In a monthly column, Lori Powell of Fogg Lighting in Portland offers her expert tips on illuminating your home.
In most homes, the kitchen tends to be the center of gravity. And yet for all the time we spend there — chopping, cooking, noshing, cleaning, helping with homework, lingering over leftovers — kitchens are often drastically under-lit, with a single ceiling fixture in the center of the room that creates irritating shadows in the areas we most need to illuminate. Here are some steps you can take to brighten up your cookspace.
First, get on task. Your time in the kitchen is task-oriented, so your lighting should be too. If you’re standing at a counter and the light is behind you, your body will cast a shadow over the surface, making it harder to see what you’re doing — not ideal, especially if you’re working with sharp utensils. To brighten up work areas, place recessed, track, and/or under-cabinet lighting over countertops, tables, islands, sinks, and other surfaces you use frequently.
Then, think layers. Because of the wide variety of tasks you do in the kitchen, one light will never provide all the illumination you need. Layering the light — adding different sources around the room — will give you the flexibility to customize the lighting to suit your changing needs. If you’re hosting a dinner party, for example, you can dim the overhead lights to create ambiance, and keep under-cabinet lighting on to illuminate the areas where you’re serving and preparing food.
Find the right fixtures. Adding fixtures on walls, in glass cabinets, and over sinks and islands will brighten and warm the room, while providing decorative accents that can enhance the look. Consider adding pendants over sinks and islands — allow 30 to 36 inches between the countertop and the bottom of the fixture for optimum illumination. Above sinks, pendants should be hung higher, so that people don’t bang their heads against them while doing dishes.
A: Many lights on the market today are, quite literally, works of art. Expertly designed and skillfully executed by metalsmiths and glassworkers, these fixtures read like sculptures in a room. Turning them on heightens the drama, as partially shielded, diffused, or angled beams create intriguing shadows in your space. When selecting a form-over-function fixture, just be sure to supplement with layers of task and accent lightingto produce even illumination in the room and ensure you can see what you’re doing. As for my favorite statement makers, I’ll let these images do (most) of the talking.
Down-lit arcs of heat-textured steel studded with decorative cuffs crisscross in a Calderesque feat of asymmetry and balance. Choose from eight finishes for the canopy and cuffs.
Inspired by ikebana, a Japanese form of flower arranging that emphasizes minimalism and stems and leaves as much as blossoms, this fixture has interwoven steel strands emanating from bud vase-like domes. Choose from eight canopy finishes and platinum or gold for the ball accents.
The Greek myth of Icarus — the boy who flew too close to sun on wax-and-feather wings — sparked this fanciful avian design. Choose from eight canopy finishes and “spun frost” (shown) or “cork” for the shades.
A sculptural textured-steel and polished-aluminum ring, fairly levitating in its lighted base, effects an abstract sunrise. Choose from eight canopy finishes and platinum or gold for the textured accents.
These streamlined steel fixtures (literally) turn classic candle sconce forms on their heads. Rotate the bases and rings to alter the positioning and look. Choose from eight canopy finishes and platinum or gold for the rings.
Handcrafted crystal “river stones” are baked and annealed in massive seeded-glass blocks that create a glowing gallery effect on your wall. Choose from interior and exterior fixtures in silver and bronze finishes.
Transform your room into a skyscape with a futuristic satin-nickel fixture available in “Aquila Major” (shown), “Aquila Minor,” “Ursa Major,” and “Ursa Minor” configurations. LEDs radiate through smooth white domes or sparkle through multi-faceted diffusers (your choice).
Comprised of a brass stem and filaments bejeweled with glass accents, this glam allium-like lamp blooms wherever its marble base is planted.
Rustic meets refined in this organic lamp, composed of a polished metal base that resembles petrified wood crowned with a paper shade. Choose from “gild” (shown), “burnished silver-leaf” and “plaster-white” finishes.
Fringed edges give this classic silhouette, rendered in an antique zinc finish, a kinetic quality. A rectangular paper shade underscores the artful geometry.
Traditional lantern forms are reimagined in steel trapezoidal shapes with cutouts that conjure sections of stained glass. Downlights brighten the edges of the frames, bringing depth to the composition.
Decorative lighting includes Wall Sconces, Chandeliers, Flush Mounts, Semi-Flush Mounts and Pendants. The proper combinations of these five elements insure an interesting, attractive lighting design for any room. Using different elements of lighting is called layering. Many layers of light make the difference between an OK room and WOW room.
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Pendants are perhaps the most versatile of all decorative lighting fixtures.They can be as dramatic as a chandelier, as understated as a wall sconce or as functional as a floor lamp. They can be used to provide ambient, task or accent illumination. They can be used alone on in groupings. They are available as line voltage, low voltage halogen and LED. They can be made of glass or metal or a combination. They can be modern, traditional or transitional. Whatever your taste and lighting need there is a pendant for you.
Pendants are traditionally used in kitchens as task or accent lighting over islands, sinks or kitchen tables. But pendants are also used in foyers, in hallways with high ceilings, in dinning rooms over tables and in bathrooms. They are used as exterior fixtures on porches and entries. As long as you have adequate ceiling height, you can use pendants almost anywhere.
When choosing a pendant be sure that the light output meets your lighting needs. I have customers who would love to have small, colorful pendants over task ares in their kitchens. Unfortunately most of these do not provide enough task light for the application. So unless you can supplement the light with recessed lighting, such fixtures do not provide sufficient lighting for kitchen tasks. Be a savvy shopper and always match your lighting needs to the fixture you are buying.
Please visit http://www.fogglighting.com and like us on Facebook. I am always available for consultations on lighting plans.