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Thread: Lighting placement for kitchen/living room?

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member ImNoBobVila's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2013

    Default Lighting placement for kitchen/living room?

    Hello, this is my first posting (and house) so be gentle

    As you can see from the pics, the lighting is ridiculous...and hideous. It's very dim and cave-like once the sun goes down...well, even before. Two track lights and a single 3-or-4" recessed over the sink. I want all these gone. I would yank the ceiling fan but with no central AC...so it will probably get used a bit in the coming months.


    Table (not even centered)

    I do plan on refacing the cabinets and drawers in the next few months, along with tearing out the pale blue soffit above them (I've crawled around the attic and it looks clear aside from the stove vent). Along with new door/floor/window moulding. Possibly new counters and a back-splash. And paint the room...

    The not-to-scale diagram has the switch layout on it. I don't know if these will be enough for the new lighting as I was thinking under-cabinet, two banks of dimmable recessed warmer LED's (kitch/living) and something over the table (with possible above cabinet lights after soffit/cabinet job). Honestly, wiring switches/dimmers and/or adding more of them is the only part I'm apprehensive about (mostly the 3-way which needs to be single). I've never done electrical aside from changing some outlets, but I've read through the "Black & Decker Complete Guide to Wiring 5 Edition" and skimmed through some code eBooks, websites and watched a bunch of videos. I have full attic access and the panel is just inside the garage against the living room wall with open slots.

    What do you guy/gals think, how would you light this kitchen/living room? (feel free to MSpaint on the floorplan!)

    Also, the ceilings are only 7.5'

    Pics from across each side of room:

    Last edited by ImNoBobVila; 04-18-2013 at 10:28 PM.

  2. #2
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Cave Creek, Arizona


    There are so many options as far as lighting is concerned, that NO ONE can give you the "best" layout. 7'6" ceilings? Who designed the house Frank Lloyd Wright? Rewiring a "house" by just reading a book is not usually a recipe for a good installation. If it were, tradesmen would not have to go to school for years to get their licenses.
    Licensed residential and commercial plumber

  3. #3
    In the trades Dana's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2009


    For filling in ambient light without glare, linear fluorescent uplighting on the tops of the kitchen cabinets does a FAR better job of shadow-free lighting than any type of ceiling fixture can (recessed or otherwise.) If the crown molding on the cabinet tops is 3" or more you can use cheap T8 (1" diameter tube) strip lights without the bare tube being visible , otherwise you can use thin-profile T5 (5/8" diameter tube) fixtures designed for under-cabient use, which tend to be 1-1/8 to 1-1/4" in height.

    You can use the T5s or low profile LED fixtures under cabinets for task lighting, but place them toward the front edge of the cabinet directed back toward the wall rather than the common error of butting them against the wall facing the room. This puts the light closer to your work surface, an minimizes the shadows your hands cast over the actual work, while eliminating direct glare of the light coming at you from the wall. The wall behaves like a diffuser, reflecting the light onto the workspace from multiple directions to fill in the hand-shadow on the work space.

    A recessed LED over the space in front of the refrigerator is often useful (to get a good look at the biology experiment you just pulled out at 3AM before deciding whether or not to eat it :-) ), but you may want to use something more decorative like a pendant with a nice shade over the kitchen table if it's used as eat-in space.

    In the living room an LED MR16 spot (or two) can highlight your wall-art to good effect. For ambient lighting wall sconces that wash both up and down the wall fills in nicely without too much glare. It's a project (but not too tough) to build lighting coves to be mounted 15-18" below ceiling (but above standing eye-level) to accomodate for T8 or T5 fluorescent strips for uplighting (preferably with dimmable ballasts and the appropriate compatible special dimmers) allows you to set quite a range of ambient light in a non-glare way.

    To minimize glare and have more USEFUL shadow-free ambient lighting, recessed lights and other downlighting sparingly, and try to put at least 50% more wattage/lumens into up-lighting using the ceiling as the diffuser, with few direct lines from eyeball to bulb. Recessed cans were all the rage in 1950, but cove & valance lighting (and cabinent tops) are a more useful & comfortable ways to set the ambient light levels, since there is no glare inducing your pupils to constrict, and less shadow- contrast to strain your eye with. At any given light level as measured with a light meter, you get higher efficacy out of indirect lighting or a mix of up/down lighting. With a mix of light, the uplighting reduces the contrast on the ceiling between a recessed can-light and the now lit-up ceiling around it, which minimizes the pupil-constricting glare reaction.

    There is quite a bit of lighting design information accessible on the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Lighting Research Center website. Anyone is encouraged to dig into it quite a bit before laying out lighting in their space. Lighting design far more than just picking more attractive fixtures or a wiring problem, and can make a huge difference in the attractiveness & comfort of the space.

  4. #4
    DIY Junior Member ImNoBobVila's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2013


    Wow, great post Dana! Thank you very much

    Hj...I thought this was a DIY forum? Thanks for the warm welcome!

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