Like day and night, lighting design can make all the difference to a room. It doesn't matter how much clients spend on fixtures, without proper lighting that takes into account the room's use and the mood the client wants to create, the final look will not be as beautiful or functional as it could have been. Here are some pointers for good lighting design.
Low-voltage undercounter lighting is one of the best investments to make in a kitchen. Lighting this usually dark area gives the space a nice warm glow. Mounted behind the front cabinet reveal, light is cast down and back, playing up a beautiful backsplash.
If you have pendant fixtures hanging over an island, viewers perceive the island and the fixtures above it as a wall plane dividing the kitchen into two galleys. The beautiful pendant fixtures may, in fact, detract from your remodeling investment. To make the kitchen feel larger, use recessed lights over the island or peninsula. To define a space, such as a breakfast nook between kitchen and family room, use pendants.
When a kitchen is lit from the middle of the room, viewers often perceive the cabinets as a big wooden rectangle, becoming one-dimensional and losing depth of detail. Carefully placing a recessed light 12 inches from the center of a wall cabinet will cause light to cone down over the cabinet, creating a focal point. The viewer now sees vignettes of top and matching bottom cabinets — giving the look of custom furniture.
A good lighting plan should emphasize the important areas of a room — not the fixtures. This kitchen and dining room plan uses recessed lighting to make the objects — cabinetry and artwork — the brightest parts of the room, drawing the viewer's attention to them.
Installing a recessed light in the ceiling about 12 inches from the cabinets casts light over the area where someone might be working at the counter, so they're not working in their own shadow. The light glazes the face of the cabinet panels as well, ensuring that the eye and mind catch the cabinet detail — and the investment clients have made. Even cabinet finishers recognize the value of the glazing look when they darken the recessed areas of cabinet doors and wipe the proud areas light to simulate good lighting.
A chandelier on a dimmer lights a table setting with warm colors usually not found in fine china or crystal, making them appear dull and off-color. Relighting the table with a low-voltage recessed light on each side of the chandelier restores the setting's beauty.
Lighting artwork or other focal points in a room so they appear as the brightest areas ensures that viewers focus on these investments rather than on blank wall sections, providing emotional impact and giving clients true return on investment. —Phil Blosser is a lighting designer and the owner of Blosser Electric and Blosser Lighting Design, with offices in eastern Pennsylvania and Virginia's Shenandoah Valley.