One of the most overlooked elements in kitchen design is the lighting. Lighting plays such an important part of today’s kitchen design and so many times it isn’t thought about at all. Being that I am a licensed interior designer and a certified kitchen and bath designer I wear a lot of hats on a project. Initially, I review a set of architectural plans and I would say 99% of the time there is not a true lighting plan for the kitchen and what I mean by that is there are no specifics given. There is always a floorplan of the kitchen showing a grid of recessed cans or maybe pendant lights located over an island and if you are lucky there is a legend that states a wattage of a lamp which means nothing when it comes to a measured lighting design. Unless there is a specific lamp specified then it will be left up to the person in the field to select it, the electrician.
Why is a Layered Lighting Design Important?
The kitchen is a multi-functional room in the home meaning there are a lot of actions that take place there. All actions deserve the proper amount of light and the only way to get them is to plan for them during the design phase.
Don’t generically light your kitchen with a grid of recessed cans and call it a day. You want to strategically create lighting for all zones and the first one to consider is the general lighting. This lighting exists to light your pathways for easy navigation. You most certainly should not over light it by blasting it with high candlepower. How much light do you need to navigate is not much and should be soft. Using PAR recessed fixture with flood lamps is important here to not cast shadows vertically on your cabinets. The flood lamp will filter light vertically which is so important to show your cabinetry finishes beautifully.
You perform tasks on your countertops and this is where the light levels need to be elevated appropriately. Understanding beam spreads will help you and if you do not I recommend working with a professional in order to get it right. If you are using recessed lighting then you want to use an MR16 recessed fixture as the beam spread is narrow and powerful. Over an island, you might want a combination of decorative lighting and recessed.
Ambient lighting is your accent lighting. Above, below and interior cabinet lighting offers an opportunity to add the glow of ambient lighting. I believe all of these areas need accent lighting to complete your kitchen design.
Once you have developed a layered lighting design you have given yourself complete control over the light levels in your kitchen. All zones of lighting should be dimmable so that the levels can be set for the comfort of the user.