Set the Mood with Ambient Lighting

A well-thought out lighting design is essential to completing a kitchen remodeling project.  Without proper lighting, even the best designed backsplash, island, and cabinetry will be left in the dark. Likewise, too much harsh lighting will leave your kitchen feeling uninviting and lacking in character. A complete lighting design is composed of several elements, including task, ambient, accent, and decorative lighting.  Of these, ambient lights provide both general illumination for the room as well as the human element of your lighting design.  Today’s kitchen is more than just a utilitarian space for cooking and cleaning - quite often it is the hub of family life and home entertaining and your ambient lighting will set the tone for this atmosphere. 

Ambient lighting can help make the kitchen an inviting space where people want to congregate and socialize, while also allowing you to carry on with your chopping, cooking, and other kitchen duties.  There are a number of ways to bring this welcoming illumination into your kitchen design, and some lights can serve more than one purpose, providing for example both task lighting for cooking and also ambient lighting.  For most kitchens, especially larger rooms or open plan kitchen and dining areas, ambient lighting must come from multiple sources.  It should often include dimmer switches to change the level of lighting depending on your requirements, and should be designed in zones so that light can be focused on particular areas of the kitchen and turned off in others not in use.

Although lights can be added or changed at any time, a full kitchen renovation is an ideal time to think about the tone you want to set in your kitchen and to achieve this with a complete, multi-layered lighting design.  Many options are available for the ambient component of your lighting, so here are a few ideas to help you along in your planning:

  • For a room used during the daytime, make the most of natural light through well-placed windows and perhaps even a mirror to reflect and amplify the light.
  • Recessed or track lighting provides excellent general lighting in a large open space like a kitchen, and can brighten the space while also making it warm and inviting when the light level is adjusted using zones and a dimmer switch.
  • Overhead lighting, including chandeliers and pendant lights over the island or dining table provide both task and ambient lighting, and can become a decorative focal point in your kitchen, like the light fixtures featured in this kitchen design in Newtown, PA.
Kitchen design in Newtown, PA with pendant lights over the island.

Kitchen design in Newtown, PA with pendant lights over the island.

Kitchen design in Newtown, PA with multi-layered lighting design including ambient lighting over kitchen island and dining table.

Kitchen design in Newtown, PA with multi-layered lighting design including ambient lighting over kitchen island and dining table.

  • Even under cabinet lights do more than just illuminate your food preparation area and recipe books when you add a dimmer switch to your lights, like these kitchen cabinets in New Hope, PA.
Kitchen design in New Hope, PA featuring under cabinet lighting.

Kitchen design in New Hope, PA featuring under cabinet lighting.

  • Cabinets can also incorporate cove lighting above the cabinets or toe kick lighting under the cabinets to give a soft illumination to walkways, corners, and other areas of your kitchen.

Remember to consider additional factors that may impact the number and type of lights you need to include.  A larger room requires more lights to reach all areas, and a room with high walls may need sconces on the walls to provide additional ambient light.  The demographic of your household may also influence your choice of lights, as some people are more sensitive to light and older members of the house may require more light or additional task lighting to see properly.

Your kitchen and bath design professional can help you determine the best lights to accent and illuminate your new kitchen.  Visit our kitchen design gallery for more ideas or contact us for more information.