When choosing a new kitchen one aspect of the process that people often misunderstand or underestimate the importance of is selecting appropriate kitchen lighting.
Getting this right is essential as a well-lit kitchen means the difference between an enjoyable, easy and safe kitchen experience, and one that is impractical and awkward to use. Kitchen lighting also largely influences the look and ambience of a room space.
For such reasons kitchen lighting should be carefully planned from the start of the kitchen design process, and never an afterthought. Essentially there are three types of lighting to consider within your kitchen, each with a different purpose. Homeowners usually include a combination of these according to their needs and what they want to achieve within the space, a process referred to as layering.
The most successful kitchen designs usually include a combination of all three lighting types:
1) Kitchen task lighting
Just the same as using a nightlight for reading or lamplight whilst working, kitchen task lighting assists in preparing and cooking food. For these specific actions, direct light is focused on localised areas of your kitchen, usually the worktop, cooker and sink area.
In many circumstances the main worktop space for food preparation is directly beneath wall cabinets which can darken the area beneath or cast shadows. Without additional lighting this can make chopping and slicing, or piping and icing, much more challenging, or even dangerous in the case of the former.
Yet it shouldn’t be.
For this area task lighting in the form of spotlights recessed into the underside of wall cabinets is a popular solution. Spotlights have a narrow beam of light to illuminate distinct sites. Other task lighting options include pendants over an island flooding the area beneath, shelf lighting or cabinet lighting which easily show cupboard contents, and extractors over a hob with integrated spotlights to light up the cooking zone below.
2) Ambient kitchen lighting
Whilst task lighting is a very bright and focused light for specific kitchen areas, ambient lighting is more generalised. The lighting option base layer, it is usually softer and warmer in tone, bouncing off the ceiling to provide broad and even illumination across the kitchen.
Its function is less about practical use and more about creating a specific look and feel for the room, whether you want traditional and homely, or minimal and contemporary. Ambient lighting options include recessed ceiling downlights, pendant lights or uplights on top of cabinets which add an even layer of light to the space (and reducing the number of downlights required).
Particularly as kitchens are now the predominant social space within people’s homes, ambient lighting combinations should include the flexibility to soften the lights from a bright daylight casual kitchen feel, to a more atmospheric and intimate setting, ideal for a dinner party or romantic meal! Most lighting systems have a dimming control panel for this purpose, and to facilitate use, they also work remotely so are easily operable via an iPhone or iPad.
Task and ambient lighting work in harmony, allowing a fully lit working area of the kitchen contrasted against a softer backdrop. This is particularly useful in an open plan kitchen and living room arrangement, for example someone watching television in the living room could do so with the lights dimmed whilst at the same time kitchen task lighting would be sufficient for their partner to comfortably work in the kitchen.
3) Accent kitchen lighting
The third type of kitchen lighting is accent or feature lighting and this has a primarily decorative purpose, enhancing the select features of your kitchen that you want to stand out. This might include cabinet lighting for either a traditional or contemporary kitchen look (especially effective if you have glass fronted doors).
LED strip lights around a mirrored splash back, or along the underside of a kitchen island worktop create a stunning and contemporary kitchen appearance, or for islands can be used to create a floating kitchen effect.
Feature lighting in combination with ambient lighting creates a three dimensional feel, which in turn enriches the tone that has been set within a space. As with task lighting, it is possible to change the colour of lights as well as dim them to create different effects, and they do no need to be switched on all of the time or at the same time. This is particularly appealing for homeowners who want to bring wow factor to their kitchen and for entertaining guests.
Make light work of your options!
The kitchen is both a work and social setting, so lighting should be practical where needed, yet in all cases it will still express character and personality through individual style choices!
As the kitchen is the most frequented room of the house, it is this that says the most about you! Choices for task lighting, ambient lighting and feature lighting are many and far between, so when planning a new kitchen you should be sure to explore all your options and remember that the best kitchen designs are those that incorporate all three types of lighting. This guarantees comfort, usability safety, and of course…style!