Light me up

A well thought-out lighting scheme can dramatically enhance the appearance and usability of any kitchen design. No matter how much or how little you are investing in the kitchen itself, lighting can allow any kitchen to make an impression. Lighting is often left as an afterthought, but it should be a key consideration during the initial stages of planning your kitchen. There has never been so much choice when it comes to kitchen lighting and choosing the right products can be quite an overwhelming task as there are so many different fixtures and fittings now on the market. However, taking the time to think carefully about the lighting you need will most definitely pay off. It is important that the retailer or manufacturer that you are purchasing the kitchen from discusses the lighting options available to you and specifies lighting that meets your needs and requirements in accordance to how the kitchen is most likely to be used.

You want your kitchen to have longevity, so when it comes to lighting LED’s are the future. Incandescent bulbs are no longer available to purchase and with plans on the horizon to also phase out halogen, LED is the only lighting option that is here to stay, but what’s more, it is the most energy efficient and cost-effective source of lighting available.

While the initial cost of purchasing LED lighting for your kitchen is likely to be more than it would be for halogen bulbs, the long-term benefits certainly outweigh this start-up cost. One 20W halogen fitting costs approximately £9.66 per year to run (based on 8 hours usage per day). One 1.65W HD LED fitting will provide the same level of brightness, yet cost only 90p per year to run, resulting in a saving of £8.76 per fitting, per year!

LED’s are both lighter on your pocket and kinder to the environment as the wasted energy that is produced is minimal, meaning that your energy consumption is significantly reduced. In fact, 90 per cent of the energy used with halogen bulbs is wasted and converted into radiant heat. LED’s are a far safer option as they will not over-heat or produce UV or IR rays.

In purchasing LED’s you will also eliminate the cost of replacement bulbs as the average lifespan of LED’s is approximately 12.5 years, that’s 40,000 hours. On average, a halogen bulb will last for around 1.5 years, or 3,000 hours. With LED’s there’s no need to climb up a ladder and change the bulbs, as the chances are the light fittings will outlive the carcass of the kitchen itself!

In the past, LED’s have been thought of as producing a cold, blue light, but this is a thing of the past. LED fittings are now available in a cool white or warm white shade of light and the option you choose should mainly depend upon the style and finish of the cabinets and work surfaces you have opted for.

Warm white lighting will produce a shade of light similar to that of halogen. It will have a yellowish glow and is well-suited to traditional kitchens as it highlights the grain of the wood in the cabinet doors. It will also complement marble and sandstone work surfaces, which are a popular choice for traditional settings.

If your self-build is the ultimate in modern design and you are fitting a sleek, contemporary kitchen design with high gloss cabinets, cool white lighting is the better option. Providing more of a clinical, bright light, cool white creates a more dramatic effect that suits the crisp, clean lines and minimalist styling of a modern kitchen.

A good lighting scheme will have an ideal balance of task and mood lighting; however the fittings you include will depend upon the purpose of your kitchen. Task lighting aids the more practical tasks in the kitchen such as food preparation, cooking and cleaning and should be fitted underneath wall-hung cabinets to illuminate work surfaces. It can be purchased in the form of spot or strip lighting. You may want to consider cool white light fittings here, as they will provide a brighter light.

Mood lighting works to create ambience in the kitchen, so if your self-build project consists of an open plan design or includes a kitchen-diner, mood lighting will help to ease the transition between kitchen and living space, or simply transform it from a practical space into an area that can be used for socialising and entertaining by creating a calmer, more relaxed atmosphere.

Situate mood lighting above wall-hung cabinets, along the plinth of base units and also use it to illuminate shelves. If your kitchen design includes an island, placing subtle strip lighting around the base will create a floating effect and will provide your kitchen with a dramatic focal point.

To make your kitchen more user-friendly, you may also want to consider convenience lighting. This comes in the form of in-drawer and in-cabinet lighting to illuminate these areas to help you find the ingredients and utensils you need. Some fittings may have a sensor integrated into the design so that the light automatically turns on when you open the door or drawer, and turns off when you close it to save energy. If the fitting doesn’t have a sensor built-in, it is possible to purchase one separately.

Lighting plays an important part in any kitchen design and the results can be seen in not only the way the kitchen looks, but also the way it functions.