Lighting and your Kitchen

Make sure your Kitchen Design Plans include Copious Amounts of Kitchen Lighting

By Mark J. Donovan

Having abundant lighting in your kitchen should be a key goal in your kitchen design plan. Kitchens are the heart of every home. It’s not only where we prepare food, but also the area where we eat and gather with family members multiple times throughout the day and evening. For many homeowners it’s also often the place where kids do homework, iron and fold clothes, and pay bills. Consequently it is essential to have copious amounts of lighting in your kitchen.

When planning a kitchen design there are two key types of lighting you should include.
First, there should be general overhead lighting that bathes the entire kitchen with ambient lighting.

Depending upon the size of the kitchen you may need multiple overhead lighting fixtures to provide sufficient general kitchen lighting.

Second, there should be recessed spot workspace lighting over key areas of the kitchen, such as over kitchen countertops, sinks, stoves, islands, and eating areas. Typically can lights, high hats, or pot lights are used for workspace kitchen lighting. Recessed lighting can also be used for general overhead lighting if there are a sufficient number of them used and they are strategically located throughout the kitchen.

An alternative to recessed spot lights are spot workspace light fixtures that have long stems, or rods, that hang down from the kitchen ceiling and have a halogen or xenon type light fixture at the end of the rod. These types of lighting fixtures are known as pendant lighting. The light fixture typically sits about two to three feet over the workspace area.

The main goal for lighting and your kitchen is to ensure that there are no shadows when and where you are working in the kitchen.

To prevent shadows, again it’s critical to use multiple light fixtures and to have them positioned close enough to the work area such that your body can not shield them and cast shadows on the work area.

Kitchen lighting

Another type of kitchen lighting to consider is under kitchen cabinet lighting, or accent lighting. This type of lighting can create continuous work space lighting as it lights up the entire kitchen countertop under the cabinets. You may also want to consider including track lighting above the upper kitchen cabinets to create a warm comfortable glow in the kitchen. This type of lighting also helps to provide general kitchen lighting.

If your kitchen design plans include an island, look to use two or three pendant light fixtures over it. Pendant light fixtures provide both aesthetics and workspace lighting that can accent and highlight your kitchen island.

In regards to lighting control, have the general overhead kitchen lighting controlled by one switch, and the workspace lighting controlled by another. If your kitchen lighting plan includes many overhead lights you may want to have a couple of switches to turn them on and off. Moreover, you may want to consider using 3-way switches so that you can turn the lights off from different entrances into the kitchen. Also, you may want to have a separate switch for pendant lights over the kitchen island.

In terms of light bulb element technology you have a lot of options today. Besides the standard incandescent light bulbs, there are xenon, halogen, LED, and fluorescent light bulbs.

For help on your kitchen remodeling project, see my Kitchen Remodeling Bid Sheet. The Kitchen Remodeling Bid Sheet provides a request for quote checklist section that you can provide to prospective kitchen remodeling contractors. It also includes a comprehensive kitchen remodeling cost breakdown table, in Microsoft Excel format, that allows the contractor to include his projected remodeling costs for every phase of the project.

Related Information

Additional Kitchen Remodeling Design Resources


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