My Design Layers
Helping You Love Your Home


How I did the lighting plan in my kitchen

Progress Takes Time

Sometimes it's hard to appreciate the progress we have made because it seems like such a slow process. I know it is like that in my life. I have worked on improving myself so long and so hard that I sometimes forget how far I have come. That is, until I'm reminded to look back. Looking back is difficult for me most of the time. I see too much imperfection, not enough accomplishments.
It is a whole lot easier when we have something physical to mark our progress.

This kitchen is a good example of what I mean. I have spent a lot of time cooking up love for my family and friends in this kitchen. There has been a wedding cake, birthday cakes and graduation cakes made here. We gather here to eat football food, bar-b-que, and turkey. This is a part of our family's history and memories. There have been practical jokes, tears, and visitors from various parts of the world. More often than not it is the room where people sit and talk. It truly is the heart of our home.
This is why it is important to me to make the most out of any project that I do here. It is seen and experienced by everyone who enters here.
Here are a few pictures from when we first moved here. It was pretty rough. 

kitchen progress 1.jpg

When we moved into our house it was a mess! I’m tellin ya, it needed some serious help!

Although the kitchen did need attention, compared to the damage in the back of the house this was not in bad shape at all. So the kitchen had to wait.

However, the first thing we had to do was install flooring in the whole house and I painted the walls right away. That helped A LOT!! It stayed like that for a long time while I put myself through design school until I got to the lighting course; that's when things started to change.


This was the best thing we have done in our house to date.  It was 2012 and Dave had just graduated his Masters Program. Things were starting to pick up after the recession and we figured that if we are going to stay in this house, after almost moving to Australia, we better take care of some of its issues. 

I mentioned that I had done my main lighting assignment for school based on my own kitchen so I knew exactly what I wanted to do, how I wanted it to function, and how much light I would need to add. I’m tellin' ya I designed the heck out of this lighting plan. I also got an A on my assignment. Yea!

One of the main problems with the state it was in was the light fixtures themselves didn't work.  Can you see those two fluorescent lights? There are actually three of them. One didn’t work at all, one was on the fritz and the last one in the row was too far from the work area so it was doing no good. Besides that, the ceiling measures at 9'9". This means that there were literally more than 4 feet between the light and my head. It seemed like more.
Now when I do my lighting article, you will learn about what I call the "cone of light." This is the immediate area around a light source where the light is actually seen or is useful. With most lights, the cone is about 4 feet around the light fixture. This gives you a little more understanding that 7 feet from the countertop is just way too far. Especially when they barely even work! Oh no, I am starting to get worked up all over again. 
But to add fuel to the fire before I let that go, I have to tell you about the windows. I do have some windows in this kitchen, the problem is that on the other side of them is a covered deck. This means that the light that they provide is defused and minimal. 

So here is my assessment - I needed light! A lot of it!

So I built in different layers of light because you all know I am all about the layers. I had to start from scratch making sure to have plenty of general, task and accent lighting. These three levels of light are a rule for any lighting plan, and the way I did it will accommodate any type of situation that you could think of in a kitchen. Let me explain.

  • General – generally lighting up a room to maneuver around

  • Task – lighting that is directed at a workspace

  • Accent – low light to create a mood or special effect

When figuring out how much light you will need to illuminate your space, there are two major factors to consider. 

  1. The volume of space you are working with

  2. how far the light from each light fixture will reach

An average light bulb only illuminates a radius of 2 feet of space. You will notice in this very poor quality picture that the light fixture above the sink is more than 7 feet above the kitchen sink. That thing wasn’t doing anybody any good. When I turned it on, it was like you couldn’t even tell. I needed to bring that light down to where it was supposed to go.

That's much better!.png

According to My Layers of Design, I always start with the architecture. Since I had a lot of height in the ceiling I knew I could easily build a tray. This did several things for me. First of all, it defined the kitchen space from the living room/dining room area which helped it feel better proportioned. I also needed a way to bring those lights down to where they needed to be and that tray was going to help me do it. Finally, I could keep some of that height becasue it is still that height in the middle.


The next thing I needed to figure out was how many can lights do I need? So I went to my trusty floor plan.

lighting plan from school assign.jpg

As you can see, I had more cans near the stove area, too many. I thought I wanted more lights there because I was so mad at not having any that I went a little overboard. This is where my electrician helped me out. I had mis-calculated and he was there to have my back and set me straight. I am very thankful that he did too because we ended up with the perfect amount of fixtures. Even though we affectionately call those set of lights “the sun” they serve their purpose very well. 


In this picture, you can see all of the different levels of light I installed in this room.

  • General – The Chandelier above the island and pendant over the sink

  • Task – The under-counter lights and the recessed lights

  • Accent – The the under counter lights and the rope light around the inside of the tray (oops, there is one section out)

My kitchen is roughly 15’ x 13’ = 195 sq. ft.  If you multiply that by 1.5, that comes to a rounded number of 700 watts minimum. This is basically the number of watts I use in there during the day, without “the sun” on.

This is how it breaks down.

  • Chandelier is 40x5=200

  • The pendants is 40

  • The oven light is 40

  • Six recessed lights at 100 each (I think) equal 600 

  • Four 50 watt under counter is 200

  • Rope lights

That comes to 1080 watts and believe me that is plenty. Again, the number of watts doesn't exactly tell you how much light you are receiving. For instance, the under-counter light may say its 200 watts, but the light coming out of them is not that much. In the same way, the recessed lights are 100 watts and they illuminate the kitchen like nobody's business. This is why you need to look at the lumens when buying light bulbs. One lumen is equal to one foot-candle.

To recap the layers that have been worked on so far in this kitchen are:

  • Layer 1 Architecture - Built the tray ceiling

  • Layer 2 Surfaces - Installed flooring and paint

  • Layer 3 Furniture - We have since gotten new appliances

  • Layer 4 Lighting - Lighting

Stay tuned for the rest of the story.