Association Offers Tips to Light Up Kitchen Designs
But before lighting the lights, there are some variables that should be taken into account first, according to the not-for-profit trade association, which consists of lighting component manufacturers, showrooms, distributors and manufacturer representatives. Most importantly, the association stresses, the right recipe for lighting a kitchen should be determined by the size and complexity of the room.
For example, small kitchens may require only a single central ceiling fixture and task lighting tucked under a cabinet while more elaborate kitchens will demand a blend of general, task and accent lighting.
Regardless of the type of lighting used, however, one thing is certain: Today's kitchens have become more than just a place to prepare meals and proper lighting is crucial in supporting the kitchen as the center of family activity.
As Monty Gilbertson, CLC, manager and buyer for Lighting Design by Wettsteins in Lacrosse, WI, explains: "Lights have specific functions, whether it's to accent a specific area, create general ambience or focus on a task."
Specifically, functional fixtures will provide well-diffused general lighting ideal for moving about the room safely, peering inside drawers and cabinets and performing chores, the association notes.
Geoff Dent, president of Dent Electrical Supply in Danbury, CT states, "I see people every day who are saddled with one light in the middle of the kitchen. This means that everywhere around the perimeter, work is done in one's own shadow."
According Gary White, CKD, CBD for Newport Beach, CA-based Kitchen & Bath Design, designers need to follow one major rule of thumb to effectively avoid problems. "Just like any other high-end product, lighting should either stand out to make a statement or disappear into the design for it to work," he offers.
According to the association, recessed downlights are a good way to create even illumination and lighting for task areas.
Barry Levett, owner and president of House of Lights in Mayfield Heights, OH agrees. "When you add new lights over the sink or stove, the whole area comes alive," he says.
But, the association warns, designers should make sure to mix light properly. "I've seen people not sure about what to do with their lighting, so they keep adding recessed lights, instead of mixing various lighting types," says Steve Birdwell, CLC, Bay Lighting & Design, in San Francisco, CA.
White interjects, "If you try to be energy efficient and begin spreading cans too far apart, you will get dots of light. If you overlap the circles, you will have too much power. It is important to remember that dark surfaces are light absorbent and suck the light from the room. Therefore, many times [designers] put extenders on the bulb so that the lamp is stuck below the opening of the can. This causes off-angle reflectants, which means the light is striking the retina before it hits the surface. Remember, the goal is to light the object, not the eye."
For White, another innovative task lighting solution is xenon, which is a gas that burns much cooler than halogen lighting, therefore reducing the chance of a client getting burned when touching the bulb.
For White, decorative lighting fixtures can also offer many functional solutions for designers. "I recommend more indirect fixtures, such as coffers or decorative lighting fixtures. I find that the use of a simple incandescent decorative fixture close to the ceiling is very energy efficient and [offers] greater general illumination."
White also suggests chandeliers and pendants because they tend to throw light in various directions and are a good way to create ambience in a kitchen.
A decorative pendant operating with a dimmer control will also provide a good lighting option, the association suggests.
White's company has taken this one step further, designing a fixture that uses a new T-5 high-output fluorescent lamp combined with a dimming valance that allows control of the light intensity without flicker.
He also points out that the T-5, which has replaced the T-8 (and is half the size), offers about 30 percent more luminance and enables it to be installed into even the smallest of locations over cabinetry.
For added design appeal, Levett suggests a trio of decorative lights used over an island. "It breaks up the kitchen but you can still see through it," he notes.
"Halogen provides great drama in the kitchen, as well," he adds. "Used under cabinets, it electrifies the look of granite and marble countertops."
Gilbertson offers this tip: "You want to position your lighting so that the light spills into all the areas of your kitchen. If clients are buying cabinets, you want to make sure the cabinets are lit properly. If not, the light actually creates gray shadow areas."
Therefore, slim, energy-efficient designs such as miniature track lights or low-voltage linear systems and under- and over-cabinet lighting will light up countertops and accent ceilings, the association points out.
"Lights above the cabinets should be soft and low voltage," says Gilbertson. "The light over the sink should have its own switch. The same holds true with the lights over the island and those over counters."
But, White notes, "Designers should also be aware of a condition called voltage drop. They need to calculate, based on the length of the run of the secondary wire from the transformer, because low voltage means low power. If this is overlooked, fixtures at the end of the run will be dimmer."
To alleviate this, he suggests that designers use 24-volt lighting. According to White, this will push the electricity through the end of the cabinetry run more efficiently.
In larger kitchens, designers will need to install fewer transformers, and ultimately, this will create lower overall cost for kitchen lighting projects.