Note the dramatic effect that proper cabinet lighting can provide. This kitchen has undercabinet and above cabinet lighting, as well as lighting beneath the island countertop.
LIGHTING - Do it Right!
The biggest mistake we see time and time again is inadequate lighting in a kitchen.Kitchens that do not have enough light STINK!There- I said it – now that it’s off my chest (although I still hold a grudge!), we can discuss how to properly light your kitchen.For a dramatic effect, lighting a kitchen needs to be done in “layers”.The top layer is the ceiling lights.Other layers include the tops of wall cabinets, the bottom of wall cabinets, the underside of an island overhang, hanging lights over an island, and sometimes the toe kick area.(These are discussed under the CABINET LIGHTING section.)All of these different layers can be controlled on separate switches, so depending on your mood and what’s taking place in the kitchen, you can achieve different effects.
Ceiling lights usually consist of can lights mounted in the ceiling, although track lights are sometimes a fun way to light a kitchen with a metro look and feel, such as a New York flat in an old warehouse.With ceiling can lights, consider placing a few of the cans closer than normal to the perimeter of the upper cabinets.By placing the lights about 8 to 12 inches out from the outer edge of the upper wall cabinets, it allows some light to be cast on the cabinet doors.Careful thought and placement of these lights should allow you to highlight SOME of the cabinet doors, but don’t over do it.If you light up all the cabinets, you’ll lose the effect.Make sure you don’t do this over glass doors, as they will reflect the light, and will minimize the effect of interior cabinet lighting.
Over kitchen islands, you’ll want to hang down some pendant lights or even a chandelier.When selecting these light fixtures, pick out light that complement the style of kitchen you are trying to create.If using pendant lights, two light fixtures work well on an island that is about 4’ to 6’ long.Three fixtures may be required for a 7’ or longer island, but this will depend on the overall size of the fixtures.
Cabinet lighting is one of the most important elements of any kitchen project, yet people often delete it or use inferior products for budget reasons.This is one element that you do NOT want to cut from the budget and one of the greatest “missed opportunities” that I see on a regular basis.Cabinet lighting is hard and expensive to add after the fact, so spend the needed time and money and do it right the first time!It is much better to have a kitchen with basic cabinets, or a laminate countertop, WITH nice cabinet lighting, rather than a kitchen with nicer amenities and no cabinet lights.A nice, well thought out lighting plan really makes a kitchen dynamic and exciting.
There are many varieties of cabinet lighting, and different fixtures work better for different applications.The main thing to keep in mind is to buy a high quality product when shopping for cabinet lights.The pre-packaged kits they sell at the bog box stores are very tempting due to such cheap prices, but you do get what you pay for.Like I mentioned before, it’s important to do it right the first time.
Under cabinet lighting consist of light fixtures that are mounted to the bottom surface of the upper wall cabinets.The cabinet either needs a recessed bottom or a light rail (which is a piece of molding applied to the bottom of the cabinet) so that the light is hidden from view.There are several options available.You might be familiar with the halogen “puck” lights sold at the big box stores.These are usually cheap and poorly made so make sure you buy a high quality puck fixture.These come in either halogen bulbs or xenon bulbs.Halogen bulbs burn very bright and create a considerable amount of heat.Xenon bulbs burn much cooler, so in my opinion are the preferable choice.Avoid fluorescent fixtures as the light is too blue and artificial looking.
LED LIGHTS - The New Frontier in Lighting A recent newcomer, LED (liquid emitting diodes) has taken the lighting industry by storm.These bulbs are so cool to the touch; you don’t even notice any heat being generated.They also burn very little electricity and last for 25 years or more with normal use!When the led light first came out, it was hard for the manufacturers to get the color of the light to an acceptable look for cabinet lights.The first LED lights were very blue and artificial looking, but recently developed LED cabinet lights now have a really nice, natural looking light.They are available in either white or warm white colors.I much prefer the warm white, as it gives a much nicer, warm feeling light.LED lights are very expensive compared to other alternatives, but the price is rapidly dropping, and the potential in energy savings is substantial.If you are looking for an environmentally, “green” type of light, LED is your answer.
The LED lights are available in either the pucks or longer strips.One nice thing about the LED lights is that the light is diffused and spread out over the countertop, as opposed to having a “hot spot” often created by the halogen pucks.If you do go with halogen or xenon lights, the strip fixtures are recommended over the pucks.The strips have individual bulbs placed about 2 or 3 inches apart.The strips come in various lengths to fit underneath most upper wall cabinet.These fixtures give a much better distribution of light.
ABOVE CABINET LIGHTING
Now with the under cabinet lights finished, don’t stop there else you will still have some missed opportunities!A must have in any kitchen are above cabinet lights.The exact same fixtures that are used on the underside of the cabinets can be used on top.This gives a soft glow on the walls above the upper cabinets, and creates an additional layer of light.The under cabinet lights and above cabinet lights can either be on the same switch or separate switches.
LOW VOLTAGE LIGHTS Many cabinet light manufacturers use low voltage light fixtures.These fixtures will require the use of one or more transformers.The cabinet light wires all feed to a transformer, and the transformer plugs into a regular wall outlet.Great places to locate and “hide” transformers are under the sink cabinet, and on the tops of the wall upper cabinets.Make sure to plan for the location of transformers so that outlets can be wired and installed in the proper locations.Check with the light manufacturer for the recommended size of the transformers, and the maximum distance that they can be located away from the cabinet light fixtures.
Besides the “must have” lights already mentioned, also consider putting lights on the interior of cabinets with glass doors.Another dramatic effect is to install lights underneath an island countertop overhang, and also under the base cabinets’ right above the toe-kicks.The toe kick lights are sometimes nice to have on a separate switch, and they can be lit just at night for a really awesome effect.They can be kept on at night if desired, to help light your way to the kitchen – great for midnight snackers!