A Design Guide
Don't make your lighting decision an afterthought, it deserves the same attention to detail as the other elements in your project.
The visual look and feel of a finished project is highly dependent upon the type of light fixtures utilized and when in the project process the lighting considerations are taken into account. Leaving this too late into the project will limit your options which may lead to a lost opportunity to create something truly special.
Plan Your Lighting
Lighting must be planned for, usually once the primary layout for cabinetry and fixtures has been established. This is highly important to ensure correct positioning and the prewiring that is required before the fixtures can be installed. Keep-in-mind that it is not only the fixtures position that needs to be accounted for but also the location(s) where the light(s) will be controlled from.
Create Lighting Zones
Most of our projects, such as a kitchen, will have 3-4 individually controlled lighting zones. Recessed ceiling lights for overall ambient lighting, under cabinet task lighting, table and/or island lighting and possible in cabinet/decorative feature lighting. By varying the light intensity within the zones visual depth can be created, areas of focus may be emphasized or additional light can be provided for task oriented work. Each zone is dimmer controlled and the light fixtures vary according to function and decorative opportunity, especially island/table fixtures.
In choosing light fixtures the bulb type can have a significant impact on the quality and colour of the emitted light. Colour temperature is most important, for most residential applications a "warmer" (2,700 - 3,200 K) temperature is commonly used. These cast a yellowish colour tone which tends to richen or warm up the room. Many compact florescent and LED lights emit a much "cooler" white/bluish light which is often referred to as "daylight". Their temperature range will be about 4,100 K or higher. This will create a clean crisp appearance. Regardless of the type, just make sure to check the package to ensure all of your lights are in the same colour range.
As LED lights increase in popularity there are some special considerations to take into account. Watts are no longer a reliable means to determine their brightness(light output), this is now defined in Lumens'. Be careful as many of those lower cost units are relatively low in lumen output, typically around 400. I would suggest that for a recessed ceiling pot light the lumen output should be in the 600-800 range.
There are also a number of LED recessed light systems that are fixed units, the light is incorporated into the fixtures housing and trim. They are certainly convenient, but be aware that if one of these units fails several years down the road you must replace the entire unit, might be advisable to purchase one or two extra's just in case that model is no longer in production.
LED lights are electronic devices, dimmers must be designed specifically for these. Even so, not all LED dimmers provide proper dimming for all LED lights. Most reputable LED manufacturers provide recommendations as to dimmers that have been tested to function properly with their LED units.
Graham T. Korbey
The Kitchen Abode