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Planning kitchen lighting

Well-planned kitchen lighting will create cheerful and inviting spaces, increase the safety of food preparation, and highlight cabinetry and design features. Lighting serves three basic functions in the kitchen:

• Ambient lighting produces a daylight effect. Flush ceiling fixtures or track lights spread light more evenly than recessed can lights or pendants. (Ask for a kitchen/bath tube if using fluorescent lights in either of those rooms.) Windows and skylights are great sources of light during daylight hours, but they need help in the evening or during gloomy weather. A dimming system will make it easier to get the right amount of light.

• Task lights under kitchen cabinets or in other strategic areas illuminate common kitchen tasks like food preparation and dish washing. Can lights and track lights can both be aimed and provide good task lighting.

• In-between lights illuminate kitchen work spaces while providing generous amounts of ambient light. These lights include recessed can lights over a sink, pendant fixtures above an eating area, and track lights in a semicircle near cabinetry.

Shaping up with track lighting - Many kitchens feature a single strip of track lighting running through the center of the ceiling. This kind of light provides adequate illumination but can sometimes bounce off wall cabinets and produce an uncomfortable glare— especially if the cabinets are shiny or light in color. The lights can cast a shadow from a person over a food preparation area at the countertop, contributing to poor visibility. Instead of installing a single strip of track lighting along the ceiling, wrap the tracks around the room in an H or a U pattern. Install the tracks about 3 feet out from the wall and 2 feet out from the wall cabinets. The lamps will then shine down over the shoulders of people working at counters, or toward the center of the room—providing both task lighting and ambient light.

Lighting a bathroom

An average-size bathroom needs a ceiling fan/light in the center of the main room, a moisture-proof ceiling light over the shower/bath, and lights over the sink.

• Ambient lighting is typically provided by an overhead light combined with a vent fan. Make sure the fan’s blower is powerful enough to adequately vent your bathroom. Spend a little more money to include a low-watt night-light or a forced-air heating unit. Some people prefer a heat lamp near the tub or shower for additional comfort while drying off after bathing.

• Bathroom mirror lighting deserves careful thought. A horizontal strip of decorative light bulbs above the mirror provides lots of light but may shine in your eyes. A fluorescent fixture with a lens provides more even light, but make sure you choose a kitchen and bath tube with a warm tone similar to incandescent light. Sconce lights placed on either side of the mirror are the best source for lighting your face for shaving or applying makeup. When planning circuits, remember to install a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) receptacle near the sink.

• Shower lighting supplements what little light comes through the shower curtain or shower door. Consider installing a recessed canister light with a watertight lens in the shower ceiling.

LIGHTING UP YOUR BATHROOM. The darker the color of your bathroom walls and fixtures, the more light you need. Natural light from a window may be sufficient for daytime use. At night or in early morning, however, the shower in particular might need one or two moisture-proof canister lights. (Codes limit them to 60 watts each if the shower is enclosed). Above the sink, install moisture-resistant globed lights that won’t shine in your eyes. Overhead, install a single fixture that efficiently and stylishly combines a light and exhaust fan, with perhaps a night-light and/or a heater.

Lighting living areas

Living rooms, dining rooms, great-rooms, and large bedrooms all benefit from both ambient and task lighting. Rather than installing a single lighting component, think in terms of the total use of the room. Layering several types of lights makes a room more comforting and inviting by avoiding both glare and dark shadows. Your goal is flexibility so you can set a variety of moods by brightening or dimming the entire room or part of the room.

• Highlight a piece of art or cabinetry, or accentuate wall texture, with can lights to give the room warmth and interest. (If you don’t want to install can lights, you can accent paintings with picture lights that attach to the frame.)

• Put at least one of the components on a dimmer switch. Install several lights that are optional but not necessary. Don’t be afraid to install too many lights; you don’t have to use all of them at the same time.

• Install an in-between light such as a dining area chandelier to brighten the dinner table and provide some ambient light.

• Rope lights are strands of clear, flexible plastic that you can drape around the inside of cabinets or behind fascia to provide accent lighting.

SHOWING OFF A GREAT-ROOM WITH GREAT LIGHTING. The lighting plan for this large family room includes a grid of recessed canister lights for general lighting and a centrally located chandelier over the dining table. A recessed light with fish-eye trim spotlights a wall painting. The chandelier in the dining room creates ambient lighting when controlled by a dimmer switch. The task light on the piano offers movable light for specific needs. The table lamp and floor lamp are controlled by wall switches. Accent lights brighten shelves.

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