coming with better lamps in terms of light-level, wattage and lifespan.
My recommendation is to examine carefully every one of the variables mentioned in this article, even be aware of the regular maintenance of the kitchen & cabinet lighting fixtures.
The worst thing is that after sometime, when you’d need to change the bulb, you’d see that is hard to open the light fixture, or a plastic tab for opening broke at first touch, or you need to follow tons of steps described in a user-manual, or you need to disarm practically the entire lighting fixture…come on, this should not be rocket science!
It happened to me: one day, when I was to change a bulb in a low quality ceiling lamp (I knew it later), immediately the socket produced a short circuit that generated a blackout in all the house and also burn other things – I need an entire day to fix the problem, and all produced for changing a single light bulb…so you’re warned 😉
Happy lighting in your kitchen!