Design Uses Indirect Lighting to Maximum Effect

SANTA ANA, CA — Ask Gary White and he will tell you it’s easier to take the indirect approach. Indirect lighting is a key part of his approach to illuminating his kitchen and bath designs.

The federal style kitchen discussed here received White’s mix of thoughtfully placed fixtures and integral architectural elements meant to enhance the overall appearance of the design.

Structural Challenges

White, CMKBD, CID and president of Kitchen & Bath Design and Gerrit Design in Newport Beach, CA, explains how he develops a lighting plan for a new construction kitchen such as this: “I don’t share my thoughts about the lighting plan with the clients until the space plan and material choices are complete, although it’s on my mind from the very beginning. It affects every decision from the outset.”

This kitchen is part new construction, part remodel, because the entire room in which the kitchen is located is an addition to the existing home.

To maximize the high gable of the roof, White was able to design a double coffer that provides psychological volume to the space as well as a generous amount of lineal footage for the main source of ambient lighting – dimmable, long fluorescent lamps.

He explains: “Most importantly in this design was how to light the coffer. I’m always looking for a second level in my ceiling to create someplace else to fit these fixtures because they are very long and fairly sizeable. You can’t use them underneath the cabinets, but you can use them on top if you keep them down from the ceiling. I was able to bury them in the ledge of the coffer – and that is the secret.

“The coffer was really the key to this design,” continues White. It allowed him to meet California’s Title 24 lighting efficiency code, which mandates that a residential lighting plan have at least 51% of the total wattage consumed by the design come from state-approved high-efficacy lamps.

The coffer helped White to create a dramatic lighting scheme by tucking away the dimmable lamps before choosing other light fixtures, “because the way we do Title 24 is to lay in our high-efficacy fixtures first and see how many watts we’ve created and then [work] with the low-efficacy side,” he says.

Colors used in the coffer were specifically chosen to complement the lighting needed.

He adds: “The colors of the coffer and the wall behind the uppers were chosen to alter the color of the fluorescent lamps used there.”

Color temperatures of CFLs and other high-efficiency lamps are an ongoing concern for designers. White addressed this by introducing a strategic, burnt-orange stripe of paint above the cabinetry, “that effectively takes what would be the warmest of fluorescent light – a white with a tone of blue – and wipes out the blue tone.”

Getting Specific

Once the overall ambient lighting plan for the coffer was settled, White was free to move on to more specific applications of task lighting around the room.

He continues: “That left room on our Title 24 chart for some low-efficacy applications. The pendants are line voltage mini-can halogen and the recessed cans are line voltage PAR 20 halogen. These give me the tight beam spread for a splash of extra bright light right where I want it and without the cost of remote transformers.”

White sought to highlight the island in a variety of ways, including MR11 pendants to bring out the tones in the ebony-finished rich walnut wood countertop

“I still haven’t found anything that gives the same focus as halogen. [I say this because] designers need to be vigilant to control beam spreads, especially with regard to color and lines,” he remarks.

White also chose tightly focused MR35 halogens over the sink at a 30-degree beam spread for specific task lighting; he encourages designers to carefully consider the placement of these when designing a lighting scheme, because poorly spaced task lighting can create dark areas and glare, respectively.

“That’s why they need to be close together. A lot of people mistakenly put one recessed can over the sink. That can generate off-angle reflectants. You want to concentrate on illuminating the object, not spilling light into the eye,” he says.

White says the recessed cans are critical. He adds: “These lights were critical to the layout. The recessed can was designed to provide task lighting or accent lighting. The biggest mistake I see designers make is peppering a kitchen with rows of recessed cans, because the design then has no accent, no focus and ultimately, no interest.”

Finally, the lighting scheme has the ability to switch moods at the push of a button.

“All of this is controlled by a Lutron scene controller that allows the homeowners to access several preset lighting scenes at the touch of a single controller instead of having to individually adjust six dimmers to achieve the desired ambience,” concludes White.