The kitchen has to work hard as a room to function efficiently throughout the day and accommodate all of the activities that are carried out there.
Background light is key – as the kitchen is a working area, a good level of general light is essential. In contemporary kitchens, this is often successfully provided by recessed down lights. Do avoid falling into the common trap of arranging LED downlight in a regular grid configuration, and make sure you don’t locate downlights over the wallway, leaving the worktops in darkness. Look at the elevations and relate the lighting to these. The best approach is to align the down lights with the cabinet doors and direct the light towards their surface to achieve a soft, reflected light. If the kitchen has a central island, then down lights can be used here as well, perhaps even using a combination of downlights and a decorative pendant for added impact.
Another effect that works extremely well, particularly in a dark basement area or in a room with very high ceilings, is to use the tops of the cabinets for uplights that provide indirect light reflected off the ceiling. It is possible to use two light sources for the uplights – energy-efficient fluorescents, for a crisp uplight effect for use during the day, and ropelight, which creates a soft yellow glow for the evening. This effect is not for the general light but just the ambience. Uplighting can also emphasize any architectural detailing and helps to reduce the number of down lights required in the ceiling, which are often overused as a solution.
The next thing to consider is the localized task lighting. In galley kitchen, this is probably best provided by under cabinet lighting. A variety of warmer compact fluorescent lights can work in this situation, as can low-voltage halogen lights that can be dimmed for a wonderful night-time effect, but have the disadvantage of creating heat, which may adversely affect food stored in the cupboard above. This under general light has been lowered.
A central island is usually best served with a direct downlight, which can either be in the ceiling itself or built into a suspended hanging rack. Light may also be provided by decorative overhead pendant lights, which also serve to create a statement within the interior. In traditional kitchens, an overhead pendant will provide an immediate visual reference for the sort of light fitting that in the past was expected to be the main source of light, but which these days can be backed up with low-glare downlights.
The next stage is to add accent lighting. This could be lighting within glass cabinets or shelving, or even lights built into a kitchen plinth or floating kitchen units. These effects should always be controlled separately and usually be brought into play only as part of evening mood settings.
In inclusive kitchens with dining or sitting areas, it is important to introduce a softer lighting effect, either with lamps or wall lights. Usually a focus will be created over a dining table, again controlled separately so that it can be brought up independently from any other lighting effects. The key is to focus light in the centre of the table and to control it, if necessary, with glare louvers so that it does not fall uncomfortably over the head of any of the dinners.