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Your Guide to Kitchen & Bathroom Lighting

Heather Asiyanbi - 9/4/18 3:48 PM

Lighting plays a critical role in the design of every room in your home, and nowhere is that more evident than in your kitchen and your bathroom(s). Light fixtures certainly add to the overall aesthetic of your room, and the type of light, where you place it, how many lumens you need and its Kelvin rating all contribute to the mood, tone and texture of your finished space.

Lighting Layers

Your successful kitchen and bathroom remodel projects should include a detailed plan for your lighting that includes the following layers:

  • Ambient (general) - This is your base layer and where you'll get the majority of your illumination; the light operated by flipping the switch as you walk into the room. Semi-flush, flush-mounted, and recessed light fixtures are good examples of ambient light fixtures. In your bathroom, ambient lighting most often is delivered through your vanity light. 
  • Task - Light fixtures that highlight a particular area where you are working on some specific like chopping vegetables or shaving are considered task lighting. Pendant lights above your kitchen island or sconces on either side of your bathroom mirror are examples of task lighting.
  • Accent - Highlighting architectural details like crown molding at the top of your kitchen cabinets or around the edge of your bathtub for a more spa-like atmosphere is what accent lighting was designed to do. Accent lighting isn't always functional, but it can be. Placing a more decorative fixture above your kitchen table isn't strictly necessary if you have plenty of ambient light already, but it certainly looks nice and can be sufficient on its own.

As you pull together your remodel plan, be sure you put your ambient and accent lighting on dimmers so you can create custom lighting for every occasion. You may also want to put each layer on its own switch so you can control each type separately.

Location, Location, Location

Proper placement of your light fixtures is key to avoiding lackluster illumination for every day tasks like meal prep and moving smoothly through your morning routine. To properly place recessed lighting, for example, measure the height of the ceiling and divide by two; that is the number of inches you need between lights while also keeping three feet of space between your fixture and the nearest wall. 

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To choose the right size flush or semi-flush mount light fixture, you'll need a few dimensions:

  • Measure the length and width of your room in feet then add them together and convert to inches. If your room is a nice, square 10' x 10' = 20' or 20 inches. Your fixture will be 20 inches in diameter.
  • Measure the height of your ceiling and multiply that number by 2.5 and 3 and convert to inches. A room with a nine-foot ceiling = 22.5 to 27 inches, so your fixture can be 22.5 to 27 inches tall.

Clearance is another number you should keep in mind; overall, it's safe to use seven feet of clearance between the bottom of a light fixture and the floor. This way, you're accommodating taller people in your family and who might visit.

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If you're considering adding some sparkle to your bathroom by installing a chandelier over your bathtub, then you'll need to measure six to eight feet between the top of the tub and the bottom of the light fixture.

Spacing is another facet of lighting location. Pendant lights over a kitchen island, for example, should be measured out at equal distances both from each other and each end of the island. You can safely and successfully hang three, 8-inch pendants above a 60-inch island with nine to 10 inches of space between them at 66 to 72 inches above the floor.

What are Lumens?

How bright your lights shine comes down to lumens, and, generally, the higher the lumens, the better. A traditional, incandescent, 60-watt bulb was the standard residential lamp for years and gave off between 800 and 850 lumens, which is pretty bright, but the glow was slightly yellow and didn't provide a true accounting of the colors in a a room. LED lighting, on the other hand, uses far less energy - an 8-watt LED lamp is the equivalent of a 60-watt incandescent - but gives off a much truer light so blues are more blue and greens are greener.

What is a Kelvin Rating?

The tone of your lighting - bluer blues and greener greens - comes down to Kelvin rating. Kelvin is a scientific way of measuring how close a light fixture's output is to natural light. In general, the higher the Kelvin rating, the truer the light.

In your kitchen, a Kelvin rating of 3000 will give you a warmer light reminiscent of a candescent bulb, which is great for your ambient lighting, but task lighting should trend more toward 3500 to 4100 range and even up to 4500 or higher.

Kelvin ratings in your bathroom, especially with your vanity lights if you don't have sconces and in your sconces, should trend toward the higher end of the scale so you see yourself as you truly look once you're out and about in the world. 

Topics: Kitchen- Bathroom- Lighting

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