Lights In The Kitchen "Light It Up"

by Charles Dow
(New York)


of all the components in your kitchen, lighting is the one you can least afford to skimp on. Not only can poor lighting make the cheeriest kitchen seem dreary, it can also promote fatigue and even cause accidents.


A good rule of thumb: incorporate enough general, task, and accent lighting in your kitchen so that you're never working in a shadow. You'll likely outfit your kitchen with a combination of incandescent and fluorescent bulbs. Incandescent bulbs (or lamps, as they're known to the trade) are made in a wide range of wattages, but those in the 60 to 200 watt range are your best bets for a kitchen. Bulbs typically last from 750 hours (for high-wattage bulbs) to 2,500 hours (for low wattage and "long life" bulbs). Fluorescent tubes give off between two and three times as much light per watt as incandescent bulbs, and are more economical to Operate.

Though the life span of a fluorescent tube exceeds that of an incandescent bulb, it's shortened if the tube is frequently turned on and off. Choose fluorescents for your kitchen carefully; "warm white" tubes (rather than the harsher "cool white" type) are more flattering to food.

To light an average-size 10x12-foot kitchen, you'll need about 250 watts of incandescent light, or 90 watts of fluorescent light. To combine the two, allow about 2 watts of incandescent or 3/a watt of fluorescent light for every square foot of kitchen space. Of course, your particular kitchen lighting requirements depend on a number of things ceiling height, ceiling color, and your overall kitchen color scheme.

Light, pale colors,cabinet or shelf, choose diffused fluorescent tubes, or soffit canister lights recessed in the soffit bulkhead or upper kitchen cabinets.

Of all your kitchen lighting options, track lights offer the most versatility. Fixtures come in myriad styles, and give the look of built in lighting without the installation hassle. Tracks mount on ceilings or walls, for task lighting at work centers or general kitchen illumination. For task-lighting, fit track fixtures with spotlight bulbs; for general illumination, install more diffuse floodlight bulbs.

A desk light augments your general kitchen lighting at a kitchen office or planning center. An adjustable reading light fitted with a 50 to 75-watt incandescent bulb is adequate for all but extended reading. Easy-to-install under cabinet fluorescent lights are excellent counter top illumination. Hide the tubes with a baffle. cornice, or diffuser panel, and let them extend at least two thirds of the length of the counter. If you use a dropped fixture over your eating area, choose one scaled in size to complement your table, and in brightness to harmonize with the rest of your kitchen.

Plan on a minimum of 150 watts, but also use a dimmer switch or three-way bulb to vary the light level. Mount a dropped fixture 28 to 36 inches above the table so it doesn't obstruct the view of your diners. Finally, a lighted range ventilating hood, outfitted with at least 60 watts of illumination, avoids shadows when you work at the range. For a range or cook top not equipped with a hood, achieve the same effect with recessed down lights or soffit canisters.

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