Canada's Condominium Magazine
Consult a lighting designer about “doing something” with your living room or kitchen or your entire home for that matter, and he or she will probably stress one simple point, no matter what room you are discussing: layering. A room that is lit by a single source of light—it doesn’t matter whether it’s a naked light bulb hanging from a wire or a gorgeous Venetian glass chandelier—will be boring, lighting-wise. So, lighting designers insist that there be several different sources and types of lighting, all working together to create that special atmosphere, whatever it might be, that we all want in our homes.
One well-known lighting designer in the US, James Bedell, cautions homeowners about focusing too much on the beauty of the individual light fixture, without regard for the function it will serve. Even a very beautiful fixture can be wasted if it doesn’t work together as part of a well-layered set of lighting applications, he says.
Nowadays, with the LED lighting revolution in full swing, it is easier than ever for anyone to incorporate smart new lighting ideas in their home.
Take the kitchen.
There are basically four types of lighting to consider in any setting, though there can be overlap from one to another: task lighting, ambient lighting, accent lighting and decorative lighting. These different types of lighting make up the desired layering that gives both depth and detail to the room.
Under-cabinet lighting. This can serve as both task lighting and ambient lighting at the same time. LED strip lighting is perfect for this application. Its flexibility makes it suitable for mounting on irregular or curving surfaces, and it is easy to install, usually by means of pre-applied adhesive on the back.
LED strip lighting is also ideal for specialized design features like recessed ceiling areas and, now something of a fad in kitchen design, the toekick area. Toekick lighting works well as accent lighting and as a night-light. Use the lowest wattage strip you can get for the night-light use.
Another under-cabinet option is the “puck” light, a type of LED spot. As with all LED lighting, it consumes a fraction of the power used by halogen or incandescent lights, and gives off far less heat. Be sure to get puck lights that are dimmable to cut energy use even further. If you already have under-cabinet fixtures installed, consider replacing the bulbs with LED bulbs. They cost more to buy, but last so much longer, and use so little power, that they pay for themselves in a short time.
Ambient lighting in the kitchen is most often provided by the recessed downlight (potlight) that has been popular for decades now. Again, the best choice is LED because of power consumption and longevity (check brand specs for details).
Another option for ambient lighting in the kitchen is the pendant light usually found over the counter island. Wall sconces could be used if your kitchen has the space; for example, flanking a set of French doors.
For accent lighting in the kitchen, ceiling-mounted track lighting is the most common choice, but be sure that it is really accenting something, like a painting on the wall. Track lighting is flexible and easy to work with because of its accessibility.
Decorative lighting works best in a larger kitchen: if you have an eat-in kitchen with a large dining space, a chandelier could be perfect for that space.