Today’s kitchen is the heart and soul of the home. It is, more than any other room,
the central hub of activity. Part food preparation area, part dining room, part
gathering and entertaining space; the kitchen and its lighting must be extremely
functional while meeting the style and aesthetic expectations of such a popular place.
Kitchen Lighting Requirements
Functionally, kitchen lighting must provide:
a generous amount of ambient lighting to facilitate frequent entrance and exit
at all times of the day
proper task lighting on preparation, cooking and cleaning surfaces
accent lighting to allow guests and other ‘non preparation participants’ to linger
comfortably while out of the way. Accent lighting should also be used to help define
and gently illuminate dedicated dining areas
All good kitchen lighting plans will combine these three classes of light into a functional
yet attractive ‘layered lighting’ design. Endeavor to select one or more fixtures
producing each type of lighting as you read about common fixture options below.
Overhead fixtures are important in providing general, ambient illumination in the
kitchen when light from windows is limited. Unfortunately, homeowners or builders
often mistakenly rely on them as the sole source of light for the entire room.
Single overhead fixtures produce shadows. The single most common problem in kitchen
lighting is reliance on one or two overhead fixtures. When purchasing a home, the
kitchen is empty and it may appear to be properly illuminated by these overhead
fixtures. When actually cooking, however, the cook find his or her body continuously
casting shadows on the countertops and preparation surfaces as she steps between
the overhead light source and the working area. Under cabinet lighting will
solve many of these problems (see below), but implementing overhead fixtures with
multiple points of light (monorail or track lighting systems for example) will help
minimize shadows on these surfaces as well.
Out with the fluorescent! As residential kitchens have shifted from preparation
areas to social gathering and eating areas, fluorescent fixtures have gone by
the wayside. Even with their recent improvements in color temperature and flicker,
fluorescent light remains comparatively cold and fails to render color well which makes food,
plates, countertops and people look flat and unappealing. Replacing fluorescent
fixtures should be a priority in any kitchen lighting plan.