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.
While cooking and cleaning functions endure, kitchens are hubs of activity in homes today. I know that when we entertain guests at our house we cannot get them out of the kitchen. We entertain, eat, prepare food, wash dishes and even read in our kitchens. That is why kitchens require several layers of light to serve all the needs of the modern home.
|Lots of Layers of Light
Please note the different layers of light in this kitchen. There are pendants over the island, recessed lights over the counters, under cabinet lights (also lighting the counters), range hood lights, picture lights, a chandelier over the kitchen table and even a table lamp! That is seven layers of light! And how good does it look, and how pleasurable it would be to entertain in this space. Cooking would even be more enjoyable. (Of course I love to cook so I would love having a kitchen like this).
You do not need to have a magnificent home to have good lighting in your kitchen. If you choose correct lighting for your space it will look great and allow you to perform all the kitchen tasks. Really good recessed lights are quite affordable and should be used over the counter tops, not behind them. Island counters require good lighting. Multiply the square footage of the counter top by 2.5 to determine how many watts of incandescent light is needed. Then select fixtures (usually pendants) that can deliver that amount of light, or augment those fixtures with additional recessed lights spaced between the fixtures. Most families spend a lot of time the their kitchens so make it a priority to light your kitchen well.
Please visit us at www.fogglighting.com and like us on Face Book. I am always available for consultations on proper lighting for your home, and my design team can help you find fixtures that are beautiful and affordable.