Jun 2019

Kitchen Wisdom

By Lori Powell

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.

white and gray kitchen
Photography courtesy of LEDI Led Inspirations featuring Hubbarton Forge

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.

cream colored kitchen


cream colored dining area

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.

dark gray kitchen and island


kitchen sink with task lighting

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.

Mar 2013

How Much Light Do I Need?

The amount of light needed varies by room, tasks, age and several other factors. Except for kitchens, laundry rooms, bathrooms and other areas where tasks are performed you do not need lots of light in the rest of the house. Filling a room with light is more important than having high levels of light. That is what layers of light do, they help fill a room with light. Social interaction is enhanced by comfortable lighting whereas tasks require higher levels of lighting.

Comfortable Lighting for Dining

Generally speaking the amount of light that is needed for most tasks like cooking and for reading is around 50-60 footcandles (f/c) That is the amount of light needed on the work surface. Sewing requires more light and grooming a little less light. Social spaces like living rooms are OK at 20-30 f/c. It is important to remember that older eyes need more light to do see the as young eyes. A 50 year old needs about twice as much light as a 20 year old to see the same.

Higher levels of light can be achieved without glare, but care must be taken to choose the correct fixture and to layer the lighting in a pleasing way. Do not rely on just recessed or just under cabinet lights. Use a combination along with good ambient lighting.

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