Luxury Home Lighting Techniques | Elegant Homes by Real Living Real Estate | zzQA Office Skip to main content
Luxury Home Lighting

Knowing some of the ins and outs of lighting will help you better communicate what you want to your designer.

Great photographers, like great stage designers, have always known this secret: The magic is in the lighting. Being able to control the lighting of a scene is what separates the master from the amateur, because it requires years of experience and vast technical knowledge. Lighting is just as important in the kitchen. It directly affects how people feel about a space and the way they see, move and work in that space. Most designers would even say that lighting could make or break a kitchen design.

And as any luxury homeowner or potential luxury homeowner can attest, not only is lighting complex, it's also highly personal. There's no one perfect lighting plan; it's a matter of personal taste. But in order to communicate what you want to a professional designer, it helps to have an idea about basic terminology and concepts.  As they work day in and day out with home buyers coast to coast, Real Living Sales Professionals field every question and concern imaginable about luxury home lighting.  To help potential luxury home buyers navigate this important area, they have compiled the following overview to shed some light, if you will, on the matter.

Basic lighting terms

The language of lighting can be daunting, and you'll want to leave much of the terminology to the experts. But knowing some basic terms and units can help you find your way around a lighting showroom and help you better communicate with your designer - especially as there's no one measure of lighting output.

  • Candlepower (Cp): This is the unit for measuring the quantity or intensity of light energy emitted by a directional light.
  • Color Temperature: Measured in degrees Kelvin (K), color temperature is a measure of how "warm" or "cool" lighting appears to the eye. A color temperature of 5500K has the quality of daylight; lower numbers seem warmer to the eye.
  • FootCandle (Fc): This is the unit for measuring the intensity of light falling on a surface.
  • Lumen: This is the unit of measurement used to indicate how bright the output of a given lamp is at the source.

Types of lighting

Light needs not only to provide light for tasks, but also to enhance the design itself. The type of lighting affects the appearance of everything in the room. The color that's seen in the showroom, under one type of lighting, may look different under another type of lighting at home.

"Depending on the colors of the room, you need to decide whether incandescent, halogen or Xenon lamps should be used. Halogen and Xenon are crisper, but not as good with earth or cream tones," says Peter Ross Salerno, president/owner of Peter Salerno, Inc. in Wyckoff, NJ.

Then there is the matter of incandescent versus fluorescent. In some states like California designers are required to use fluorescent as the primary lighting source. But there are ways to seamlessly incorporate fluorescent lighting. "I use color-corrected fluorescent," says DeWitt Beall, principal of DeWitt Designer Kitchens in Studio City, CA. "I put them over and under cabinets, then I use line- or low-voltage halogens, making them the accent lighting."

Light intensity

Determining the right amount of light is partly a technical matter, and here you'll want to rely on the lighting experts. But it's also a matter of personal taste, need and preferences. For instance, some people prefer moderate lighting, while others may have light sensitivities that call for dimmer lighting solutions. Likewise, some may prefer very bright light, while still others may have vision problems that require special lighting solutions. And some couples may have very different lighting preferences, requiring a great deal of flexibility in switching and dimming lights to suit personal tastes and needs.

Because the overall light level influences so many other decisions the designer makes, you'll want to communicate your needs clearly during the early stages of your kitchen design.

Illuminating the kitchen

Designers note that there are three components to a properly lit kitchen:

  • General lighting should illuminate the entire kitchen. This usually comes from recessed lights but could also come from decorative fixtures.
  • Task lighting should be located at each workstation.
  • Ambience lighting creates a mood or highlights a feature such as a crown molding or cove.

The placement and comparative brightness of the three types of lighting are critical, the experts say. The positioning of recessed lights is very important. They must be properly laid out, or there will be heavy shadowing between each light, although directional lights can help solve this lighting problem.

"Illumination of all the countertop surfaces is key. In some cases, this is more important than the general lighting. However, there needs to be a good balance of both types," says Steven Haas, co-owner of Architectural Kitchens and Baths in Rockville Centre, NY.

Balance is important. A good rule of thumb is that the task lighting should be 2.5 times brighter than the general lighting. 

Setting the stage

Switching is another key element to consider. Lighting controls are almost as important as lighting itself. For instance, you can control the strength of the ambiance lighting with dimmers. You can also use them to create different atmospheres, which is especially good when entertaining.

Having everything on a dimmer allows users to have better control over their lighting. In some cases, an even better choice is installing a Lutron lighting system, which allows homeowners to preprogram different lighting scenes, such as those for parties, everyday use and romantic settings. "All the world's a stage," said Shakespeare, and your kitchen is part of it. With modern lighting technology and the professional assistance of a kitchen designer, you can be your own set designer and light your stage in a manner that would make even the Bard envious.