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Rule of thumb for recessed light placement

Posted by lcskaisgir (My Page) on
Tue, Nov 5, 13 at 10:20

I posted in the lighting forum too but there is not as much traffic there. Just wondering�should recessed lights be centered over aisles between perimeter cabinets and island or should they be closer to the perimeter cabinets? I included a layout of my kitchen in case it makes a difference�aisles are approx 42". There will be two pendant lights over island and under cabinet lights as well.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Rule of thumb for recessed light placement

Lcskaisgir, I've been wondering how it's going with your slabs? Did they get them in at T&M.


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RE: Rule of thumb for recessed light placement

Yes romy!!! They came in and they are gorgeous!!! It's funny because when I saw photos of them online, I thought they were "OK". But after seeing them in person, the photos just didn't do them justice! As a matter of fact, I didn't even take a photo of them. I'm sure you will see a photo though at some point because I will need help picking a backsplash!! But the counters are a done deal:) Wow…I've actually committed to cabinets, counters, sink, faucet, pendants…I'm actually making some progress! It's just a waiting game now…cabinets are still a couple weeks out.

How is your backsplash ordeal coming along? I hope it isn't going to take forever to reconcile. We are all dying to see a final reveal of your kitchen! It's one of my very favorites on this whole forum:)


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RE: Rule of thumb for recessed light placement

There are rules of thumb (see David Tay's guidelines on the lighting forum), but they won't answer your question.

Personal preference consideration - do you prefer that recessed/ambient lights provide sufficient illumination for work areas or would you rather plan to use undercab/task light for work areas? I prefer the former, but many prefer the latter.

For the aisle between the sink and the island, if you put the lights in the middle of the aisle, then you would cast a shadow on the sink counter when working there, and you would have to use undercab or over sink lights to break that shadow - are you OK with that? That would annoy me, so I'd put the lights on that counter run 28-30" from the wall. Some folks would prefer to place them in the middle of the walkway and flip a couple more switches when they use that counter though, so you need to decide what camp you're in there.

For the aisle on the left, I'd put the lights in the middle of the aisle since there's not much counter work space on the wall and they would crowd the fridge. Same for the aisle on the bottom.

So I'd put a row of recessed lights 28-30" from the wall over the sink counter run and in the middle of the left and bottom aisles.


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RE: Rule of thumb for recessed light placement

Thank you GauchoGordo, those are exactly the things I needed to be made aware of!


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RE: Rule of thumb for recessed light placement

That is great! I am so happy for you. No word on the backsplash tile yet so they must be trying to make those tiles for me.


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RE: Rule of thumb for recessed light placement

Icskaisgir - glad to hear you have a your stone selection done! I agree real life is much better than the photos!!!


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RE: Rule of thumb for recessed light placement

or how about no recessed lights at all? Recessed lights are mini spot lights and provide directional lighting straight down in a very small throw pattern. it casts shadows and illuminates the tops of your head.
Throwing out how horribly inefficient cans are for ceilings from an energy loss standpoint (assuming there is attic space above), I have never found them to be good lighting in kitchens for the above reasons. Good lighting should be based around two simple things- tasks at hand and general illumination of the space without shadowing.
An easy solution to fix all above issues is to not use them at all.
Indirect lighting will provide general illumination to the space without creating shadows as light is not directed at a specific target (such as your body for example). An easy way to provide indirect lighting in a kitchen is T5 or LED linear fixtures above your cabinets positioned at an angle to project light out into the space to bounce off the ceiling. I use a double T5 fixture above the cabinets typically.
This creates a large amount of light that can easily light yours and most kitchens.
Next focus on task lighting to be directed at the tasks...your hands. You do not want your head to be blocking this. Standard island pendants typically work great for this since it directs the light straight down onto the work surface. T5 or LED continuous linear under cabinet lighting works great for other areas with cabinets above.
The result is a bright, shadowless, illuminated space with plenty of light directly on your task and eliminating the sea of cans in a ceiling.


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RE: Rule of thumb for recessed light placement

Totally agree that recessed lights aren't the be all end all for lighting. Well designed lighting is layered, and each layer is typically comprised of different types of fixtures. But it's simply not true that recessed lights necessarily have narrower throw patterns, are less inefficent, or cast more shadows than other types of fixtures. Indirect lighting, for example, is wonderful, but it's also generally the least efficient option because most of the light is absorbed by the wall or whatever the light is reflecting off.

And while I'm at it... I'm very very dubious of the whole notion of task lighting in a kitchen. I understand the conventional lighting design emphasis on ambient, task, and accent lighting layers, but I don't like having to flip a task light switch for each section of counter I'm working on (or vacating) at the moment, and I don't like the confusing wall switch arrangements that result from task-oriented kitchen lighting design either. Maybe this made sense back when we got 5 lumens per watt from our fixtures, but with today's high efficiency options I fail to see the benefit of task lights for different sections of counter. I much prefer that the ambient layer provide suffient light for the vast majority of tasks in the kitchen.

Accent lighting, of course, is completely independent. Ambient and task layers are function oriented, whereas accent lighting is more more akin to decorating.

This post was edited by GauchoGordo1993 on Wed, Nov 6, 13 at 15:11


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RE: Rule of thumb for recessed light placement

Hmmm…I spent a lot of time picking out what kind and where to place my recessed lights. I will be sticking with them. I just picked out my ucl's today (with some help from a "lighting engineer"!) and am planning on having some accent lighting above the cabinets.

izerarc, I appreciate your response. Are you a kitchen designer? It sounds like you have a lot of experience with kitchen lighting. I can't picture linear led lights placed above the cabinets producing enough light in the kitchen to be equivalent to the recessed lights. Although you have obviously seen this work. I prefer to have enough light in the kitchen to not really "need" my under cabinet lights but use them when I want extra light. Therefore, I will probably take GauchoGordo's suggestion and place the recessed lights closer to the cabinets rather than centered in the aisle. I'm planning on having the ucl's on a dimmable switch that will operate all the lights together, but if I want some off I can turn them off individually. (hope that makes sense!) Additionally, I will have two pendants over the island, which will only have one bulb each (I believe 60 or 100 watts). They are not actually not what I would choose today but I purchased them a year ago when I had a different "vision" of what I wanted my kitchen to look like…it has since changed! Oh well...

This post was edited by lcskaisgir on Thu, Nov 7, 13 at 16:53


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RE: Rule of thumb for recessed light placement

I have had recessed lights in both of my last homes (plus UCL, pendants and over the cab lights).

I love bright general overhead recessed lights the most and hardly ever used my UCL in my last home. I use the UCL led strips in this home only because the back splash is so dark and it really brightens it up. (We installed a wall wash led strip lighting)
We installed Cree LED bulbs in all the recessed lights and they are great! Great light and energy efficiency.


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RE: Rule of thumb for recessed light placement

That's how I use undercab lights too Karenseb, as accent lights for asthetics, not for function. They also make good night lights if they're on a dimmer, which I use when I have overnight houseguests so that they can navigate kitchen at night if need be.


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RE: Rule of thumb for recessed light placement

I think I would need to see a picture of what Gaucho is talking about. For some reason, I am having trouble visualizing.


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