Without proper lighting, cooking and other kitchen activities can be a chore rather than a pleasure.
The best kitchen lighting is not only functional but also adds grace and visual interest--factors that combine to make the kitchen both an easy and pleasant place to work. Today, modern kitchens use a variety of fixtures to provide three specific kinds of lighting--general, task and accent.
General lighting provides bright, even illumination for the entire kitchen. Task lighting provides additional light on counter tops and other work areas. Accent lighting is used where some element of visual interest is to be heightened.
In evaluating general lighting for your kitchen, the major considerations are how much you need, the kind of light and the arrangement of the fixtures.
Consider the colors of the cabinets, counters, walls and floors. Dark surfaces absorb light, so more light is needed for proper illumination. Light-colored surfaces reflect and usually reduce the amount of light needed. In general, for a kitchen from 75 to 120 square feet you need 150 to 200 watts of incandescent light or 60 to 80 watts of fluorescent light.
Consider comfort. Fluorescent tubes remain cool, even with extended operation. Incandescent bulbs begin radiating noticeable amounts of heat as soon as they are turned on. That may be more welcome in winter than in summer.
Fixtures must be positioned to provide even illumination throughout the room. A single fluorescent fixture typically can be placed in the center of the ceiling because the tubes radiate light evenly along their full length. To get an equivalent spread of incandescent light, you can position two to four ceiling-mounted, domed fixtures so their light blends to form a uniform spread of illumination.
Task lighting helps in areas where your body casts a shadow from the general lighting on the work you are doing. Create task lighting by placing fixtures above counters, the sink and the stove, as well as over islands and tables. There is a variety of both incandescent and fluorescent mini-lights to fit your needs.
To light counter areas, install lights on the underside of the overhead cabinets, close to their front edges. You'll need 8 watts of under-cabinet fluorescent light for every foot of counter space. Allow 15 to 20 watts of incandescent light for every foot of counter.
To illuminate a sink, place a light directly above, recessed in or mounted on the ceiling. You'll need about 40 to 60 watts of fluorescent light or 75 watts of incandescent.
Task-light a stove the same way. Even better, consider installing an exhaust hood with a built-in light.
To light island or eating areas, place recessed, track or hanging lights above the area.
Accent lights are primarily decorative and optional in a kitchen lighting scheme, but they do add drama and interest. Generally, the same types of under-cabinet lights used in counter-top task lighting can be used as accent lights.
Place them on top of cabinets and direct them toward the ceiling and back wall to give a sense of height to the room.
Accent lights in the toe-kick space of base cabinets emphasize cabinet-to-floor transition and make good night lights.
Highlight the contents of a glass-door cabinet with accent lights along the inside upper or lower edge.
Keep accent lighting less bright than task lighting. A little of it draws a great deal of attention, so don't overuse it.