architecture, such as recessed downlights. Add task lighting in
zones where reading and other visually demanding activities
are performed and accent lighting (track, undercabinet, etc.) to
highlight artwork, family photos, etc.
If using a chandelier, consider mounting it roughly 80-plus
inches above the floor. If using sconces, consider mounting
with the bottom of the luminaire 60 inches above the floor.
As with living rooms, layering the lighting is critical here. General lighting, usually installed at ceiling height (typically 8–9
feet), should be strong enough to do activities such as dressing
but soft enough for comfort at bedtime. Recessed downlights
are typically used sparingly, optimally for accent lighting.
Shorter or flush-mounted luminaires are popular, though taller
ceilings may accommodate a chandelier for a more dramatic
statement. Lighting a cove or soffit, if there is one, can produce
a very soft atmosphere while highlighting these architectural
features. The lighting may be configured to be controllable
from both the entrance and the bedside.
Task lighting is typically provided by portable luminaires.
Decorative bedside pendants are an interesting option that can
be hung low for a sense of intimacy. Wall-mounted luminaires
should be positioned just above the level of the head and independently switched. Vanities, work or hobby spaces, reading
chairs, and closets all need dedicated lighting. Mirrors over
vanities should be sidelighted to avoid facial shadowing.
Kitchens are often considered the busiest room in the home.
General lighting can be provided by recessed fixtures or a
central chandelier. The American Lighting Association (ALA)
recommends mounting recessed luminaires around a room’s
perimeter about 30 inches from the wall. For chandeliers, note
glass is easier to clean than fabric. Recessed downlights or track
lighting can focus on the sink and, if a hood light is not installed,
Undercabinet lighting is a popular way to put task illumina-
tion on countertops. Many choices are available from linear to
puck lights. Consider placing the linear luminaire toward the
front of the cabinet and aiming the light backward. A lensed
luminaire will diffuse the light emission, well-suited for glossy
countertops, and produce a more uniform appearance. If using
linear luminaires, try to match luminaire length as close as you
can to the width of the cabinet, and try to position the lumi-
naires as close as possible end to end between cabinets.
Consider small pendants mounted over island counters and
breakfast bars for general and task lighting. The ALA recommends mounting the pendants with their bottoms about 66
inches above the floor (it should be possible to look across the
room below the pendants). If the counter has seating and the
pendant shades are shorter in depth, install with their bottoms
a little lower ( 60 inches above the floor). Generally speaking,
one pendant should be installed per 2 feet of counter space. If
the luminaires are thin and narrow, consider adding one or two
more. As in other design fields, an odd number can create visual
interest and a sense of balance.
For kitchen tables, consider a decorative pendant for general
and task lighting. The ALA recommends that, if the table is
round, the luminaire should be about 1 foot narrower than the
table’s diameter. If the table is square or rectangular, it should
be 1 foot narrower than the table’s smaller dimension.
The last layer is accent lighting. Options include track,
aimable recessed and internal cabinet lighting (e.g., striplights
in glass cabinets). If the raised cabinets do not reach the ceiling, another approach is to illuminate the space between the
cabinet and the ceiling.
In the dining room, activity—and, therefore, illumination—
focuses on the table and the faces of people around it. Popular
options include recessed or track lighting, a pendant (e.g., chandelier) or a series of small pendants supplemented by recessed
or track lighting. If a chandelier is used, it may incorporate a
downlight for accenting a table centerpiece.
When using chandeliers, the ALA recommends choosing a
luminaire that is at least 6 inches narrower than the table’s narrower dimension. If a table is 48 inches by 72 inches, the width of
the luminaire should be about 36 inches. The chandelier should
be mounted about 30 inches above the tabletop for an 8-foot ceiling, adding 1 inch for each additional foot of ceiling height. The
chandelier’s form should match the table’s; for example, if the
table is round, consider a round or globe chandelier.
Accent lighting, such as recessed or track lighting, can be
added to highlight artwork, buffets or sideboards, and cabi-
This kitchen integrates general and task lighting while accenting
the ceiling architecture.