When it comes to kitchen lighting, many people make the common mistake of utilizing one central light source. What tends to happen in such cases is that homeowners have to use very bright bulbs in order to provide adequate lighting in the entire room which overwhelms both family members and visitors. Then, even at that, there are usually areas which still lack in sufficient lighting.
Luckily, lighting design has progressed well past the point of relying on one central light fixture to illuminate the entire kitchen area. This has transpired due to a better understanding of the role of light in a home as well as the kitchen becoming an area used for a variety of family activities besides dining which include paying bills, playing games, and entertaining guests.
Successful kitchen lighting design involves a blend of light coming from a combination of four main sources that produce ambient lighting, task lighting, accent lighting and decorative lighting qualities. When blended correctly, you end up with a kitchen environment that is both inviting and functional for all activities. Using dimmers switches on one or several lighting units adds a greater degree of mood enhancing flexibility.
Ambient light can be compared to the background layer of color in a painting. Ambient sources provide indirect light that softens objects and faces, reduces shadows, and creates a warm background glow that is delicate and inviting.
Since kitchens are used quite often today for family activities and entertaining milling guests, ambient light offers a welcoming and peaceful space. Kitchen lighting fixtures which provide ambient illumination include track lights and flush-mounted ceiling lights.
As its name implies, task lighting is used to shine an adequate amount of light onto areas where tasks are performed. However, if task lighting is installed in improper locations, it can cast shadows that impede rather than aid such activities as food preparation, reading, game playing, etc.
Under cabinet lights are the most popular forms of kitchen task fixtures because they can be easily installed out of view under existing cabinets to provide both counter top task lighting as well as a warm ambient glow. Other forms of task light fixtures include over-island lights, strip lights, puck lights and spot lights which can be used to light up breakfast nooks, pantry spaces and other activity areas requiring stronger amounts of light.
Accent lighting fixtures splash a directed beam of light onto areas or objects which you want to highlight. Although not normally used much in the kitchen, accent lights may be needed to draw attention to a piece of artwork hanging on a wall of your kitchen nook, bring out the texture of a unique houseplant, or radiate decorative splashback tiling around the sink. Cabinets fitted with glass doors can be used for storage as well as to display elegant glassware and china by using inside lighting.
Adjustable low voltage recessed puck lights make excellent choices for accent lighting. Other types of lighting fixtures that serve the purpose for this lighting layer are wall sconces, up-lighters and track lights.
The amount of decorative lighting you provide in your kitchen should be in direct response to the size of the space. By its very nature, decorative lighting is used to add beauty to your kitchen, therefore the fixtures should be well proportioned to the space and the bulbs should either not be so bright as to cause discomfort or be covered sufficiently by shades or other material.
Hanging pendants, chandeliers and drop lights are examples of decorative lighting which can be used in the kitchen. Since decorative lighting fixtures can be the most expensive part of your light-layered kitchen, you may want to first install the wiring boxes and then purchase and install the lighting fixtures at a later date.