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Kitchen Lighting Scheme

Friday, 22nd July 2011

The kitchen is no longer just a place to cook, but a spot to eat, work and spend time with friends. As a result, a good kitchen lighting scheme is more important than ever. A single overhead light source is unlikely to be enough to allow you to perform all these tasks safely and efficiently, and show your kitchen off to its best. Instead consider a multi-layered scheme that combines target accent lighting to illuminate your prep and cooking zones, ambient lighting to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere, and accent lighting to highlight any special features.

Plan Your Lighting Scheme

If you've got time on your side, outline your lighting scheme at the planning stage.  The kitchen is the one room in the home where appliances, furniture and fittings are unlikely to move, so think about where they'll be positioned and install permanent wiring and fittings to best complement them.  While it;s true that you can always add clip-on lights to shelving and cupboards above your prep or cooking areas at a later stage, it's less than ideal to have trailing wires in the kitchen, so it's best to think about exactly how you'll use your kitchen at the outset.

Install separate switches for the different forms of lighting in your kitchen as it will be you to control task lighting separately from ambient lighting and accent lighting, making it easy to transform your kitchen from a functional space to a more decorative one in an instant.  Dimmers are a great idea as they allow you to adjust lighting levels to suit your mood, say from cooking to dining.  Make sure switches are positioned at least 30 cm away from the sink so that there's no chance of electricity getting in contact with water.

Task Lighting

This form of lighting casts a targeted beam of light at a specific work area - in the kitchen this is generally the stovetop, benchtop prep area, kitchen sink, dishwasher and island unit.  Spotlights recessed into the ceiling or on track are the most popular forms of kitchen task lighting, but other good choices include directional spotlights, height adjustable pendants over the island unit and under-cupboard downlights, all of which will allow you to read recipes easily, cut the prep food safely, or catch up on your emails without squinting.

Think about where you'll be standing or sitting in the kitchne at the planning stage as the last thing you want is to be working in your own shadow.  Opt for task lighting that's positioned above or in front of you, rather than behind.

Other spots in the kitchen to consider adding task lighting include the pantry, so that you can see all the way to the back of the shelves with ease, and above or inside deep opening drawers.

Ambient Lighting

The kitchen should be a warm, welcoming space, particularly if you plan to dine or entertain there as well as cook, and this is where ambient lighting comes in.  The aim is to mimic the warmth and breadth of natural daylight as far as possible - think ceiling pendants or a series of wall-mounted lights that wash every surface of the kitchen with a soft, soothing glow.  A dimmer switch is particularly useful with ambient lighting, as it allows you to alter the lighting levels to create different moods at different times of day and night.

Position your ambient lighting to make the most of any reflective surfaces in the kitchen, such as a stainless steel fridge or splashbacks, or a glossy granite benchtop, as it will bounce light into every corner.

Accent Lighting

Even the simplest things - a row of glass jars or a collection of cookbooks with brightly-coloured spines - look striking when properly lit with accent lighting such as low voltage downlights set into shelving or concealed tubular lighting.  This form of lighting can also be used to highlight any interesting fixtures in your kitchen, such as floor-level uplighters at the base of an island unit so that it appears to float, a ceiling spotlight trained on a decorative rangehood or intricately patterned benchtop, or even an illuminated tap.  While accent lighting doesn't have the practical importance of task or ambient lighting, it's just the thing to add depth and personality to a kitchen space - particularly important if it opens onto other areas of the home from where it will be clearly visible.


Georgia Madden

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Comment from MelBrandle on Monday, 09th May 2016

What I find helps a kitchen to look brighter and more spacious is ensuring that I'm packing kitchen appliances properly away in the cupboards to free up counter space.

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