Monday, September 19, 2011

Kitchen and Dining Room Lighting FAQ

Here's a couple of questions we get most often regarding lighting:
I'm remodeling and have heard lighting is important in a kitchen. How do I make sure it is laid out correctly?
Great question. Often times, people will layout can lights so that they are attractive on the ceiling. It looks nice on a floor plan to have six can lights, equally spaced in two rows of three, but this can create shadowing and keep a kitchen from having the functionality it needs. Instead, I suggest you center lights over a counter top (to prevent shadowing) over the work centers in the kitchen. Your kitchen designer has likely identified areas such as your sink, your prep zone, your baking zone, island eating areas, over your cook top, etc. A can light can be placed at each of these places. Accent lighting, such as pendants or other fixtures bring lighting closer to eye level.

I've got several can lights, do I really need to invest in new decorative fixtures too?
Yes. The secret to good lighting is layering. In a kitchen, light at task level (where your hands are working), eye level, and overhead lighting for maximum effect and function. Incorporate under cabinet lighting and put a lamp on your counter top to provide task level lighting. Plan for pendants, chandeliers, or other decorative fixtures to provide lighting at your eye level. Put these fixtures on dimmers and let them be your primary light sources when entertaining. Finally, utilize task oriented recessed can lights as discussed above.

Is there a rule for hanging a light fixture over a dining table?
Kind of, but I break it fairly often. The technical rule is that the bottom of the fixture should hang 32" from the table surface. That said, if you're particularly tall, this might not work for you. As a rule of thumb, hang it lower than you think you should. Remember, you can't walk into this fixture--there's a table in your way!--and hang it so that it engages your dining space.

Why are you so set on people looking attractive while they're eating?
I met a designer while I was in design school who sought to mimic the look of dining under candlelight even while in an every day, ordinary eat-in kitchen. I loved the idea and copy him relentlessly when it comes to this. So paint your dining ceiling just slightly peach, use up lighting rather than down lighting, and repeat "dimmers" to yourself like a mantra.

What are the most common lighting faux pauxs you see during an inital consult?
1. Fixtures are too small. I see this especially with lamps. I can think of very few reasons to own a lamp less than 24" tall and very few spaces that would call for a lamp of this petite size. Large scale lighting accomplishes something for the space. If the lighting you're considering doesn't make you a little bit nervous, it's not worth it!
2. CFL bulbs. Though I love efficiency, I'm not sure I'm ready for the great bulb switch in 2012. That said, watch the type of CFL's you use. It's your home, not an operating room! Also, I am a huge fan of pink bulbs, which are only available in the incandesent variety. If I haven't combed your local shelves of them, stock up while you still can.

What bright ideas do you have for lighting?

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