Association Offers Tips to Light Up Kitchen
DALLAS, TX Want to cook up a stunning kitchen design? According to
the American Lighting Association, based here, if you want your
kitchen project to really shine, lighting needs to be a key
But before lighting the lights, there are some variables that
should be taken into account first, according to the not-for-profit
trade association, which consists of lighting component
manufacturers, showrooms, distributors and manufacturer
representatives. Most importantly, the association stresses, the
right recipe for lighting a kitchen should be determined by the
size and complexity of the room.
For example, small kitchens may require only a single central
ceiling fixture and task lighting tucked under a cabinet while more
elaborate kitchens will demand a blend of general, task and accent
Regardless of the type of lighting used, however, one thing is
certain: Today’s kitchens have become more than just a place to
prepare meals and proper lighting is crucial in supporting the
kitchen as the center of family activity.
As Monty Gilbertson, CLC, manager and buyer for Lighting Design
by Wettsteins in Lacrosse, WI, explains: “Lights have specific
functions, whether it’s to accent a specific area, create general
ambience or focus on a task.”
Specifically, functional fixtures will provide well-diffused
general lighting ideal for moving about the room safely, peering
inside drawers and cabinets and performing chores, the association
Geoff Dent, president of Dent Electrical Supply in Danbury, CT
states, “I see people every day who are saddled with one light in
the middle of the kitchen. This means that everywhere around the
perimeter, work is done in one’s own shadow.”
According Gary White, CKD, CBD for Newport Beach, CA-based
Kitchen & Bath Design, designers need to follow one major rule
of thumb to effectively avoid problems. “Just like any other
high-end product, lighting should either stand out to make a
statement or disappear into the design for it to work,” he
According to the
association, recessed downlights are a good way to create even
illumination and lighting for task areas.
Barry Levett, owner and president of House of Lights in Mayfield
Heights, OH agrees. “When you add new lights over the sink or
stove, the whole area comes alive,” he says.
But, the association warns, designers should make sure to mix
light properly. “I’ve seen people not sure about what to do with
their lighting, so they keep adding recessed lights, instead of
mixing various lighting types,” says Steve Birdwell, CLC, Bay
Lighting & Design, in San Francisco, CA.
White interjects, “If you try to be energy efficient and begin
spreading cans too far apart, you will get dots of light. If you
overlap the circles, you will have too much power. It is important
to remember that dark surfaces are light absorbent and suck the
light from the room. Therefore, many times [designers] put
extenders on the bulb so that the lamp is stuck below the opening
of the can. This causes off-angle reflectants, which means the
light is striking the retina before it hits the surface. Remember,
the goal is to light the object, not the eye.”
For White, another innovative task lighting solution is xenon,
which is a gas that burns much cooler than halogen lighting,
therefore reducing the chance of a client getting burned when
touching the bulb.
For White, decorative
lighting fixtures can also offer many functional solutions for
designers. “I recommend more indirect fixtures, such as coffers or
decorative lighting fixtures. I find that the use of a simple
incandescent decorative fixture close to the ceiling is very energy
efficient and [offers] greater general illumination.”
White also suggests chandeliers and pendants because they tend
to throw light in various directions and are a good way to create
ambience in a kitchen.
A decorative pendant operating with a dimmer control will also
provide a good lighting option, the association suggests.
White’s company has taken this one step further, designing a
fixture that uses a new T-5 high-output fluorescent lamp combined
with a dimming valance that allows control of the light intensity
He also points out that the T-5, which has replaced the T-8 (and
is half the size), offers about 30 percent more luminance and
enables it to be installed into even the smallest of locations over
For added design appeal, Levett suggests a trio of decorative
lights used over an island. “It breaks up the kitchen but you can
still see through it,” he notes.
“Halogen provides great drama in the kitchen, as well,” he adds.
“Used under cabinets, it electrifies the look of granite and marble
Gilbertson offers this tip: “You want to position your lighting
so that the light spills into all the areas of your kitchen. If
clients are buying cabinets, you want to make sure the cabinets are
lit properly. If not, the light actually creates gray shadow
Therefore, slim, energy-efficient designs such as miniature
track lights or low-voltage linear systems and under- and
over-cabinet lighting will light up countertops and accent
ceilings, the association points out.
“Lights above the cabinets should be soft and low voltage,” says
Gilbertson. “The light over the sink should have its own switch.
The same holds true with the lights over the island and those over
But, White notes, “Designers should also be aware of a condition
called voltage drop. They need to calculate, based on the length of
the run of the secondary wire from the transformer, because low
voltage means low power. If this is overlooked, fixtures at the end
of the run will be dimmer.”
To alleviate this, he suggests that designers use 24-volt
lighting. According to White, this will push the electricity
through the end of the cabinetry run more efficiently.
In larger kitchens, designers will need to install fewer
transformers, and ultimately, this will create lower overall cost
for kitchen lighting projects.