Lighting in north facing kitchen

Roxanne9388February 22, 2014

This is long-winded. I apologize in advance. My husband and I have finally decided on a house plan after over a year of searching. The only problem is the kitchen faces north. This can't be remedied though because our driveway will come from the north and we will want to have at least one well-used room to face this way to watch kids, see people coming onto our yard, etc. And we will have a covered veranda on the north side of the house. I've decided I really want charcoal grey cabinets (lots of white in everything else). Therefore we still need lots of light. The dining room will be across from the kitchen (south-facing). And I don't want to switch these rooms around as it interrupts flow of the house/kitchen plans. The kitchen will be roughly 15x15 with the dining room slightly smaller. Will light from the dining room windows (2 doors to open deck) be enough added light? Should we add extra windows in the dining room? We have the option of adding an east window in the kitchen, but this will face an angled garage with a bonus room (the garage wouldn't completely obstruct our view though) We would likely only get direct light when the sun is high from the east. What about light tubes?? Someone mentioned these to us but our house has two stories. I don't know if it would work well, but then again I haven't looked into that. And suggestions/ideas are welcome!

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The light tubes are designed to be run through closets, between walls, etc, to bring light to lower floors. But I've heard the light can be a little weird in colour, after bouncing down the tube for ~12' or so.

My current house is on the north side, and I've heard a lot of comments about how bright it is. The north wall has large windows and a door to the deck. However, there's no covered veranda outside my kitchen windows.

I think you'll want to consider a lot of electric lighting, too. Even if you had full sky lights across the room, it will get dark at night, likely when you're cooking dinner?

    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 10:32PM
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I second addressing this through lighting. My current kitchen faces north and only has a very small window over the kitchen sink (facing north). My cabinets are kind of that nutmeg brown color. It never seems dark or dreary to me just because I have enough overhead lighting. I certainly enjoy sitting in the sun in the family room, but I guess in the kitchen I'm too busy working on tasks to think much about getting sunlight.

My new kitchen has no windows! But it is open and close to the casual dining area that is now SOUTH facing with windows on three sides (South, East, and West). So far the house seems bright and we don't even have any lights installed yet. I think it will get plenty of indirect light from being open to the other living spaces, plus of course good electric lighting.

good luck!

    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 10:53PM
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I wouldn't light a kitchen any differently because of the way the windows face. The first thing to do is light the task areas from recessed ceiling fixtures.

I always pull the lower cabinets and counter out 6+ inches from the wall so the lights don't throw a scallop on the upper cabinets or light the heads of people working at the counter and I consider all counters to be work space.

Then light any exposed walls in order to brighten the room. Light on counters and walls are far more important than light on floors in a kitchen. When I am done with the counters and walls I look to see if any floor areas need light and try to avoid unnecessary light that might lessen the effect of the other lights. Most kitchens are not large enough to need additional lights.

I try to avoid fancy hanging lights over islands because they are in your line of sight if they are low and shine in your eyes if they are high. I prefer recessed pin spots to vintage surgical lights or any kind of LEDs over an island.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 9:04AM
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My kitchen is north (and front!) facing with a covered front porch, two small double hung windows over the sink, two normal double hung windows in the breakfast nook. The dining room is through a double door facing south, with two double hung windows and a French door.

The kitchen gets plenty of light, even in winter, but of course today's a sunny day :) . Having the dining room windows helps a lot. I closed the door just now and while it wasn't really darker, the light "flattened". When we moved in, there was blue trellis wallpaper, white cabinets, and white tile floor. We removed the wallpaper because it did make the kitchen look gloomy, painted it pale yellow, much nicer. I'm about to change it to Hepplewhite Ivory to match the hall, still slightly yellow but not so much.

If you find it's too dark, you could put a skylight on the verandah ceiling,

    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 2:43PM
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Our kitchen also faces north. I would also recommend some electrical lights, if anything for when its dark outside. :)

Personally I like north facing rooms because the sun never glares in through a north facing window. We have a wrap around porch on the entire south and west of our house.

We haven't moved in, but we're doing a lot of the work and I like the consistency of the lighting when you have something to stop the glare from South and West windows.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 11:58AM
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Epiarch Designs

my kitchen faces north, and I have 7'x3' windows above a wall of base cabinets. I would avoid designing a home with the kitchen on the south due to the direct sun and glare it can produce (also why I never put art rooms on the south on school designs). North light gives great general illumination to spaces. On an overcast day, this window provides plenty of lighting in the kitchen during the day where no lights are required.

Also against the masses and general recommendation to lighting, I also never put can lights in kitchens (or use them at all in general where there is an insulated ceiling above). They are energy leaking pigs, and the lighting they product is spots. It highlights your head and casts shadows onto your work surface. it is not good task lighting. In the kitchen you want general illumination of the space and then task lighting on your tasks, not your head. general illumination is achieved with indirect lighting, and I typically use 2 rows of T5 fixtures above the cabinets, pointing out into the space at an angle with a semi gloss painted ceiling finish. Task lighting is handled with under cabinet lighting, Again, I use T5 not LED bc I do not like the spotting LEDs give off. I then use pendant lighting mounted roughly 6'-6 4' to it stays above your head and shines light down on the your hands typically out of the glare angle for your eyes.
What you are left with is an energy efficient space, with great lighting and no shadowing in the kitchen.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 10:01PM
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Thanks for the advice! Light tubes are out and lighting is in! And possibly a skylight in the veranda. And it's good to know that we likely wouldn't need more windows. After some thinking, I'm considering pushing the kitchen out and having it vaulted with no veranda in front of the kitchen. Then we could add an extra window in the vaulted part. I just don't know how everthing would shift on that side of the house. I suppose I could leave that up to our architect to see if this could work. This has been such a long process. Thanks again!

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 10:48PM
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And thank you for the specific advice on lighting. We will definitely use this information.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 10:51PM
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