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A countertop is to a home chef what a canvas is to an artist. It’s a place where proper lighting is needed to build a healthy, functional, and comfortable working atmosphere.
If you’re remodeling your kitchen or just looking for a quick update, working to place lights in the proper location will make your kitchen work better for you – or the next owner if you are remodeling ahead of a home sale – while adding beauty to the heart of the home.
Make Proper Use of Kitchen Downlighting
One of the most common lighting mistakes in the kitchen is to position overhead lights over the floors rather than over work areas such as countertops, sinks, and ranges.
Recessed downlights, which are the workhorse of most kitchens, are far too frequently mounted in front of or behind countertops. This can cast harsh shadows in areas where you’re using sharp knives.
Instead, consider installing recessed downlights directly above the middle of the counters, where they will be ideally positioned to enable the chef to see what they’re doing while avoiding casting those unappealing shadows over your lovely surfaces.
Dodge the Shadows
As we just mentioned, recessed downlights can cast unwanted shadows, but by using several smaller downlights rather than a few big fixtures, you can reduce this. In the past, the only options for recessed lights were 6-inch or 8-inch can lights.
That has changed, so consider adding a few more recessed downlights in the 2- to 3-inch range as they are readily available today.
As a result, your counters will be better lit, your upper cabinets will appear brighter, and glare will be reduced, making your kitchen more efficient and enjoyable to work in.
In sink zones, the same concept applies. Multiple downlights or sconces that direct light downward minimize deep shadows and make working at the sink more comfortable.
Downlines, Not Downlights?
A long line of recessed lights, rather than several small recessed downlights over a countertop, – or even a mixture of hanging and recessed lights as seen above, is a perfect way to uniformly illuminate counters and cabinets.
In more traditional spaces, this technique may seem strange, but it works wonderfully in modern kitchens.
Add Lighting to Cabinets the Right Way
Upper cabinets will still block some of the light and darken the room below them, no matter how well you place downlights. Consider incorporating undercabinet lighting to combat this. Undercabinet lighting, including recessed downlights, should be mounted above the middle of the cabinets rather than too far forward or back.
LED tape lighting directed toward the backsplash reduces reflections on polished stone counters, but it directs the brightest light in the wrong direction, making the counters too dim. When LED tape lighting is placed too far forward, it may cast harsh shadows on the counter. Try testing a strip of light before installing it to make sure it pushes light onto the counter evenly.
Sink Lighting Considerations
When washing dishes by hand, it’s good to be able to see what you’re doing. Don’t just install one tiny recessed light or pendant light above your sink and call it a day when it comes to nighttime lighting. Rather, add several lights over your sink.
Dimmers are not really expensive, and they’re well worth their money because they can help you get just the right amount of light on your counters. A standard switch only allows you to choose between on and off; dimmers allow you to create a different mood after dinner and can help you relax when cleaning up.