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Modern kitchen

Updating lighting is a budget-friendly way to remodel a room.

Kitchen lights are the most used lights in the home. The kitchen is a place where sharp knives get used, but also where invariably people congregate, so bright functional light needs to meet soft comfortable lighting seamlessly. Though a comprehensive kitchen remodel may not be in the cards, there are some relatively inexpensive ways to update the lighting of your kitchen, improving both its form and function.

Updating fixtures

Aside from paint, swapping out light fixtures is perhaps the most budget friendly kitchen remodel. Lighting can help unify a kitchen. For example, pendant lights over an island will anchor it to the kitchen in an open concept floor plan. Those pendant lights can be hard-wired or plugged into an outlet if you don’t mind an exposed cord.

Replacing the chandelier over the table is an opportunity to step out of the box. The clean lines of cabinetry and simple, functional elements of your kitchen will balance out more dramatic choices – so go with something bold.

Halogen or LED track lighting can highlight specific spots used for tasks. Because it can be angled, track lighting can also cast light deep inside cabinets. Do not hang track lighting so close to cabinets that you can’t open the doors, and do not place track lights directly behind a work station – such as the sink – as your body will block the light. Consider an updated version of track lighting that’s similar to pendants – a monorail kit where lights dangle from cords on a rail instead of being fixed to a track.

Hard-wired under-cabinet lights can be costly, but self-contained modular units can be inexpensively added to your cabinets and are available in both halogen and fluorescent options. Under-cabinet lights are great for getting rid of shadowy work areas. To avoid glare off a solid surface countertop, chose a fixture with a diffuser. If your backsplash is reflective, place the fixture upfront and aim it towards the backsplash to lessen its glare and utilize the reflected light for the work space.

Peel-and-stick puck lights can be placed underneath cabinetry for task lighting or at the top of a cabinet with glass doors and shelves. These are the easiest puck lights to install as they’re battery operated so you forgo hiding cords or the costs associated with hard-wiring them into the home’s electrical system.

LED rope lighting can be added above your cabinets, for ambient lighting, underneath them, as under-cabinet task lighting, or at their base as toe-kick lighting. LED rope lights can soften existing ambient light, creating a sense of warmth and coziness.

Recessed can fixtures are a common source of ambient light in a kitchen. When choosing recessed cans, do not choose ones where the bulb hangs below the trim of the fixture or that bulb will cause glare. Shiny metal surfaces on the inside of the can fixture will also increase glare, while a black colored interior reduces glare but absorbs light, in which case you may need brighter bulbs.

Keep in mind it’s best to choose only one kind of hanging light in the kitchen. A chandelier over the table alongside pendant lights over an island can give your kitchen a cluttered look.

Bulb selection

In the kitchen, the color of the light bulb is most important when it comes to having the right amount of light. As beautiful as vintage-style Edison bulbs are, they aren’t appropriate to use everywhere in the kitchen. If you need to use a knife, and you want to keep all your fingers, a cooler colored bulb is best – one that’s rated over 3000K.

Under-cabinet lights are a perfect place for cooler colored bulbs, or color-changing LEDs, so while you work the light is bright. LED strip lights are preferred over incandescents for these fixtures since LED lights don’t heat up; they won’t melt that chocolate bar sitting underneath them on the counter.

Halogens or LED bulbs are best for recessed fixtures. And, since they typically offer ambient lighting, they’re color can be warmer – around 2700K.

Those warmer colored Edison-style bulbs are good choices for pendant lights or chandeliers with clear glass globes or no globes at all.

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