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6 Questions to Ask Kitchen Remodelers About Lighting

Before you plan that dream kitchen you’ve always wanted, what are some questions you should ask that pertain to lighting the space?

Lynn Tangorra
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Michael Menn Ltd.
Photo courtesy of Michael Menn Ltd.

According to the 2015 National Association of Home Builder’s Remodeling Market Index (RMI) survey, which measures conditions in the remodeling market, the top two most common remodeling jobs were bathroom remodeling (81 percent) and kitchen remodeling (79 percent). Surveys also show that “Aging in Place” has become a top priority for homeowners. With moving off the table, remodeling moves to the forefront.

With these statistics in mind, it’s highly possible that interior designers and lighting consultants will be getting some questions about kitchen lighting from clients. We asked kitchen remodelers what questions they hear from clients most often to help designers and consultants better prepare their clients. Here’s what they said.

How many light sources should I have in my kitchen?

Most rooms need three sources of lighting, according to Darlene Jurow, ASID. “That’s to make sure that there is task lighting to do proper work in the kitchen; ambient lighting to light the overall space in the room; and room to do individual reading, writing and working aspects in the room.”

What lighting style is a must?

Under-cabinet lighting is essential for any kitchen, says Molly McCabe, founder of A Kitchen That Works located in Bainbridge Island, WA. “We call it our happy lights,” she says. “Where we are in the northern latitudes it gets dark early in the afternoon in winter and that can have a profound effect on people. By having glow light under the cabinet, it can illuminate the back splash, really impacting people’s outlook on life in a positive way, so to speak.”

Jurow likes to have contractors install under cabinet lighting three inches from the front of the cabinet, if possible. This gives sufficient light spread to cover the entire counter.

What would be a good color temperature for a kitchen?

Michael Menn of Michael Menn Ltd. located in Northbrook, IL, recommends 3000K-3200K. McCabe says she uses higher Kelvins on older clients.

Many clients don’t understand what color temperature is or what will work best for them, so make sure your client knows how color temperature will affect their space before they make a purchase.

What is one thing that builders often overlook?

Builders often forget to tell clients that fixtures more often than not do not come with lamps. “Tell your clients that you need to get lamps or supply the lamps and build that cost into their estimates,” McCabe says.

Having to pay more for lamps not included with a fixture can blow a client’s lighting budget. Menn says discussing the budget and costs early on with clients prepares them for what lighting will really cost. Menn asks about “what’s going on in a client’s life what now” and “what does the future hold” to guide clients to the right budget solution.

What is one thing I shouldn’t do in terms of lighting if I have a small kitchen?

You shouldn’t always do pendants over an island. “I like to see pendants over a sink instead,” says Gail O’Rourke, owner of White Wood Kitchens in Sandwich, MA. “In a small kitchen with a low ceiling, if the pendant is there, it makes the room feel smaller.”  

Can I have [this lighting] in my kitchen?

McCabe stresses the importance of understanding how color sensitive the clients are. “One thing that is challenging for consumers is that they will fall in love with a fixture for the way it looks, not the way it performs,” she explains. “Clients will pick out fixtures that they want over a bar top where they will eat breakfast and read the morning paper, but that particular fixture may not produce enough output for you to read comfortably by.”

While you can’t make a client choose a better fixture, make sure you highlight any problems you see with a lighting fixture choice. The most informed clients usually turn out to be the happiest.

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