Lighting a Kitchen for Maximum Usefulness and Eye Appeal

Let’s face it; most of the time we spend at home in the United States (and certainly elsewhere) is spent in the kitchen or in the dining area, as some prefer to call it. In earlier times, homes often lacked a living room and the kitchen area served the multipurpose use of a place to take meals and a place to socialize and just plain relax.

In many places, things haven’t changed that much over the years because family traditions are typically hard to change.

An interesting fact is that the kitchen area often gets the least amount of attention when it comes to lighting even though it is one of the most commonly used areas of the house. The right kind of lighting in this room is critical because this gathering place should be inviting and comfortable. This means that the lighting should be both bright and functional as well as designed with eye-appeal in mind.

One of the benefits when selecting lighting for this area is that more is often better than less. Multiple, smaller light fixtures can be used to illuminate the main food preparation area, while some low-voltage fixtures can be used to highlight decorative artwork such as teapots, a set of china or figurines. Low-voltage lighting is perhaps the most under used type of lighting used in this area.

While we are on the subject of low-voltage lighting, let’s go into a little detail about what it actually is. Low-voltage lighting are usually small, round lights that are a few inches in diameter. They are ideal for lighting under and inside cabinets. They can be just the perfect fixture for a sink valance and only your imagination limits their use. Fixtures are readily available in both 10- and 20-watt lights. A 12-volt transformer is necessary for these lights to work as well as another 60-watt transformer.

Control flexibility is a major feature of low-voltage lighting. Small switches can be installed that turn the light(s) on or off every time a cabinet is opened or closed, for example. Dimmer switches are also a common addition to a low-voltage light and will provide just the right level of lighting.

One of the popular trends today is the use of strip lights in the kitchen. These lights are very easy to install since they can simply be clipped under the area to be highlighted. While strip lighting runs off of 120V current, the longevity of the lighting fixture makes it an attractive option. While there is no hard and fast rule, these lights generally last over 30,000 hours and rather than replacing the entire unit, today’s strip lighting lets you simply replace the bulb and you are in business again. Because of their increase in popularity, manufacturers have developed a wide variety of styles and colors from which to choose.

Visit a large hardware store or a home improvement center and you will see for yourself that kitchen lighting has come a long way in terms of what is available to fit any decorating scheme or décor.

While there are a wide variety of kitchen lighting ideas available, the key is not to become overwhelmed. The primary thing to always keep in mind is what your kitchen looks like, including its size and location in your home. Also, how is your kitchen used? Do people spend a great deal of time there even when they’re not eating? What impression do you want to create when friends and family congregate in the kitchen? Start out by looking through the tons of home and garden magazines available today. Don’t be overly impressed by a kitchen that has too much style for the tastes and lifestyle of your family. Look at the details. You may find one idea here and one idea there that fit what you’re looking for. Keep in mind that these magazines usually have a hefty budget and that some of the lighting pictured may be out of your price range. If you are a social creature, take a look at the way kitchens are decorated and the way lighting is used in homes you visit. Ask your friends what, in particular, they like about the way their kitchen looks. People like to talk about their homes.

Depending on your budget, you can always seek professional sources that specialize in home decorating. There are professionals that specialize as consultants in the area of home lighting. A word of caution. There are no professional credentials required to advertise oneself as a lighting consultant. If you just grab someone from the yellow pages or from the services available section of your local newspaper, you may be in for trouble. I’ve heard horror stories where a homeowner selected a consultant that offered their services for a price that seemed very good. The result was too much lighting in the wrong areas and just the right amount of lighting in areas that didn’t really need much, if any lighting. When we add up the consultant’s fee, the cost of the fixtures and new wiring that needed to be added, the bottom-line was a nightmare for the homeowner.

Fortunately, there is a fail-safe way to avoid this kind of problem. The United States and Canada benefit from an organization named ALA (American Lighting Association). Members of this association are required to demonstrate top rate knowledge and experience in the field of lighting. They all share a commitment to recommending quality lighting and the application of just the right lighting configurations for the areas in question. The key word to remember when considering an ALA-member consultant is that they always look for the optimal use of resources and the needs of the homeowner.

Don’t rely on your own abilities and resources or questionable experts when making lighting decisions. The skills, knowledge and ability of an ALA-member lighting consultant is always your best bet.

Here are some final thoughts. It’s a given that you want to select the highest quality lighting fixtures you can afford and it’s equally important that you select just the right styles that fit your kitchen décor and you personal tastes.

I suggest that you avoid discount stores or any stores that offer bargain prices. You get what you pay for and your lighting should be selected at a level of quality that will provide you with years and years of top-flight service and dependability.

Visit an ALA approved showroom and take along photos of your kitchen area to help the experts on staff gain a sense of what your kitchen offers in terms of resources. It’s also a good idea to bring dimensions of your kitchen area including countertops and the overall dimensions of the room. ALA member-consultants can quickly get a feel for what resources you have available as well as what can be done to maximize their usefulness and eye appeal by suggesting just the right kind of lighting.