Light makes our world visible. Lighting plays a central part, and has become more and more of a feature in contemporary kitchen design.
The busiest room in the home, and the centre of activity for cooking, dining and entertaining, a lot of thought should go into lighting for the kitchen. As a multi-functional space, layered lighting is essential.
Think of lighting design as another design element in your kitchen. To create an attractive & functional lighting plan look to use the four types of lighting (Ambient, Task, Accent, Decorative) in layers.
Ambient light (or general lighting) illuminates the entire room and does not need to be exceptionally bright. Task lighting creates bright, focused points of light over work areas, like a bedside reading lamp. decorative lighting is the true decorative element and gives a room a more finished appearance. In more recent times an explosion of Accent options means there are some great options to include lighting inside cabinets.
By layering all these types of lighting, you create a more welcoming space. Using a number of different sources lends a more ‘three-dimensional’ feel and so helps you create the mood you want.
The size of your design and the shape of the room will determine how many lighting fixtures you will need for effective lighting but colour selection makes a difference, too. While natural light during the day (this is both cheaper and more effective) is always preferable, the widespread use of LEDs now gives us more choice. The terms warm white and cool white are references to the low and high end of this white light colour spectrum.
Warm white – is a comfortable white colour that is ideal for ambient or soft accent lighting throughout the kitchen. This is what we typically see in most Australian kitchens. More than 95% of domestic lighting is warm white and more often than not, new house builds opt to install 100% warm white.
Cool white – this is an artificially whiter light that is usually seen in retail shopping centres or offices, and is very useful in household work areas like laundries and garages. Cool white, or the slightly softer “Natural White”, is becoming more widely available with lots of choice for different fixtures.
Always plan to have task lighting in place so you are not relying on the typical grid of ceiling downlights. Lighting from the ceiling can lead to shadows on the work surface during meal prep & cooking.
Look at options to subtlety introduce specific task lighting from a backlit splashback or under cabinet LED lights.
Look to use lighting to help highlight the different work zones in your layout? Think creatively about where you put your light sources. For example, incorporating lighting below an island unit will make it appear to float and it may help to focus on this when entertaining. In kitchens with high ceilings, try adding uplights to the tops of cabinets. This will introduce general light to the space resulting in fewer ceiling downlights.
Look to illuminate any dark spots in your design with soft decorative lighting. If you have display cabinets or glass doors then look to light internally.
A huge range of affordable LED options are usually quite simple to install if good access is available. Modern LED lighting options have less heat output, saving both operating costs as well as preventing cabinets and food becoming too warm.
While traditionally Spotlights are useful for task lighting, they are also a useful tool for increasing the sense of space.
A small or compact design can be emphasised by using directional spotlights angled towards the cupboards and walls. The light is reflected back into the room and is much more effective than shining the light straight down at the floor. Selecting directional versions gives added flexibility.
While the upfront cost is important, plan for the future with fixtures that are efficient to run, and long life bulbs that are also affordable? Current kitchen range of LED lights are typically in the range of 8 or 10W rather than the traditional 50-75W lights of only a few years ago. A large kitchen with 15 or so 15 down or spot lights & decorative cabinet lighting can now be lit with only 200 watts.
For a finished solution, our lights need to be installed and fitted correctly. Some fittings will require an electrician, while other fittings may benefit from integration during the cabinet assembly stage… once your Light design is finalised you can start to talk to relevant trades about the installation and access requirements.
Plan ahead, at some stage you may need access to the power supply (typically LED lights have a transformer plugged into a typical GPO) or to replace bulbs. Think about installing task light that are flush for ease of cleaning. Keep any associated manuals handy for future reference…
While LEDs are small, solid light bulbs which are extremely energy efficient and long lasting, access for maintenance and trouble shooting should be considered.
Gone are the days where are light is switched on or off. Consider the full range of options that are available with LED light fittings from Dimmers, remotes to switch between cool and warm, or auto -switches to turn on lights when pantry doors are opened etc… Now there are also a range of options for simple low power battery operated solutions for retro-fitting or specialty channels for blending lighting seamlessly into your overall design.
Use your sense of style and DO NOT choose a type of light that does not match the style of kitchen. The wrong light will not stop screaming out if it looks wrong. Lighting should be complimentary to your design: and seen but not heard!
Since the kitchen is where most families spend the bulk of their time, it’s important that the space is designed just right, especially when it comes to lighting.
Take the time to think how light will play around your design and your work zones.
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