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Client IQ: How to Talk to Your Clients About Kitchen Lighting

Lighting can make or break a kitchen design, both functionally and aesthetically. Helping your clients to show off their kitchens in the best light requires that you communicate some of the more complex details regarding heat, color temperature, layering and more.

This month, award-winning journalist and lighting expert Linda Longo shares her top tips for talking to clients about kitchen lighting, calling on her 30 years’ experience covering the residential lighting industry.

  1. Recessed lights are the go-to lighting fixtures many builders specify for the kitchen, and while they provide adequate ambient lighting, there can be some drawbacks. First of all, for ease of maintenance and to reduce excess heat in the kitchen, use LED light bulbs. If the kitchen already has recessed lighting, you can minimize the “swiss cheese” look (those black holes you see on the ceiling when the lights are off), by replacing the builder’s choice of black baffles with clear or white versions.

    Unfortunately, very often recessed lights are not installed in an ideal location for illuminating the counter surfaces used for prepping food. There are recessed “trims” available that can help aim the light at more efficient angles.

    In addition, the color temperature of the recessed lighting is important. On every package of light bulbs, you will find the color temperature listed. If you’re looking for a “warm” feel to the kitchen or bath, choose a color temperature in the 3,000 to 4,000 Kelvin range, which will be a yellowish-white. For kitchens with a lot of chrome finishes, a brighter white color temperature (4,000K to 5000K) is preferred.

  2. With larger kitchens serving as a popular gathering spot in the home, adding layers of accent light makes the space feel more enjoyable. These “layers” of light are in addition to the main, overhead lighting and can be operated separately to set a mood. For example, when entertaining, accent lighting may consist of illuminating the space between the top of cabinets (the soffit) and the ceiling, inside glass-fronted cabinets, underneath the top cabinets, over a kitchen island, or below the base cabinet at the toekick for a soft glow near the floor. During food prep, cooking and cleaning tasks, the overhead lighting should be on at a maximum level. When it’s time for casual dining at the kitchen island or entertaining in an adjacent space, don’t put the kitchen lights on full blast. Dim the overhead lights and turn on these other forms of accent lighting for a relaxing ambiance.
  3. Lighting designers are shaking up the typical arrangement of one large island fixture and using several pendants – or even a pair of large lanterns – to make a statement. The use of individual pendants takes up less “visual” room than a larger island light, thereby contributing a feeling of openness to the space.
  4. The latest innovation that lighting designers are talking about is the ability to perform color-tuning and color-changing using the same light bulb. “Color-tuning” – which is also referred to as “tunable white” – is the ability to change the color temperature of the light bulb from a cozy warm glow like candlelight to a very bright white through the use of a smart phone app or a remote control. “Color-changing” light is just what the name implies; a full spectrum of colors can be selected using a smart phone app or remote control. Color-changing light is ideal for parties and entertaining. Both color-tuning and color-changing light are LED-based and are available in light bulb versions as well as cuttable tape light to fit into narrow spaces.
  5. Pantry lighting is a new area that lighting designers are specifying. As walk-in pantries become more common in new construction, having lighting that illuminates that room is important. Even if the pantry is merely extra-deep shelving, having shelf lighting (again, using cuttable tape light to custom fit) makes identifying products sitting in the back of the shelves much easier.

For more lighting ideas, visit or contact Linda Longo at

Photo credit: Photo courtesy of Cerno

Cerno’sVolo pendant is a celebration of natural materials; solid hardwood, metal and leatherplay a distinct role in the form and function. The indirect LED light source emits a light thatbounces off the shade’s metal interior

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