Proper Lighting Design for Your Kitchen

At Ekko Custom Cabinetry & Designs, we often find that one of the most important issues affecting the function and impact of a kitchen renovation is often overlooked - Proper Lighting Design !!

One of the most frequent oversights by many people, is an insufficient planning of lighting which results in inadequate and poorly placed lighting in their design. With current designs trending to an “open concept”, the kitchen really has become the heart of the home. Lighting can no longer be strictly “task oriented” – it now affects the adjacent living space and therefore must be ambient and friendly. A nice, well thought-out lighting plan can make a kitchen much more dynamic and exciting. A well-lit kitchen should be layered with careful consideration to the amount of light, location of lights, when and where specific lighting is required and the budget needed for each layer. There are 3 “layers” to be considered while planning your Lighting Design, commonly referred to as: ambient, task and accent.

Ambient: This is generally your “upper / ceiling” layer and usually consists of “pots” mounted in the ceiling or “tracks” mounted below Cathedral ceilings or where there are very high ceilings in commercial style loft developments. This lighting group is intended to add warmth and comfort – to make the space inviting. The light provided is “all purpose” and fills a room similar to daytime light from windows. Typically, these lights are arranged around the perimeter of the kitchen about 12” in front of the high cabinet faces – try to arrange these with a uniform separation and locate them appropriate to the architectural details they are highlighting.

Task: This is the “mid layer” of cabinet lighting and is customarily mounted to the bottom of upper wall cabinets. Under cabinet lighting is now almost always provided by LED “pucks” or LED “strips”. The “task” layer is VERY important – do NOT cut these from you budget. These are difficult and expensive to add after the fact – at least, consider wiring junction boxes now and add the fixtures when the budget allows – it will be much cheaper in the long run. Give substantial thought when planning the locations of you “task” stations – your Ekko designer can help through this process. Consider where you will most likely be reading (cookbooks) or working “close-up” (food prep, sink, desk, island, etc).  Task lights might also be pendant or chandelier fixtures over your island.

Hint – for an island, allow (2) pendants for a 4 to 6 ft island and (3)  pendants for 7 ft or longer

Also consider “very-low-wattage” lights that can be used in tucked-away cupboard spaces so you have good lighting levels in these out of the way spaces. These can be activated through a small sensor so they can turn on / off automatically when a door (or drawer) is opened or closed.


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Accent: This level is generally considered to be “decorative” and is intended to highlight design features. Examples are glass door cabinets, hutches, open shelves, collections or art. Other design focuses to consider include below the countertop overhang of an island or in the toe-kick space below you base Calgary custom cabinets (kitchen or bathroom) which can then provide an awesome night light effect.


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Remember – all layers should be separately switched and separately dimmable, so lighting levels can be easily and separately adjusted to specific and changing needs. It is nice to be able to lower light levels once the food prep is done.

Other Lighting Design Considerations to keep in mind:

1.) Buy high quality electrical products – you do get what you pay for.

2.) Make sure the “colour tones” in all levels are similar and compatible – don’t mix cool white, warm white and daylight spectrums in the same space. Be aware that incandescent, LED and fluorescent fixtures all have different light qualities but if you are careful in your selections those colour tones can be matched very evenly. Try to view all items you are coordinating in your renovation under the same colour tones you have selected for your fixtures – light tones can dramatically affect the colours of everything selected!

3.) Consider the affects of the colours and textures you are selecting for your cabinetry, countertops, flooring, backsplash, paint and ceiling on the lighting you’ve selected.

4.) Set you lighting plan precisely and consider all light locations for balance an utility. If you are uncertain, discuss these concerns with your lighting design specialist, renovator, lighting contractor or your kitchen designer at Ekko Cabinetry.

5.) Over the past 3 to 5 years the industry has almost unanimously gravitated to “LED” fixtures for ambient and task lighting. “LED” lighting has matured in lighting tones and features – prices have come down, there is virtually no heat emitted, fixtures and bulbs generally last 15 to 20 years and draw about 20% of the energy of the same wattage of incandescent bulb -> if you are looking for environmentally “green” lighting solutions – “LED” is your answer!

At Ekko Custom Cabinetry and Design, we strive to exceed your expectations. Our custom kitchen and bath design staff can help or lead you through a design process that will give you the kitchen and / or living space you have dreamed of ………..



T.E. (Tim) Pressey                                                                                                                         

Ekko Custom Kitchen Cabinetry and Design of Calgary

32 – 4th Street N.E.

Calgary , Alberta    T2E 3R7

(403) 263-3556

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