How to plan your kitchen lighting

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  • Essential for preparation and cooking, lighting can also be used to create mood and atmosphere at the flick of a switch. We talk you through the different types

    One of the first things you’ll need to consider when planning your new kitchen is the lighting, as electrics and fittings have to be installed at the start of the project, before plastering, decorating and the fitting. It’s an integral part of any scheme and this is your one chance to get it right.

    The key to a successful scheme lies in layering the effects, so you should try to zone the lighting according to its use – working (task), dining and mood (ambient) and creating the wow factor (feature). It’s important to concentrate on all three and consider dimmable solutions for even more flexibility.

    ‘Plan the lighting when you’re thinking about the plumbing,’ advises Sally Storey, design director at John Cullen Lighting. ‘As a rule of thumb, allow as much budget for your lighting as you would the flooring. Your choices will depend on the size of the space and whether your room has a high or low ceiling.’

    Installing ceiling lighting can pose some difficulties, but it is possible to illuminate a kitchen without using any ceiling lights. There is a wide range of spotlights, downlighters, uplighters and strips that can be placed either under or on top of kitchen units. It also means you can be more creative, as it’s possible to conceal fixtures and fittings.

    Work lighting

    SieMatic’s chromotherapy lighting can be set to one shade or rotate through the colour spectrum. Shown as part of the S1 kitchen, which costs from £50,000, it can be used in splashbacks or within glass-fronted cabinets

    Every kitchen, no matter how large or small, needs efficient task lighting. This is as much from a safety point of view as anything else. You’ll need direct lighting wherever any food preparation is taking place – worktops, sinks and hobs – to make sure chopping and cooking can be done safely and without shadows. Undermounted options are perfect for this and be sure to look for recessed or semi-recessed options, as exposed light fittings will collect grease and dirt more easily

    For the hob area, choose an extractor with four or more halogen lights and if the island is to be used for prep, highlight it with pendant lamps combined with recessed downlighters. These should always be controlled on a separate circuit, so make sure you talk to your electrician before any installation takes place.

    The latest trend is for easy-to-use sensor-operated products. They’re extremely practical – when preparing food, there’s no need to wash your hands every time you need to flick the switch, simply wave your hand in front of the sensor. Drawer and cabinet lighting can also be operated on sensors, instantly coming on when the door is opened. Not only do they look great, the lights make it much easier to find that elusive corkscrew or pizza cutter.

    Sensio‘s new Click Slideline is wonderfully simple and allows you to have direct light wherever you want it. It comprises a set of LEDs fitted onto a track, which slides into position wherever they are needed most.

    Lighting for dining

    The Campbell 210 lights by Louise Campbell for Louis Poulsen over the island are made from sandblasted glass and cost £421 each; the laser-cut acrylic Collage 450 is £628

    Open-plan kitchens with a dining area or those with a breakfast bar need a combination of
    adequate lighting for eating, with softer lighting for after-dinner conversation. Dining tables and island units will benefit from a series of overhead pendant lamps (rise-and-fall versions can be moved up or down when needed) while cluster lights and wall lighting will create a warm glow that sets the mood.

    Hugo Tugman, founder of Architect Your Home, explains the importance of considering how the lighting in each zone will affect the adjacent areas in an open-plan layout. ‘It’s no good
    creating a lovely mood setting in the dining area if it’s ruined by bright light from the kitchen,’
    he says. ‘Part of the solution lies in lighting control – systems that allow you to switch between pre-set arrangements of lights for different situations. This allows you to have one setting for dining, another for parties, one for cleaning and so on.’

    Mood lighting

    Create an ambient feel in an open-plan scheme with layers of different lighting. This room uses polestar lights, £53 each; LED contour strips, £131 per metre; and plaster square lights, £128 each, all from John Cullen Lighting

    Ambient lighting is key for creating a laid-back feel and is essential as kitchens become the primary social space in our homes. Look for softer solutions, such as dimmable wall lights, as well as decorative systems, like shelf and in-cabinet lights.

    ‘If the kitchen is a multifunctional space with a very strong living element, then it’s important that the room has the right atmosphere, depending on the time of day and who’s at home,’ explains Graeme Smith, conceptual designer for Metris and Second Nature Kitchens. If your room is large, think about how you want the different zones to interact.

    Mood lighting can change the ambience of the kitchen from practical preparation zone to a chill-out or entertaining space. Plinth lighting – especially strip lights – around an island unit or breakfast bar gives the illusion of floating furniture, which can create a magical feel at night and is great for wowing guests.

    If you have a period property or interesting features, such as an exposed brick wall, that you’d like to highlight, consider accent lighting that can be used to focus on a particular area or design element in the room.

    Ambient lighting

    The Warendorf Moodlight concept emphasises the horizontal lines of an island unit with striking pink lighting. Kitchens start from £20,000

    This is where you have the chance to set your kitchen apart. The LivingAmbiance by Philips
    is a range of coloured lighting that can be changed to suit your mood. ‘The kitchen is probably the most actively used room in the home,’ says Ashley Smith, consumer lighting marketing manager for Philips, ‘so lighting should be an integral part of its design. Good lighting  improves the functionality, appearance and energy efficiency of your kitchen and also impacts on your wellbeing. LivingAmbiance lets you access a whole host of colours and shades of white to create the mood you want – from cool to warm – whether entertaining friends or cooking for the family.’

    Sensio‘s LED RGB 30W remote control and receiver is another option, as the remote control enables you to create any mood at the touch of a button. Choose from a slow or rapid colour change with a memory function to activate the settings previously used. Other effects include
    colour-changing back-lit glass splashbacks and light strips beneath the worktop on an island unit.

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