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Kitchen Lighting Needs for Different Purposes

by Susanne Clemenz

Divide Your Kitchen Functions

"Well, that's easy," you think. "Kitchens are for cooking!" True, but let's get more specific. How much light does each of these work tasks or storage areas need?

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  • Refrigerated food
  • Non-refrigerated food
  • Cooking utensils (bowls, pots and pans, and hand items)
  • Dinnerware, flatware
  • Serving bowls, platters, table linens, etc.
  • Recipe preparation
  • Cutting and chopping
  • Baking/grilling
  • Countertop appliances
  • Sink and dishwasher
  • Garbage/recycling
  • Breakfast bar
  • Computer/bill paying

Your kitchen may not contain all of these areas; however, the list makes it easy to see that not all kitchen lighting needs are the same.

High Intensity Lighting Needs

The areas where you read packaged food and beverage labels, recipes, or your bills should have the brightest lights. The light should fall in front of you in broad, overlapping patterns so you aren't working in your own shadow. Consider recessed lights or lights on long rods with flared shades. Under-cabinet lighting is another effective alternative. Use CFL bulbs to avoid heat buildup.

Medium Intensity Lighting Needs

Of course refrigerators, stoves, ovens, and range hoods have task lights right where you need them most. These areas need less general lighting. Chopping blocks, the kitchen sink, and storage areas for pots, pans, and utensils don't require such focused illumination. Use the same lights as high intensity areas, but use fewer.

Lower Intensity Lighting Needs

Add touches of style or whimsy to areas needing less light, like the breakfast bar, sink, or kitchen island. There are countless creative lamp and overhead lighting ideas--from antique-style stained glass to modern pendant lights.

Light designs exist for every mood and architectural style. Spice up your kitchen lighting by choosing for both functionality and fun!


About the Author

Suzanne Clemenz designed her passive solar home and interacted with the contractors every day of the 6-month project. She started drawing floor plans and making models in the early '70s after purchasing several building lots. Recently she expanded and

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