An essential decor layer
Suzanne Frost speaks to an expert about cooking up the best lighting scheme for your kitchen
PLANNING kitchen lighting is as important to designing and remodelling a kitchen as picking out the cabinetry and appliances; however, it is one aspect that is often overlooked.
Says Melissa Davidson from The Lighting Warehouse: “The kitchen of today is often the busiest room in the home — it is where we cook, eat, socialise, and often work. The fact that this room has become a multifunctional space is clearly reflected in how modern designs often incorporate some kind of open-plan layout between the kitchen and the living areas.
“In line with this new and evolving trend, the lighting design in a kitchen is very important as it needs to accommodate various activities and functions in both an aesthetically pleasing and a functional manner.”
Where, historically, homeowners might have used one single fluorescent to try to light up their whole kitchen, there are actually a number of various types of lighting that can be used to light a kitchen, including fluorescent tubing, under-cabinet, cabinet downlighting, recessed, pendant, chandelier and wire system lighting. These can be divided into four broad categories or layers of lighting, which include task, ambient, accent and decorative lighting.
“The biggest mistake most people make is trying to light their entire kitchen with one centrally placed fixture without considering the size of the kitchen and or the different applications of lighting in different areas of their kitchen. Although a successful kitchen lighting design need not be complex, it should be layered in order to create a warm and inviting space that can function as a cooking area, a practical workspace and an appealing entertainment area,” explains Davidson.
A fundamental requirement in any kitchen, task lighting, as its name implies, aids in all the tasks that get done in the kitchen, such as cutting, cooking, reading and moving from one place to the other. The placement of task lighting needs to be carefully planned to avoid unwanted shadows on your workspace.
“Key locations for task lighting include underneath and overhead cabinets, over the island, over the hob or sink, above the kitchen table — in fact, anywhere you will be chopping, slicing, cooking, washing up, mixing, eating or reading. The pantry is another place that requires bright, focused light — here a novel idea is to install some kind of sensor light that switches on whenever the door is opened or, for bigger pantries, whenever somebody walks in,” explains Davidson.
She says that under-cabinet and under-counter lighting are great choices, as they provide bright task lighting, but the actual light fitting is out of sight.
Ambient light can be described as the general, overall light that fills in shadows, reduces contrast and lights vertical surfaces to make the space feel lighter, airier and more inviting. “This particular category of lighting is often overlooked in the kitchen, but it is essential as it makes the space more alluring and creates a more sociable ambience — it softens lines and shadows and gives a room an appealing warm glow,” explains Davidson.
She says that today’s kitchens are an integral part of the entertainment areas, and as such, the lighting needs to attract people into the space and making them feel warm and welcome. Ideal fittings for ambient lighting include flush-mounted ceiling fixtures, pendant light fittings, and adjustable wire system lighting.
As the kitchen is being increasingly used for casual entertaining, so is accent lighting becoming a progressively more popular addition to lighting designs.
Essentially, accent lighting is used to give a space a third dimension by illuminating various focal features that we would like people to notice or admire, such as artwork, interesting architectural detailing, or a mosaic splashback, for example. “Lighting that is installed inside glass cabinets to illuminate collections of china or glassware is another great source of accent lighting,” notes Davidson. Wire system lighting, up- lighters, directional eyeball lights and wall sconces are all great sources of accent lighting.
Nowadays, you can add LED globes and reduce the heat buildup, while saving on your electricity bill as well.
“Decorative lighting is the proverbial cherry on top — it is the light fitting that everybody will notice; one that will tie in and complement the overall decor style of the kitchen,” says Davidson. She notes that it is essential that the scale of the fitting you have chosen is right for the space: “As such, size and proportion are critical considerations. What is nice about choosing decorative fittings however, is that you can really have fun and choose a fitting more for its aesthetic appeal than for its functionality.” Great choices for decorative lighting include chandeliers, hanging pendants and any other eye-catching fittings.
Davidson says that the underlying concept of any layered lighting design, is to ensure that you have a variety of lighting options available at your fingertips: “The easiest way to ensure this is to use multiple switches for each layer of lighting for better control — whatever you do, do not put all the lighting on one switch.
“Also, you can use dimmer switches to control and help stage different types of lighting effects for different types of occasions by lowering or brightening the lights.”