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What Everyone Needs to Know About Their Kitchen Lighting

If you've been following my blog, you know that I've been running a series on kitchens and kitchen design ideas. Many homeowners get stumped on lighting when they're trying to decide how to design a kitchen. Kitchen lighting is an important part of your kitchen's design, functionality, and beauty.

If you're wondering how to design a kitchen, I can help! I enjoy helping homeowners choose their kitchen lighting because it strongly affects the mood in the room. Lighting is also an important part of kitchen safety. If you can't see properly, you can't safely cut food, fry food, bake food - really, lighting is everything in the kitchen.

One of the things I love about kitchen lighting is how varied it is. There are a million different types of light fixtures you can choose for the kitchen. Some types of lighting illuminate your work surface while you work. Some types of lighting set a mood. Some draw attention to beautiful parts of your kitchen.

Variety is the spice of life - and in the kitchen, it's an essential characteristic in your lighting design.

Some people find designing their kitchen lighting to be overwhelming, but I love this part of planning a kitchen! Below, I've listed some very important things to know about kitchen lighting. Before you get started on your kitchen remodel project in New Jersey, here's what to consider on how to design a kitchen.

Ambient & Task Lighting

There are a lot of terms that people use over and over again in their lighting schemes. Two of these terms are ambient lighting and task lighting. Ambient lighting is the general lighting in the kitchen. Its purpose is to light the room for general use. Ambient lighting originates in the ceiling, often from a large overhead fixture or multiple recessed can lights.

Task lighting is lighting that illuminates specific work surfaces where you can finish... well, tasks. Task lighting is often found under cabinets to illuminate the countertops where you'll be cutting your vegetables.

Every kitchen needs task lighting as well as ambient lighting, with special attention paid to lighting work surfaces - including the island. Recessed lights and even track lights can be used for these purposes.

Pendant Lighting

Pendants are the perfect light source for dining areas, whether that's countertop or over the dining room table. I recommend hanging pendant lights 30 to 36 inches over the countertop or eating surface, to keep them well above your head. Keep in mind that pendant lights are only a good choice for lighting your dining room table if you're sure about the placing of the dining room table, as well orientation. If you don’t want individual pendants, a sleek linear chandelier can be used to light eating surfaces as well.

If you're hanging pendant lighting over your island, go big or go home. Don’t be afraid to go larger than you are comfortable with, just make sure the scale works in the end. Example: for a 7-foot island you can hang two larger pendants that are 24 inches wide, or three smaller pendants.

Kitchen Eat In Area Design by Maria Bowers Photo by Linda Pordon Photography

Under Cabinet Lighting

Under cabinet lighting is good for additional task lighting. This type of lighting creates a nice ambiance when combined with lights from nearby pendant fixtures. Under cabinet lighting may also reduce the amount of electricity used when your kitchen is not in use - simply leave the under cabinet lighting on when other lights are turned off.

Strip or puck lights can be used for under cabinet lighting. Strip lights are what they sound like - long strips of lights that can be used to light entire runways of cabinets. Puck lights look like hockey pucks - they're circular and a little less subtle than strip lights.

Some under cabinet lights are battery powered, and some plug in to nearby outlets. I highly recommend hardwiring your under cabinet lighting to your home, to conserve outlets in your kitchen and avoid making constant battery changes.

One more thing - explore your options before making a final decision. Lighting comes in different shapes, sizes - there’s even motion sensor lighting available! Shopping around will help you find exactly the right type of lighting for your home.

Cabinet Lighting

Glass cabinets look their best when you can see what's inside. Install lights to illuminate your favorite plates and cups. This is the kind of lighting that definitely needs to be hardwired into the cabinets - preferably when the cabinets are installed. If you're installing new glass cabinets in your home, consider this type of lighting for your space.

Recessed Lighting

Recessed lighting is useful for illuminating large spaces, but it's best when it's dispersed in an organic fashion. I cannot stress this enough: DO NOT PUT IN A RUNWAY OF LIGHTS! Instead, scatter recessed lighting around in the most high-needs areas.

Remember to install one over the sink - one that you can switch to a pendant later on, if desired (if you can't tell, I'm a big fan of pendant lighting - these fixtures are a great way to express your personality and add character to your kitchen).

Lights should be spaced in feet at least as far apart as the diameter of the lights in inches. So for example, if your recessed lights are 4 inches in diameter, they should be spaced four feet apart.You don't want too many or too few recessed light fixtures. Recessed lights come in 4-inch and 6-inch fixtures. I recommend 6-inch fixtures for larger kitchens, 4-inch fixtures for smaller ones.

Don't forget to add dimmers! Sometimes you'll want the lighting to be bright (when making your meal), but other times you'll want the lighting to be dim (when eating a meal, or entertaining guests). No one wants to stand under warehouse style lighting and not be able to tone it down.

Have Fun With It

Mixing and matching pendants and chandeliers is one of the ways you can have fun decorating your kitchen, but make sure they work together to create a cozy atmosphere. Consider textures, colors and materials when you're mixing and matching different light fixtures. For example, if you choose metal pendants, hang a chandelier that's textured - like leather or rattan.

Oh, by the way - it's perfectly fine to mix metals. In fact, I recommend it! Coordinate with metals found in other fixtures around the kitchen, to create an eclectic appearance.

Add a Table Lamp

Ok, this may sound crazy, but there's definitely a place in some kitchens for a table lamp. If you have a large amount of counter space, add a small desk lamp to a dark corner spot to create a cozy, homey atmosphere. This is a good spot to keep your mail or your bills. A nice table lamp adds the perfect amount of ambient lighting and decor. Choose the table lamp wisely to get just the right look for your space.

Kitchen Design by Maria Bowers, Styling by Anna Molvik

Natural Lighting

Natural lighting is the final type of lighting to consider when lighting your kitchen. Is your kitchen lacking natural lighting? Switch out your window treatments or prune exterior shrubs to allow more light into your home. Or best of all, consider installing a new window! I can't stress enough how important natural lighting is during the day. It makes your kitchen feel more cheerful as well as attractive.

Want Help With Kitchen Design Ideas? I Can Help!

Kitchen lighting is just one of the things to consider when you're wondering how to design a kitchen. Work with an expert to get the kitchen design ideas that will help you create a kitchen you love. Have questions? Contact me to get started.

Until next time,

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