Bright, practical lighting is referred to as task lighting and this includes ceiling spots and under cupboard or wall lights. These project light directly onto the work surface, allowing you to see clearly and work safely. Beyond this, lighting gets more creative, and is about aesthetics and mood. In a kitchen, this might include some lighting built into the cabinetry such as plinths, drawers and inside cupboards. A step further and you’re looking at responsive layered lighting schemes that change on demand, taking your kitchen from workhorse to welcoming. All lighting decisions should be made right at the start of your project. Not only is this the right time to be laying cables and services, but your lighting scheme may also influence your choice of materials, especially cabinetry and worktops.
THE REFLECTIVE APPROACH
Sally Storey, design director at John Cullen Lighting, is passionate about the power of light to create mood and transform a room by night. ‘Get it right,’ she says, ‘and you not only have one room, but two or three at your disposal.’ While overhead spots provide overall light, they really don’t do much for your scheme, so Sally recommends bouncing light off surfaces, making even your general illumination softer and more appealing. This can be achieved in a number of ways. Uplighters above wall cabinets will wash light across the ceiling, while downlighters will light up wall cabinets and walls – you can have a combination of both. You can also use uplighters set into the floor to wash light up the wall, which is super-effective if it has a textured finish. Another idea is to fit a thin strip of LEDs tucked right at the back under wall cupboards to light splashbacks and worktops. If you don’t have wall cupboards, consider fitting a thin strip of stainless steel at mid-wall height with LEDs on both sides. This creates a soft glow above and below, and is a great way to light beamed, vaulted or pitched ceilings.
Just as an interior designer builds up layers of colour and texture, a good lighting scheme builds up layers of light, according to Sally. ‘If we think of uplighters, downlighters and a few wellchosen overhead spots as the basic lighting scheme, we can then begin to draw the eye to key areas as focal points,’ she says. Large pendant lights over eating areas are brilliant for creating a cosy atmosphere in rooms with high ceilings, while rows of smaller pendants highlight islands and dining areas. ‘Choose three or five,’ suggests Mark Holloway of Holloways of Ludlow. ‘The odd number means there is always one central pendant.’ Or why not try strips of LEDs under the island to make it look like it’s floating? Backlit splashbacks can also be striking, while lighting recesses, shelves and display areas will help add drama and mood.
In addition to pendants over the table, Sally Storey also suggests uplighting along the top of a banquette or fitted seating for a soft, inviting glow. Install a mirror behind the banquette and the reflection will ‘double’ your lighting scheme – great news if you are on a budget. For casual seating at a breakfast bar, LEDs at plinth level and set under the countertop will encourage guests to sit there.
We all yearn for plenty of natural light by day but at night, large expanses of glass doors and skylights turn into unappealing black holes. For skylights, you can add a recess around the perimeter with slot-in lights to fill the well with light. The beauty of LEDs these days is that they’re so small, you can hide them anywhere. Alternatively, uplight from the cupboards and add fibre optics – it’s a bit of fun and looks like stars. Never uplight to glass as all you’ll get is a reflection of the light source. For bifold doors, your focus should be on lighting the outdoor space beyond. A great garden lighting scheme will double your entertaining area and create a beautiful view by night. And, if you are planning a basement area, consider false windows with light levels that mimic cloud movement – it will fool your brain into thinking you are above ground.
Planning your lighting scheme early on is a sure way to get you focused on how materials and light interact, and it may well influence your cabinetry choice. For example, pale finishes and reflective surfaces will rebound light around the room, but a dark surface will absorb it. ‘It’s worth considering the reflective qualities of the worksurfaces,’ says Graeme Smith, senior designer at Second Nature Kitchens. ‘Materials such as stainless steel and sparkling quartz will maximise the effect of any lighting, while granite tops may require additional lighting,’ Visiting a lighting specialist such as John Cullen, where you can see systems at work before you set foot in the kitchen showroom, is a good idea. But you will also find that many kitchen designers are wellversed in the effects of light and will be able to guide you, too.
Complex lighting schemes will require a control system such as Crestron and Lutron to help orchestrate the different effects. A home automation specialist such as Cornflake can programme a bespoke system for you, letting you dim lights from your tablet, and even close curtains and turn on the TV and music, too.
Your kitchen designer will understand the basic principles of task and decorative lighting, but if you’re renovating a larger space incorporating living, dining, cooking and the garden, here’s why it’s worth employing a specialist: ¦ They’re not tied to specific brands so can research the whole industry to get the products best suited to your kitchen and budget. ¦ As they know their LOR (light output ratio) from their CRI (colour rendering index), they take the guess work out of choosing and positioning lights. ¦ They will work with builders/installers to ensure all cables and wiring is properly planned. ¦ They’ll create a lighting scheme that enhances the look and functionality of your new kitchen.