Kitchens On A Grand Scale
The average size of new homes is shrinking, but not when it comes to one room – the kitchen. This multi-tasking room not only serves as the family’s central gathering spot, but it also performs as a dining area, homework station, and casual entertaining space.
We might have reached the peak of the housing boom, but somehow kitchens seem to be getting larger and larger. Because people are spending more and more time in their kitchens, and using that area for so many different things, lighting has become a critical element, and we need to be able to have lighting for every task and function.
The best method for lighting a kitchen could be called the power of three. Use a minimum of three types of lighting: a central fixture, recessed, and under-cabinet,and put each on different switches or dimmers. Having only one of these components creates a static, and often not functional, lighting effect.
You can’t just install rows of recessed lighting in today’s large kitchens; that will make the space seem very flat and one-dimensional. You need a combination of at least three types of light (i.e. recessed, under-cabinet, toe-kick, cove lights) with at least one decorative element, such as a drum shade in the breakfast nook or mini pendants over the island. People’s kitchens are often tied into a family room or great room, and they’re using that area for so many different things that they need to have lighting options for every situation.
Another critical consideration for quality kitchen lighting is lighting controls. Independent switching and the use of dimmers will allow you to change the lighting depending on the needs – selecting a certain amount of lighting when serving breakfast and lunch, then opting to change the mood during dinner or entertaining, and going to full brightness when doing tasks such as homework and cleaning.
The first step is to analyze the functions of your kitchen and address the various activities that will be taking place there. Dimmers in the kitchen are often not considered a high priority, but they can add dramatic impact.
Where you put the lights is crucial. One mistake many home-owners make when installing an under-cabinet fixture on their own is putting the unit against the wall. Instead, placing it at the front of the cabinet allows the light to be distributed evenly over the area below. Another recommendation is to install recessed fixtures 30 inches from the wall to illuminate the counter-top without casting shadows.
Getting expert lighting advice can make a huge difference. Electricians are trained to safely and carefully supply wire to areas where it is needed; they are not, by definition or training, lighting experts. Electricians know how to install a fixture, but not what it will, or will not, do to a room, or how effectively it illuminates a space. Lighting professionals who understand lighting can make informed recommendations.
For example, many home-owners spend a small fortune on their kitchens – from the cabinets and counter-tops to tile and appliances. All of those beautiful and well-designed elements will look sub-par if they are lit with $100 worth of lighting products. The correct quantity and types of lights will make a mediocre room design look better and a great one look perfect.
Some of the fashionable materials in today’s kitchens create unique lighting challenges. Stainless steel appliances; quartz, granite, and glass counter-tops that have translucence; coloured stained wood and painted cabinets; and natural stone can all be enhanced with lighting.
“Dark, bold colours or dense tile patterns will require a bit more light. If the backsplash has been changed from white to chocolate brown, the cabinet and task lighting might not be adequate. A room filled with bold paint, complex tile and turbulent counter-top patterns needs something to surrender to the whole. The design of the accent lighting might need to be a bit more reserved to make the entire room work effectively.
The right application of accent lighting can truly make the difference between a space that is purely functional and one that is elegant. One simple technique – put LED strip lighting in the toe-kick of the base cabinets. This is a good method for creating indirect lighting that is ideal for entertaining. LED strips can also be placed on top of the cabinets. If there is artwork on the walls, you can use either adjustable recessed lighting or small, track mono-points to highlight it.
You should take the opportunity to view displays that demonstrate the various effects that can be achieved by using different types of lighting. For example, you can evaluate the differences between xenon, halogen, fluorescent and LED products.
Recent technological innovations have yielded even more choices for energy-conscious consumers. Compact fluorescent lighting is an excellent option for some areas, for many reasons. These bulbs are four times more efficient than incandescent or halogen. It is also important to know that quality CFL bulbs come in a range of colour temperatures and the colour of compact fluorescent bulbs is now equal to, or better than, incandescent.
LED lighting is also fast-becoming an excellent option for kitchens, with LED available as under-cabinet fixtures and LED bulbs for recessed and track lighting. LED has the same benefits of compact fluorescent, except that the bulbs last much longer. LED is often dimmable, very energy efficient, while also being very tiny, which is resulting in some innovative and exciting new lighting options.