Lighting Tips for a Functional, Feel-Good Kitchen and Bath

posted on Jun. 15, 2016, at 3:23 p.m.

NKBA Staff

Written by: K+B Insider Patricia Davis Brown, CKD, CBD, ASID, NCIDQ, Dig This Design, Vero Beach, FL.

A good kitchen and bath lighting plan should go well beyond aesthetics and function—together they contribute to the homeowner’s experience in the space. To create a well-lit interior, there are some important questions to ask: What is the function of the space? Who is using it? In the kitchen and bath where one space serves multiple functions—and often multiple users at once—a lighting plan must be designed to allow the homeowner to do everything from cooking and cleaning to entertaining and relaxing.

Below, NKBA K+B Insider, Patricia Davis Brown, CKBD, ASID, NCIDQ, shares her expert advice on how to best utilize lighting in the kitchen and bath to create a functional, feel-good home.

Lighting Science 101: What You Need to Know

Before we get into best practices and how to achieve optimal lighting, it’s important to understand the Color Rendition Index (CRI) and Kelvin temperature of LEDs, and the effect they have on your space. The CRI is measured on a scale from 1 to 100 (100 rendering the truest colors of materials). When LED technology first launched in the residential market, the biggest complaint was how the poor quality of light affected the appearance of colors and materials in the room due to the low CRI. Thankfully, technological advancements in LED lighting have helped to solve that problem and LEDs are now available with a CRI of 90. I believe we will see a CRI of 100 in the future.

Kelvin Temperature Scale

For residential settings, comfortable lighting is preferred—no one wants hospital emergency room lighting over the kitchen island! I suggest bulbs with a Kelvin temperature between 2700-2900K. To mimic the warm light temperature of an incandescent, an LED with a Kelvin temperature around 2900K will achieve this look.

Tips for Lighting Each Zone: General Lighting

General Lighting

General lighting provides light for the entire space from ceiling fixtures to pendant lighting. In my projects, I like to use a 5-inch trim recessed fixture with a flood LED lamp—it literally floods the intended space with light, filtering onto the vertical surfaces like cabinetry. If you use a non-flood lamp like an MR16 narrow beam spread, the cabinetry would be shadowed and produce a poor effect.

Layers of light from recessed ceiling lights and pendants in the bath provide a soothing and serene ambience to help create a spa-like experience at home.

Task Lighting

In the kitchen area designated for meal prep, task lighting isn’t only a matter of functionality, it’s also a matter of safety. Task lights should be placed under or near countertops, and should have a defined narrow beam spread to fit the surface it is lighting. I recommend a 3” trim fixture with an LED MR16. Aesthetically, I like to have a different sized aperture for each zone.

Task Lighting

You will want the candlepower (light intensity) stronger than the general lighting for task activities to be performed efficiently.

Task lighting is also important in the bathroom. The right lighting around a vanity plays a huge role in how makeup application looks in your own bathroom, versus how it appears in natural daylight or in the evening. US manufacturers like Robern offer sleek, high-tech vanity mirrors with premium built-in lighting that eliminates guesswork. For those without the luxury of a vanity mirror with built-in lighting, install sconces on the wall as well as light from above, to avoid casting unwanted shadows on the face. Additionally, choose LEDs with a temperature around 3500K to best imitate daytime lighting.

Ambient Lighting

Ambient Lighting

Ambient Lighting includes the under- and over- cabinet lighting, interior cabinet lighting, and decorative lighting. For the lighting under, over and inside the cabinetry, pick a continuous, uninterrupted light fixture. Puck lights, while easy and popular, puddle the light and create shadows. The beauty of a well-lit space is to not see the light, but know that it is there.

For the interior of the cabinetry, run continuous LED strips vertically. This will shine the lighting evenly across each shelf and give the glassware the perfect glow.

Throughout 2016, the NKBA K+B Insiders will report on the latest industry trends from across the globe, must-attend events and top industry trade shows. Next stop: Dwell on Design in Los Angeles. Stay up-to-date on the latest trends with #KBInsider on Twitter and Facebook, and through the K+B Insider’s guest blog posts on the NKBA blog.

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