Kitchen Lighting: Ambient, Task and Accent Lighting From Start to Finish

kitchen lighting

Beautiful and functional kitchen lighting breaks down into three categories: Ambient, task and accent lighting. Incorporating all three into your kitchen layout will provide you with a well-lit and attractive space. Considering how much money goes into outfitting a kitchen with cabinets, counters, sinks, appliances and flooring, it's a wise to approach the task with a solid grasp of kitchen lighting options.

Ambient lighting

Ambient lighting is the overall background lighting of a room. The obvious benefit is that it enables you to navigate the room without bumping into things, but when put on a dimmer it can also serve as mood lighting for entertaining. Here are some popular kitchen ambient lighting options:
• Drum chandeliers are the hottest kitchen-lighting trend. These playful lighting options look like giant, illuminated lampshades suspended from the ceiling.
• Casual chandeliers add drama, style and function in larger kitchens that have a ceiling height of nine feet or higher.
• Ceiling fixtures add style and function in smaller kitchens with a ceiling height of eight feet or lower.
• Recessed lights spaced evenly through the kitchen.
• Up-lights tucked behind decorative objects on top of the cabinets.
• Rope lighting tucked behind crown molding or beneath the upper cabinets. These lights will illuminate softly and cast a glow over the kitchen, which looks particularly elegant for evening entertaining.

Task Lighting

Task lighting is exactly what it sounds like: lighting to help you accomplish the tasks you set out to do in your kitchen. Whether it's preparing meals, washing dishes, paying bills, or helping kids with homework, all of these jobs would be difficult to complete with poor lighting. Task lighting sources include:
• Recessed or "can" lights -- there should be one over the sink, one for every four feet of counter space (at a minimum), and also over the island, if not using pendant lights.
• Pendant lights over the kitchen island serves three purposes -- they provide task lighting, make a design statement, and serve as a visual distinction between the open spaces.
• Under-cabinet lighting, in the form of compact fluorescent lights, is another great option for task lighting in the food preparation areas.

Accent Lighting

Accent lighting is used to draw attention to the unique details of your kitchen. Accent lighting sources include:
• Puck lights to illuminate glass front cabinets, much like in a curio or china cabinet.
• Toe-kick lights to focus attention on flooring with a unique texture or design. They are also helpful to those who like a midnight snack but don't want bright overhead lighting waking them up.
• A table lamp on the counter adds a warm glow to visually soften the hard surfaces of a kitchen. This looks particularly attractive near the desk area of the kitchen, keeping it away from the prep stations and kitchen sink.

One final recommendation: Put each light source on a separate control and a dimmer. This gives you infinite options for creating the perfect ambiance for any situation.

See also:
10 Home Improvements That Are a Waste of Money

Home Improvement: Do's and Don'ts From a Pro
Remodeling: When It's Worth the Cost

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