Luxury kitchens demand best-in-class lighting. The type and placement of kitchen lights matter more than the price tag, although some lights are pricey. But thoughtful planning – rather than deep pockets – will help you choose kitchen lights that ease cooking tasks and invite family and guests to linger in the space.
The key to successful kitchen lighting – and keeping warm in a cold winter climate – is layering.
Four layers of lighting – task, ambient, accent and decorative – work together to make your luxury kitchen both practical and entertaining, says Randall Whitehead, a San Francisco lighting designer.
“As we spend more time in our kitchens, we realize we need to take a closer look at lighting them well. Now energy efficient lighting that makes food, furniture, and especially people, look good is more important than ever,” Whitehead says on his website.
Task Kitchen Lighting
Task lighting makes food preparation and cooking easier. A cheap fluorescent bulb will serve this utilitarian purpose, but more attractive options include strip lights and puck lights.
Popular choices for strip lights include rolls of LED lights. Aim for rolls that include about 60 lights per yard, and make sure the lights are compatible with dimmers, controllers and power supplies and meet certification requirements. Cheap LED lights sell for $15 a roll, but the light may be garish and the quality poor. Some LED lights top $250 per roll, but you probably don’t have to pay more than $100 a roll, according to ElectricianTalk.com.
Puck light systems include a series of lights shaped like hockey pucks and are a great option if you’re in a rush for task lighting (it’s your turn to cook Thanksgiving dinner) or want to experiment with task lighting sans the expense of an electrician. Many LED puck lights are battery operated and you can stick them wherever you like. You can buy a set of three by American Lighting at ATGStores.com.
Puck lights produce more of a spotlight effect than strip rolls and cast shadows between the pucks.
Good places for task lighting include underneath kitchen cabinets, over the kitchen island and inside your pantry.
Task lighting is usually bright – you want to see whether you’re chopping cilantro or your fingers – but you can achieve post-cooking ambience by adding a dimmer switch to your task lights.
Dimmed task lights can help house guests find their way around the kitchen late at night or create a romantic atmosphere for you and your partner to share a midnight glass of wine.
Ambient Kitchen Lighting
Indirect lighting “softens the lines and shadows on people’s faces and creates a warm inviting glow in the room,” says Beth Haley, a Nashville interior designer. Randall calls it the “humanizing ingredient to any lighting design.”
Flush-mounted ceiling fixtures provide ambient lighting and sell for less than $100 at places such as Ikea and Lowe’s. Or you can spend 10 times as much at luxury design stores such as Ralph Lauren Home and Jonathan Adler. A Sputnik-inspired ceiling fixture, for example, is priced at $1,095 at Jonathan Adler.
Another option for ambient lighting is a pendant that hangs over the kitchen island. These lights, which should ideally hang in sets of three, can also serve as task lights, says Paul Anater, a former designer and past contributor to Houzz.com.
For a sleek, modern look, consider a set of three Sonneman black and chrome pendants, which sell for $630. Golden Lighting offers a softer look with its Black Iron Madera pendant lights. A set of three sells for about $430.
Accent Kitchen Lighting
As kitchens grow more sophisticated, accent lighting is finding a home in them. If you want a visitor’s eye to travel to a painting in the breakfast nook, your favorite piece of china in a glass display case or the backsplash tile you spent a small fortune to purchase and install, accent lighting will create the desired effect.
Wall sconces have come a long way since their origin as torch holders and, more recently, as the half-moon-shaped fixtures Pottery Barn brought to the masses in the 90s. Styles to choose from for kitchen accent lights are limited only by your finances and imagination.
Feeling thrifty? WAC Lighting makes a square-shaped wall sconce for about $100, and Robert Abbey sells an anemone-shaped sconce for about $240. Feeling festive and flush? Boyd Lighting makes a Pop! wall sconce for an eye-popping price of $5,000.
Other choices for accent lights include directional eyeball lights , a type of recessed light that sells for about $30 at Home Depot, and up-lighters, which can be mounted on the floor or wall to direct light at something displayed above it.
Decorative Kitchen Lighting
Decorative lights provide ambient light, but the fixtures themselves are attention-grabbers. Scale is critical here, says Randall. A chandelier that looks amazing in a showroom may overwhelm a smaller kitchen.
One King’s Lane offers a variety of interesting and whimsical kitchen chandeliers for less than $500. Fine Art Lamps’ selection includes a suspended drop light chandelier that sells for about $4,000 to $8,000 depending on the materials chosen.
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