The kitchen has become the epicentre of most modern home designs and serves many functions beyond standard food preparation. From entertaining and socialising through to homework and study, the kitchen hosts a diverse array of activities. Because of this its design – and in particular its lighting design – needs to thoughtfully accommodate the multifunctional nature of the space.
In order to ensure the kitchen of your prefab home is functional and comfortable, there are three things to consider when designing a kitchen lighting scheme: task lighting, accent lighting and ambient lighting. But with the application of any of these kinds of light also comes the need for careful consideration for placement, design and ambience to ensure a cohesive overall lighting design. Whether you’re currently planning or building your prefab home or only renovating your kitchen, your choice of lighting is an opportunity to maximise the room’s potential while introducing energy and atmosphere. To help break it down, we’ve put together some ideas worth contemplating during the prefabricated housing design process.
Whether it be for modular homes or conventionally built homes, planning is extremely important to achieve your desired lighting result. If you are renovating your kitchen or building your home from scratch, planning the lighting beforehand or in the early stages of construction will make the process easier and more affordable as wiring can be incorporated before the room is finished. However, if you are lighting a prebuilt kitchen, you do have the advantage of visualising the room and understanding how best it could be lit. Regardless, some aspects of design are best left until the end, such as choice of pendants and whether cool or warm lighting would suit the space.
To begin, we suggest planning for several different sources of light. This not only allows for the stylish layering of light, but also enables greater control and flexibility – an important point, especially if the kitchen is a part of an open plan dining and living area.
Before considering design elements such as fixtures and pendants, thinking about your kitchen’s main functions is a good starting point as these will inform your choices about what light you will require. Task lighting, accent lighting and ambient or general lighting are the three primary kinds of light that you’ll likely install in your kitchen – and achieving a balance across these categories is important to creating a comfortable and cohesively lit space in your prefab home.
Decide on Task Lighting
Task lighting is crucial to a kitchen so it is a wise idea to plan it first to ensure that the functional requirements of your kitchen – food preparation, study, washing – are met. Furthermore, the level of light created in this stage will inform the need for accent and general lighting later on.
Consider what tasks you normally undertake in the kitchen and where you undertake them. Then break the room into different areas – for example: cabinets, drawers, countertops, sink, pathways.
Much of the work done in the kitchen takes place on countertops and that’s why under-cabinet lighting is one of the most common task lighting choices. Under-cabinet LED strip lighting is a great choice for countertops as it can be installed behind the fascia board of the cabinet – a canny way of hiding it from view while providing optimal direct light. Lighting from beneath cabinets also prevents your shadow from disrupting your view of the countertop.
Exercise caution, however, with shinier countertop surfaces. Shinier materials obviously reflect a lot more light which can be distracting and uncomfortable if lit incorrectly. Diffused lights or light channels are recommended for surfaces such as marble or granite, or you could install your LED soft strip against the lip of the cabinet, facing the wall rather than the countertop.
OVER ISLAND LIGHTING
While some kitchen islands are primarily used for dining and socialising, islands used for food preparation will also need task lighting. In these cases, decorative pendant lighting will not be enough as pendants tend to diffuse and distribute light in all directions rather than targeting the countertop. While pendants can be added later for decorative effect, consider adjustable accent heads for your over-island task lighting. Monorails are a great way to marry both pendants and target lights as the rail can be shaped to your taste and accommodate both lights with the option of separate wiring so they can be turned on or dimmed independently.
Consider Accent Lighting
For interesting visual effect, consider accent lights in specific places throughout the kitchen. Accent lighting can be used to emphasise architectural or design details in the room. For example, strategically placed lights in cabinets or along shelves can highlight display shelves. Accent lighting can be incorporated quite creatively, with many options that go beyond your common shelving strip lights. For example, lighting from beneath creates an interesting visual effect and in particular, lighting kitchen islands from beneath can create a floating illusion.
Conversely, adding lights to the top of cabinets can create a great sense of dimension in kitchens with high ceilings. And for smaller kitchen and dining areas, experiment with directional lights angled towards walls and cupboards. The reflecting light will give the illusion of a greater space. With all accent lighting, the brightness ratio is important to their effectiveness. For accent lights to adequately draw attention to points of interest, it’s usually recommended they be approximately three times brighter than surrounding room lights.
Complete With Ambient Lighting
Planning your ambient light after accent and task lights will give you a greater understanding of how much general lighting the room will actually need. Beyond task and accent lights, you will not require too much more, however the final addition of ambient lighting does play a significant role in the room’s overall ambience and atmosphere. Recessed lighting, chandeliers and pendants are all examples of ambient light and can be carefully combined to create a dynamic layering of light, as well as greater control over the room’s mood.
Recessed lights, spotlights or downlights, are usually considered the best option for general room lighting. Incorporating them thoughtfully into your lighting plan can help fill in the gaps that remain after task and accent lights. But rather than opting for room-spanning grids of downlights it’s best to install them only where light is actually necessary. Taking the measurement of the space into account is important, as is considering the direction of the light. While recessed light is great at combatting glare and shadows, avoid down-facing lights above shinier worktops and surfaces. Rather, opt for cross-illuminating downlights to achieve the same lighting outcome without distracting reflection.
For a more decorative alternative to recessed lighting, flush mounts are another option for general room lighting. And for lower-ceilinged kitchens, semi-flush mounts can also suffice.
Another great way to fill the gaps in your kitchen’s lighting plan is to consider installing decorative types of lighting, such as pendants or chandeliers. Pendants and chandeliers, most often positioned above the kitchen island or dining room seating area, are excellent at creating soft, atmospheric light. Furthermore, by providing light at a lower level than your general room lighting, you can ensure the room’s overall lighting is well-balanced and visually interesting.
Incorporating pendants can change a room’s look and feel, so planning how you’ll incorporate them into your lighting design requires considering a number of spatial and aesthetic elements. Firstly, you will need to decide on the material of the pendant, the design of the pendant itself and then how many individual pendants you require. There are a plethora of materials to choose from – for example, fabric, glass, metal, crystal, or concrete. But your choice of material for your pendant, as well as its style, will largely be informed by the rest of your kitchen. To help your pendants fit seamlessly into the space, consider integrating a colour, material or texture already present in the kitchen of your prefab home.
From a design perspective odd numbers tend to be more aesthetically pleasing, yet the end result depends on the size and style of the island. If your kitchen island is longer, multi-light pendants that are clustered and staggered at various heights can become a great design feature of the room.
While clusters of multiple pendants can work extremely well in some kitchens, in considering hanging lights as a part of your kitchen’s lighting design, bear in mind that too many can become messy and distracting. Choosing a single area to be lit by a hanging feature – such as the kitchen island – will make them more effective and will also achieve the interesting visual effect of contrast and layered light. Note though that pendants that are too large for the room will demand too much attention and smother the space’s overall design.
Another decorative lighting choice is linear suspensions. An alternative to pendants and chandeliers, linear suspensions can add an elegant and minimalistic touch to your kitchen and tend to suit rectangular islands. Some linear suspensions can light both upwards and downwards with each option independently controlled according to your direct or indirect lighting needs.
Lastly, the height of your pendants or linear suspension will dictate their success. A general guideline is to position them between 60 and 70 centimetres above the benchtop to ensure they remain out of your line of sight. However, for households with children, you might need to hang them slightly lower in order to prevent a glare at your kids’ eye line.
Controls & Settings
Choosing fittings and fixtures that provide you with maximum control will ultimately determine how successfully lit the room will be – and dimmers are a great way to achieve this. Dimmers allow for the adjustment of a light’s intensity. Make sure that all of your chosen fixtures include the option of dimming so that you can modify light levels according to your momentary tasks or needs. For example, homework or cooking at the kitchen island will require a level of brightness that you might not necessarily favour while entertaining or watching a movie.
Given how multi-layered a kitchen’s lighting design tends to be, smart lighting systems can be a great tool to help you manage your lighting levels. Oftentimes, it can be difficult to achieve your perfect lighting scenario and it can be frustrating when guests or children alter the dimness levels that you might have carefully curated. A smart lighting system allows you to save “scenes” that combine the combination of the different kinds of light in your kitchen as well as their dimness settings. Thus, when someone changes your settings, or if you need to yourself, you can easily revert back to your preferred arrangement of light when you want to.
Finally, the colour of the light can be just as important as the fixtures themselves. The colour of light emitted plays a huge role in the room’s ambience and feeling. Warmer lights work better at every level of lighting – from your recessed and task lighting to your pendants – by creating a much more ambient environment. Unsurprisingly, warmer lights tend to create a warmer and cosier feeling room. By contrast, cooler lights suppress melatonin production and thus do not create the same emotional effect as warmer lights. They are, however, comparatively less expensive thanks to their energy efficiency.
TIP: Although there are a myriad of interesting and canny ways to create a beautifully lit kitchen and dining area, it is important to inform yourself of your options and use natural light as much as possible. Windows and skylights are invaluable features and there is arguably no better ambience than that created by morning light streaming through your kitchen window. Furthermore, natural light is not only a brilliant way to enhance a space but is an important resource in creating a more sustainable house.