Kitchen Lighting Tips

kitchen lighting

Being an interior designer means more than helping clients with the pretty stuff.  It also means staying current on technology and trends.  This week, to stay current with my design certification, a class on kitchen lighting was in order.  Even though I know the basics, it’s always a good idea to have a refresher now and then to learn something new.  And, of course, I love to share it with you!

The most important take-away for the class, that I can’t stress enough, is the need to plan.  We plan our vacations, our road trips, and even our days.  In a remodel, we plan our cabinet layout and our appliances.  But how many of us don’t even think about planning the best type of lighting we need in the kitchen?  We know that we need overhead lighting.  And if you’re “lucky enough” to have a fluorescent box on your ceiling, you know that you want to get rid of it!  But what should you replace it with?  Let’s take a look at the three essential layers of lighting that are important in every kitchen.

Layer 1 – Ambient Lighting is the general lighting that brightens our kitchen and is the foundation for all the other lighting in the room.  The goal with ambient lighting is to have even distribution throughout the space so we don’t have dark pockets that make it hard to see.  

In the past, builders and re-modelers turned to the flush mount light fixture, or the lovely fluorescent box centered in the work space.  The trend today is to use recessed can lights.  And then we always have the questions…How many cans should we use?  How should they be spaced?  The answer to this is based on the ceiling height, the colors in the room and how they reflect, and…your age.  Yes, our eyesight gets worse as we age, and some of us feel more confident with more overhead lights.

accent lighting

Krieg Home. Shooting for Home Forge Remodeling. June 27, 2006.

Layer 2 – Accent Lighting

Most of us love this layer because it’s the “jewelry” for the kitchen.  A few ideas of where to place them are:

  • Pendants over an island or table
  • Over the cabinets, tucked away behind the crown molding
  • Inside cabinets with glass fronts to show off what’s inside
  • Lighting in a tray or cove ceiling
  • Under counters
  • On floating shelves which are popular today
  • Toe kicks…especially good for late night visits to the kitchen so you can find your way!

Layer 3 – Task Lighting is especially needed to help us see better when we’re working around the kitchen.  Things like reading the buttons on the coffee maker or dicing vegetables are all made easier with task lighting. 

We all want to have our counter work space illuminated so that we can see better and avoid dark spots.  That’s why it’s so important to install under cabinet lighting in your home

To get the best coverage and light up your whole counter, the lights need to be installed to the front of the cabinets.  LED tape strips offer the best opportunity for this.  And the length of the light strip needs to correspond to the width of the cabinet.  A big no-no would be to try to save money and install a 12” light strip on a 36” cabinet.  Doing that would create shadow pockets on your counter, and make seeing difficult.

Unfortunately, on tight budget projects, this is often the first thing to get deleted off the want/need list.  And it’s the one thing that clients regret not including.  I can’t stress how important it is to find other ways to stay within your budget.

We plan everything else in our kitchens, so why not take the time to plan our lighting.  Remember before you run out and buy the pretty fixtures, put some thought into where you want the lights, where you plan to do the most work, and then where you want that WOW factor of beautiful pendants.

Top 10 Kitchen Tips to Love it Now….Sell it Later

top 10Through all the years of designing kitchens and baths, the number one request is “How can I update my kitchen without doing a full blown renovation”?

At first the immediate need was to fix it up as inexpensively as possible so that the homeowner could put it on the market to sell.  You see, the economy was booming.  Clients were excited to cash in on the fast home sales and increased value. Remember those days?  But then, the economy crashed.  No one was doing anything…except sitting tight.

Flash forward to today.  We’re finally ready to invest a little and update our homes.  But I’m finding that homeowners are more interested in enjoying their investment for a few years, and then trying to sell.  Their ROI, for the present, is enjoyment!  Some will stay a year or two and others still aren’t quite sure.

But before you make any type of investment in your kitchen, you need to take a good, unbiased look at the space and ask yourself these questions:

  • Is the space plan working for you and your work habits?
  • Are the cabinets in good condition?
  • Will you REALLY love the cabinets enough after you paint them?

Asking yourself these questions is extremely important.  Adding new granite countertops to worn out cabinets is a waste of your money.  If you even think that you might want new cabinets a year from now….WAIT UNTIL YOU CAN AFFORD IT!!!!  Countertops cannot be taken off  to install new cabinets.   But, if you’re comfortable with your answers, then it’s time to move forward with some updates that will let you love your kitchen again.

1.  Replace the countertop with a new surface.  This also morphs into a new sink, faucet, and sometimes, garbage disposer.

2.  Paint your cabinets a fun color.  I especially love painting oak cabinets because the grain of the wood comes through.

3.  Change the cabinet hardware.  If you’re painting the cabinets you don’t need to worry about making sure you replace with the same size hardware.  You can even add a knob in place of a pull.

4.  Paint your walls and trim, especially if you still have the typical  80’s floral wallpaper and dark wood trim.  This will really brighten the space.

5.  Add roll out shelves to the inside of all base cabinets.  This will make life much easier!

6.  Change your backsplash to something neutral and calming or fun and colorful.

7.  Take care of clutter inside your drawers by adding dividers.

8.  Look for lower price point cabinets to make the big change.  They won’t have as many bells and whistles or modification options, but will get you a new look and a new plan at a reasonable cost.

9. Change the lighting.  Remember, though, that the popcorn ceiling might need to be fixed.  But buyers don’t want that or the fluorescent box in the ceiling.

10. New appliances with up-to-date technology like Energy Star rating and excellent food preservation.

Design Homework:

Take a personal assessment of your kitchen to see how you can implement some of these tips to update your space.

If you’ve enjoyed reading these tips, and would like to learn more, leave your name and email in the box at the right.  Every week I send design tips, trends, and the latest product information for your kitchen, bath, and…more!