Kitchen Lighting & Home Renovations

Kitchen Lighting: What to Consider When Renovating

Kitchen lighting is an important element in the design of a new kitchen, as well as the renovation of an existing kitchen. Lighting has advanced substantially and is now available in various shapes, sizes, types, colors, applications, etc. Proper lighting in a kitchen is an important design element and kitchen designers are focused and aware of the various applications for kitchen lighting.

Again, as I have noted in past web pages on this website, research and investigation is necessary, by the homeowner to realize the degree of different lighting options available for you in your kitchen. Searching the internet will allow you to identify various lighting fixtures as well as techniques that will enhance the overall aesthetic qualities of your kitchen. A visit to the local lighting supplier in your area, will offer you the opportunity to actually witness the various lighting designs and effects possible.

The following lighting applications are possible. There are others, but these are the basics.

Overhead lighting

The use of overhead lighting has advanced in the last several years. The use of LED bulbs for the lighting has increased the energy efficiency of all light fixtures. For overhead lights, there are several selections of lights.

a.) Pendant heads / Lights that drop down from the ceiling, to a specific height, are normally referred to as pendant head lights. These lights are normally located over countertops or islands that are located in the open spaces of a kitchen. The use of pendant heads succeeds in dropping the actual illumination closer to the surface of the countertop. This will allow the countertop to be well illuminated without the necessity to over compensate the light output, due to a high ceiling placement. Pendant heads are very popular due to the various selections of heads that can be mounted as pendant fixtures. As is the case with all lighting selections, a visit to the local lighting distributor will allow the homeowner to touch and operate the lights that they are considering.

b.) Track lighting / The use of track lighting is extremely popular when needed to focus on certain areas of the countertops, the appliances, or even sitting areas of the kitchen. There are several different types of track lighting styles and actual lighting heads. In most cases, the use of track lighting will offer a more modern or contemporary style to the kitchen. Those homeowners looking for a country or colonial style kitchen may not feel that the track lighting concept will generate that intended look. Track lighting is basically lengths of energized track that are installed directly against the ceiling. In some instances the style of the lighting is a hanging track that is supported by either hangers or rigid rods to lower the actual track below the surface of the ceiling. Attached to the track are various styles of lighting heads that are directly plugged into the lighting track. The ability to install the heads anywhere along the track, as well as the ability of most of the heads to pivot in any direction necessary, allows the homeowner to focus the individual heads directly on the item they would like to illuminate. If there are wall hangings or pictures on the kitchen walls, the use of track lighting to accent these items is a great way to provide direct illumination onto these surfaces.

c.) Recessed lighting ( cans ) / Recessed lighting is in many cases referred to as can lighting or cans. This type of lighting has become very popular for all the rooms in the home, especially the kitchen. Recessed lighting is normally evenly spaced across the ceiling and will provide a general illumination in the kitchen. The recessed lighting can be directional if specified as such. This will allow the ability to move the actual lamp, within the recessed housing, to focus the light as required. Utilizing this type of recessed lighting, allows the homeowner to focus the light from the can onto a specific target. Recessed cans will accept both spotlights, which present a more focused light or a more evenly spread out overall lighting. The recessed can is available in a number of different styles and finishes, and has a tendency to visually disappear in the ceiling.

d.) Fan light combinations / The use of a fan light combination in a kitchen, is a great method of adding ventilation and air movement within the kitchen area. The light itself is normally an overall illumination of the entire kitchen, and serves as a great welcoming light. What is meant by a welcoming light, is the light is used as the homeowner walks into the kitchen as the initial light fixture that is turned on. All the other lights will follow, however this one fixture will be the welcoming light, as the homeowner enters the kitchen. It is recommended that the fan light combination be wired to allow two wall switches, one to operate the light and the other to operate the fan. If the light is to be used as the welcoming light, in many instances, the homeowner may not want the fan to be activated every time they enter the kitchen.

e.) Chandeliers / The chandelier is the most interesting, visually, of the type of ceiling fixtures that can be selected for the kitchen. Chandeliers come in all shapes, sizes and styles. We have just completed a new kitchen in the family and the selection of the chandelier for over the main counter space was a principle design element of the kitchen. The choice of the proper chandelier can change the entire ambience of the kitchen. Remember that the chandelier selected will need to be cleaned as well as re-lamped, therefore, access to the entire chandelier should be a consideration when selecting the specific fixture.

Under-cabinet lighting

The development of under-cabinet lighting in the last several years, especially with the new development of LED lighting, has provided a varied selection of fixtures that can be used for under the cabinet lights. The installation of these lights has become extremely easy and less expensive. The ability to install under counter lighting in a continuous pattern, allows a very even lighting effect for the illumination of the surface of the countertops. In addition, the dimming and controls of these lights are very advanced, and will offer several different lighting effects for the kitchen. The use of LED fixtures for under cabinet lighting, allows the continuous illumination of the entire counter surface without the use of excessive energy. This gives the entire kitchen a welcoming appearance, as well as provide security lighting, night lighting and a sense of occupancy within the home. Under-cabinet lighting adds an intrinsic ambience of formality and class, without exceptional costs.

Above- cabinet lighting

The use of above cabinet lighting is a novel technique for the residential kitchen. Its use in the retail market has been successful for many years, however, the installation of simple LED lighting above the cabinets, in the residential kitchen, has not gained as much popularity. The visual effect can be interesting and creative. Together with a well planned under cabinet lighting scheme, the use of above cabinet lights will introduce a glow into the kitchen that will add drama and formality. As with the under-cabinet lighting, the use of above cabinet lights, is a great method of providing a sense of occupancy, therefore increasing security as well as night illumination in the most popular room in the home.

Specialty lighting

There are several specialty lighting techniques that can be creatively used within the kitchen. The use of a lighting specialist is definitely encouraged and will demonstrate the creative and interesting possibilities of specialty lighting. If artwork is used to decorate the kitchen, then special wall lighting can be introduced to segue with under cabinet and above cabinet lighting. If specialty art objects or even family created pottery is displayed within the kitchen, especially above upper cabinets, within an open soffit kitchen, then specialty spot lighting can introduce a creative illumination. Even the use of strip lighting along the perimeter of the toe kick in the kitchen will cast a glow onto the kitchen floor causing a creative and custom appearance. Lighting within the kitchen can enhance the entire appearance and visual nature of the kitchen. Insofar as the kitchen is the focus, in many homes, the lighting should be carefully planned, and specialty, creative lighting will add to the customization of your kitchen.


The installation of dimmers on the majority of the kitchen lighting will introduce a creative and custom appearance to the kitchen lighting, based upon the occasion. If the need for bright and focused lighting is needed, such as homework time, the lights can be on with maximum intensity. If the evening has arrived, and a calming atmosphere is necessary, the lights with dimmers installed, can be dimmed to the light level required to create the desired effect. Dimmers are suggested for many lights within the home, however the use of a quality dimmer system within the kitchen is especially useful and allows mood creativity.

Occupancy sensors

The installation of occupancy sensors in the kitchen is a very useful addition to the lighting selections within the kitchen space. Remember there is still an off and on switch on these occupancy sensors, so the lights can be turned on or off at will, even if they are controlled by an occupancy sensor. The reason that occupancy sensors are recommended is that, unless some other lighting fixtures remain activated within the kitchen at all times, the finding of the light switch, when it is dark, can be an intimidating and frustrating endeavor. The installation of occupancy sensors eliminates this frustration and will activate the lighting as required upon entrance into the kitchen. Dependent upon the layout of the lights within the kitchen, the number of occupancy sensors necessary is specific to the needs of the homeowner. In many cases, the installation of only one occupancy sensor will perform the necessary illumination upon entry to the kitchen, that is necessary to achieve the desired effect.

In summary, kitchen lighting is an important element of successfully designing your kitchen. The introduction of a new lighting scheme within an existing kitchen, will add a sense of drama as well as creativity. With the development of new lighting fixtures, lamps and techniques, the lighting within the kitchen is an important and dominant element to the final look and feel of the most important room in the home, the kitchen.

Good luck, hire a professional, and be creative and unique in your lighting selections.

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