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Layering Season

It's that time of year again when there is a chill in the air and it's getting darker earlier. We head indoors and add a cozy sweater or some comfy socks. However, in this post, we are going to talk about layering lighting. With a few tips and tricks, this also has the comfiest effects on indoor moods.

Every kitchen we design reinforces the truth that today's kitchens are used for every part of our lives. Whether it's cooking, entertaining, kid's homework, or setting up an at-home-office Zoom, our clients need a flexible space with cross-functionality. Lighting plays a key role in setting the mood while also making sure you can read that recipe.

There are three types of lighting.

1) Ambient Lighting is general lighting that fills the room. In kitchens, this is most often a recessed "can" downlight. They can also be flush or semi-flush ceiling-mounted fixtures. Depending on kitchen ceiling height, chandeliers can also be considered ambient lighting. Ambient lighting should be spaced about 4' to 5' apart to avoid overlap. You'll also want to be sure that they aren't within about 18" of a cabinet, as it will create a hotspot and a shadow on the cabinet front.

Photo credit: Rejuvenation Lighting

2) Task Lighting is just what it sounds like- directed light for specific areas in the kitchen. In addition to recessed downlights, under-mounted cabinet LED strips are a simple way to add clear lighting to countertops and work surfaces. We include a 2" light rail along the bottom of wall-mounted cabinets and recess the dimmable LED strip behind it, so the strip isn't visible.

Pendant lights over the sink can also be considered task lighting. You'll want this light to be about 12" off the wall and with enough wattage to illuminate the area.

With an open floor plan and a trend toward concealed appliances, kitchens have become integrated into the interior design concepts of the entire home. Battery-operated table lamps are a very flexible and popular way to have the kitchen feel more like a living room less like an industrial space.

Martha Stewart has an excellent article HERE about how to specify a great table lamp for your kitchen.

Photo credit: Max Attanborouch, courtesy of

3) Accent Lighting - This is the step that brings a lighting design all together. Just like the right jewelry bringing an outfit to life, accent lighting literally shines a spotlight on key items in a kitchen- whether it's a piece of art, a favorite accessory, or a special architectural detail. Accent lighting is also used to illuminate a room when it's not in use.

Photo credit: Rejuvenation Lighting

Key Points

Begin with functionality. MJ Martin can help here- figuring out scale and spacing between fixtures.

Use warm lighting- about 2700K. Cooler bulbs and CFLs are unappealing in a residence.

Don't be afraid to mix materials. Using different, complimentary metals is a great way to add interest and layers in to your kitchen.

Don't be afraid to ask questions! MJ Martin has 20+ years experience designing kitchens and we are here to make you feel comfortable with the entire kitchen design process.

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