led lighting for 9' x 10' dark kitchen with no upper cabinets

April 25, 2014

I could really use some advice from the GW kitchen experts :) . We are currently renovating our condo kitchen. The plan is a soft modern look with River White granite, steel appliances, stained F&B Hardwick White (greenish-grey) oak slab cabinet fronts, brass pulls, oak floors, and off-white walls (F&B Pointing). See rendering below. We have an 8 ft ceiling and we live in a climate where it tends to be overcast for months of the year - it is not uncommon for me to use artificial lighting during the day in the winter.

We don't have a lighting plan yet :( . My husband will be DIY the electrical/lighting installation. We are not planning to have any upper cabinets so that makes our lighting situation quite different from most of the kitchens I read about here. I'd like to use mostly LED because the original electrician put a LOT on the circuit in question, including lots of lighting, outlets, and the range hood (we are planning 800 CFM). I want dimmable (a must!) 3000K with excellent colour rendering. We are planning two switches - one for the island, one for the perimeter. The range hood will have its own lighting.

I have read about kitchen lighting guidelines in the good explanation link below.

I'll put my questions in the next post.

Here is a link that might be useful: Kitchen-lighting basics

This post was edited by feisty68 on Fri, Apr 25, 14 at 14:35

Comments (28)

  • feisty68

    Some questions:

    1. what are the benefits of recessed lighting (vs track or surface-mounted lights)?

    2. what is the best way to get LED task lighting when under-counter lighting is not used?

    3. how come no one uses track lighting any more? (that's the impression I have at least)

    4. are there any E27 LED bulbs that are not ugly and could be used with a pendant that has a clear or open shade where the bulb would be visible and have good CRI - for the island lighting? Something like this look below (which my husband hates :( ):

    5. what kind of ceiling light is the one below? could it provide task lighting?

    I would be very grateful for advice on this :)

  • bbtrix

    I'm certainly no expert, but I've spent a considerable amount of time researching lighting in the past six months. I have chosen all LED for my open plan kitchen. We raised and sloped our ceiling so that added another dimension. For looks, I wanted 4" LED recessed lights. I had to go with 6" as the others were special order and I was out of time before the ceiling was closed. I installed only three recessed lights in the kitchen and two pendants for the island. I also went with dimable 3000k and am pleased with the color and brightness. The 6" worked out better as the light spread is wider. I could do without the UCL, but plan to do that in the next few weeks.

    I found many good threads on GW regarding lighting zones which was quite helpful.

    Regarding your questions:
    1. My personal preference is recessed, but that could be because I've had halogen in the past. I find the smaller lights piercing if they catch you in the eye. You can position and aim tracks, but don't need to with properly placed recessed fixtures. Some people don't like the Swiss cheese ceiling and others don't care for the look of tracks. If you're leaning that way, I think the wire suspended lights would look cool is your space.

    2 IMHO, well placed recessed to a great job.

    3. Out of style? Maybe it depends on the space. I have track lighting in a condo I own, but not in my home.

    4. The selection of E27 bulbs is growing everyday. You should be able to find a style that fits fixtures like the samples you show. It sure needs to be taken into consideration when deciding on the fixtures. That's the stage I'm in now, fixture shopping. Ugh, difficult decisions.

    5. I would consider this a pendant, but don't think it would be great task lighting because it is a clear shade with nothing to focus the light down.

    Here's a shot late last night with only those 5 LED lights on in a 24x24 space. I don't have pendant fixtures yet.

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  • feisty68

    Oh, and we currently have track lighting - two tracks on separate tracks.

  • Gooster

    I'll let others offer advice on the recessed vs. surface vs. track question.

    One alternative for you, besides pendants over the sink and penisula, are swing-arm sconces. People with open shelving are using these quite effectively. This gets the source of lighting lower than the ceiling and are adjustable. Just swap in a dimmable LED bulb.

    This is a more rustic example:

    [Farmhouse Kitchen[(https://www.houzz.com/photos/farmhouse-kitchen-ideas-phbr1-bp~t_709~s_2114) by Philadelphia General Contractors Buckminster Green LLC

    You could also used fixed sconces.

    Another option, usually used in high ceiling modern spaces, are cable lights. There are LED versions available.

  • robo (z6a)

    HIGhLY support the swing arm sconce!!!

    I think track lighting is used especially in higher end homes and looks great in a modern kitchen! Beware that with led track or tape lighting, generally there has to be a transformer somewhere to step down your home circuit to low voltage. It can be either incorporated into the light fixture or somewhere between the box and the fixture.

    The Cree recessed LEDs are a nice option and not too pricey. They're one piece housing and bulb, I believe.

    This is the best looking regular base bulb I've found so far, the Philips slim style. It doesn't have a ballast, instead heat is dissipated all over the bulb.

    Here's what it looks like when lit...it is quite bright.

  • robo (z6a)

    Ps I haven't had much luck dimming Cree bulbs-I find they buzz. The Philips bulbs I've found to dim best with the least buzzing are there ones which are also fairly handsome:

  • lee676

    > 4. are there any E27 LED bulbs that are not ugly and could be used with a pendant that has a clear or open shade where the bulb would be visible and have good CRI - for the island lighting? Something like this look below (which my husband hates :( ):

    These from Ikea - they're not expensive, available in 400 or 600 lumen both 2700K (only the 600lm version is dimmable), color rendering (CRI) listed as ">87" but independent testing has found it to be 91 or 92, very good. Basically these look like incandescent bulbs, especially in pendants where you only see the main globe and not the unlit neck. Quite affordable too, currently US$ 4.49 and $7.49 respectively. There's a clear version available as well as the usual frosted white.

    The Cree TW bulbs sold at Home Depot are also excellent if you need something brighter - there's a 800 lumen (60 watt replacement) available, though they cost twice what the Ikea bulbs do (in non-rebate areas) and aren't quite as conventional looking, at least when they're not on. But these give off great like (93 CRI) and unlike most LED bulbs can be used in fully enclosed fixtures.

    Incidentally, E27 in European 230V standard base; US and Canada use E26 120v.

    > I want dimmable (a must!) 3000K with excellent colour rendering.

    If you're using recessed lighting, check out the PAR30 and PAR38 bulbs (for 5" and 6" cans respectively) that Costco recently began selling in their stores, made by Feit Electric - these are 3000K, 40ð beam spread, and 93+ CRI. I've never used them, but have used the BR30 wide beam version which is excellent. And can't complain with the pricing - if you're in an area with Energy Star utility rebates, they are about $10 each, no more than good halogen PAR lamps cost.

    The Cree CR6 and CR4 are also available for recessed cans in 90 CRI 3000K versions in two brightnesses. These are LED modules with their own built-in white trim rings, and give a wider throw than the Costco bulbs. They're much more expensive, but you save the cost of a separate trim ring

    I don't know of any 3000K standard non-floodlamp bulbs with good color rendering, but they may be out there somewhere.

  • feisty68

    Thank you very much for the advice! I actually feel relieved because I've been reading and reading and having trouble narrowing things down.


    * I meant E26 - thanks for the correction :)

    * I was actually wondering about the ceiling fixtures in question #5 - not the pendant. They look different to me.

    Bbtrix - you did your homework! Your kitchen looks so great. And the lighting really works - amazing that it's only 5 lamps. That is helpful for me because that should more than cover the requirements of my kitchen - especially if I get the angle right for task lighting.

    Gooster and Robotropolis - I love the wall-mounted swing arm fixture look! I originally had my heart set on those but I've gotten cold feet a bit. First, it's a nuisance to DIY fish the electrical wire all the way from the junction boxes in the ceiling all the way down to the correct wall positions. I would really have to be ultra-sure I wanted to do that. Second, my husband is actually an electrical engineer who specifies lighting for commercial projects. Perfect right? Except that he is rather picky about lighting and is not wild about putting LED bulbs into fixtures not designed for them. It's not impossible but it would be a tough sell. Also, it's not obvious where to put them. I was planning to have curtains on either side of the window (see my "take a peek at my "soft modern" small kitchen design?). The wall fixtures could be on either side of the range and I guess the sink and island areas would be having be covered by ceiling lighting.

    One thought I had was having utilitarian track or recessed LED lighting on the ceiling to cover the whole kitchen, then just put up a couple of accent wall fixtures (with low watt incandescent?) more for looks and soft evening lighting rather than serious task work.

    Robotropolis thank you very much for the E26 bulb recommendations - that saves me a lot of hassle if I decide to use those bulbs with a conventional fixture :) . The light looks good!

    Lee676 - I really appreciate the specific advice on this! I have read quite a few threads about LED lighting, but I know from my husband that a thread that is a year old might be out of date! That IKEA bulb looks like a great option as well. I might save it for spots where I want a warmer look. I'm in Canada so my product availability and rebate situation varies a bit, but since I am not going to need many fixtures that is not too much of an issue - and I can usually find things online if not in retail.

    I believe the dimmed LED buzzing issue depends not just on the bulb, but also the fixture, and the dimmer itself. I guess that's an argument for picking integrated LED fixtures, or at least checking the specs VERY carefully. Buzzing drives me nuts and I know that mostly I would use things dimmed because I really dislike feeling like I'm in an operating theatre - except when I have to clean the floors at night, etc.

  • feisty68

    Any thoughts on the ceiling mounted fixture below (MP Lighting X06 C1 Canopy Mount Spotlight) with the Green Creative Crisp Series LED MR16? It's supposed to have really good colour rendering.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Green Creative Crisp Series LED MR16

  • lee676

    It does, but for great color rendering in MR16s (or the 120v GU10 variety) I'd go with Soraa who makes an extensive line of 95 CRI accent lamps in a variety of color temps, beam spreads, and wattages. They even have snap-on filters that will add special effects, change the color temperature, or reduce glare. PAR30 and PAR38s with their design are coming soon.

    Soraa MR16 and GU10 line

  • Gooster

    feisty68: sigh, engineers. worst yet, one praciticing in a related field. If you can't convince him that residential retrofit bulbs are designed to work within the existing electrical and thermal envelope of existing fixtures (in particular, open fixtures like a sconce), then get him on the line with technical support.

    I think sconces would blend well with pendants over your sink and island. I might also still supplement with general lighting in an overhead fixture or recessed cans. Really, you are trying for task lighting to fill in shadows from the general ambient lighting.

    That first example I posted (with the bright tile) used the swing arms with small recessed lighting. The recessed lighting alone would not be sufficient; a person's body would block the light on the counter..

    You can see the three types of lighting at work in this kitchen design:

    [Traditional Kitchen[(https://www.houzz.com/photos/traditional-kitchen-ideas-phbr1-bp~t_709~s_2107) by Chicago Kitchen & Bath Designers Rebekah Zaveloff : KitchenLab

  • feisty68

    Thanks for those Lee676 - I will definitely check them out as track lighting is still on the table.

    Gooster - thank you for *getting* it!

    I fear the options are rapidly diminishing. Dh is seriously NOT interested in the wire-fishing adventures that would be involved in wall-mounted fixtures. He has already done quite a bit of that in order to move outlets. He also has to move a really annoying microwave wire from a wall, across a ceiling, and down to the island, and he is not looking forward to that.

    I also learned from him that simple retrofit cans may not be an option for us. There is insulation and fire protection between floors in our condo complex. He thinks that we would probably need giant boxes to separate recessed cans from the ceiling insulation, which would require making giant holes in the ceiling and mounting huge boxes between the floor joists above.

    It is looking like it might be track lighting for the perimeter worktops - wide angle lamps, and possibly even for the island. We can't really agree on pendants, and I am concerned about the pendants being in our sightlines. Dh is quite 6'2", so in order for them to not be in front of his face they would need to be quite high, and with our 8' ceilings the proportions might end up just being wrong. And there is the risk of glare when sitting at the nearby dining table and seeing the lamp in the pendant from below.

    I have noticed that men often LOVE overhead lighting and women often hate it. Why is that? Maybe because overhead lighting is unflattering? When it comes to the kitchen, I see ceiling lighting as being a necessary evil, but I long to have some soft, low-mounted lighting for non-task times/events because it's an open concept space. None of my ideas for that seem to fly though.

    Thanks for helping me with this. Right now I'm trying to figure out track lighting that won't look too dated. Installation-wise it would be simplest because only one junction box would need to be added where the drywall already needs to be repaired above our island, and none would need to be moved. I figure I'm better off with track lighting above the island than a pendant that I don't love or that causes lighting issues.

  • greenhaven

    When we firstmoved to Mi and were living in a rental house I was first exposed to track lighting that did not make me gag. The ones in the kitchen were run of the mill, but the dining room had very pretty, curbed tracks, cool bulb housing that was pretty cool and dimmable bulbs that did not buzz. I do thonk, however, that they were halogen, alhough I cannot be sure. I do not know what brand it was or where they got it but the point is, if you want orneed track lighting there are lots of decent options these days. Don't over think it, you will drive yourself nuts, particularly with DH in the field, lol! No offense meant, just a reference to the typical over-analytical mind of the typical engineer. ;0)

  • robo (z6a)

    Check out monorail lighting which is the fancy term for track lighting. And don't fear using e27 base bulbs in a regular fixture! I've had them for 3 years now and none have burnt out. I actually get super cranky now when another (cfl) bulb burns out because I'm getting used to never thinking about light bulbs once they're installed.

    Canadalightingdirect is where I go for lighting if I can't find it locally.

    Where would you out lighting if not from the ceiling? You're not having any open shelves are you? Finally, they specifically make recessed lights to come in contact with insulation - ones with IC housing. Because a lot of ceilings have insulation. So dh may not win that argument.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Houzz monorail inspiration

    This post was edited by robotropolis on Sun, Apr 27, 14 at 8:29

  • greenhaven

    Yes, the monorails are what I was perusing this morning. I have a way wicked cool track light up on Pinterest that I would link to if I knew how to copy and paste on my Nook. I am going to keep the tab up for when I get to my computer.

  • eam44

    Here's a question for you - if you have no uppers, why is the south facing window so very very tiny? My preference is for natural light most of the day even though I live in a climate where I have sunshine less than 50% of the year. It makes the sun even more precious on the days when it actually shines. I'd have that whole wall be a bank of windows.

  • greenhaven

    I think this would be marvie in your kitchen! The only problem is that I cannot find them anywhere, now! Apparently Lowes does not, indeed, have them anymore. (Link below)

    There is also this really cool piece; the structure is polished nickel but slightly "rougher." They key is on the umbre shades, that talks to your brass pulls:


    Here is a link that might be useful: track lighting

  • Evan

    As for soft, non-task lighting, what about a small lamp or 2 on the counter? I know you don't see that much, but my Grandmother always had one. It always made the kitchen seem so warm and cozy. We're planning to put one in our kitchen if we can find one that's the right size

  • feisty68

    Greenhaven, yes I should really hold myself back from insanity when discussing lighting with my husband! Those are pretty track lights that you posted.

    Robotropolis - I thought track lighting is rigid track, while monorail is flexible curvy track? But yes, same concept. Thank you very much for the Canadian lighting online store - I will totally check that. So tricky finding Canadian sources sometimes. I do like the idea of wall-mounted articulated sconces as an alternative to ceiling-mounted lighting, at least on the long part of the perimeter "L". I may have some open shelving on the wall on either side of the range - TBD. Dh knows there are recessed lights designed to come in contact with insulation - but the boxes that go into the ceiling are apparently *huge*. So each one would require cutting a big hole and then a lot drywall repairing. We will hire out the drywall repairs, but don't want to incur unnecessary expense there. I'll definitely try out an LED E26 that you've recommended.

    EAM44, there *were* upper cabinets on either side of the window before. I agree the window size/proportions really leave a lot to be desired. I *adore* your inspiration photo. Unfortunately, this is an exterior load-bearing wall, with a walkway outside (fire regulations), in a condo building, with a moisture envelope. I've learned the hard way that standard solutions for openings in load bearing walls don't work in this building because replacement vertical studs can't be tied into joists in a structurally/seismically acceptable way due to difficulty accessing the locations where those tie-ins would have to happen.

    I'm going to add curtains and hope that that visually widens the window a bit. Here's a very crude mockup (no counters, fronts, curtain rod, etc.):

    Edb2n, I think a small lamp or two on the counter might end up being a good solution for me. Dh will complain about it most likely, but I hope he can compromise a bit there.

  • Gooster

    feisty68: so sorry for the extra stress

    Two other alternatives for you (and DH):

    LED suspended channel/linear suspension lights (see link below for another example). The examples below are extremely expensive, but there are now others on the market and they are coming down in price and are very unobstrusive. Some are essentially like flat planks suspended at whatever height you choose.

    [Contemporary Kitchen[(https://www.houzz.com/photos/contemporary-kitchen-ideas-phbr1-bp~t_709~s_2103) by Chicago Lighting Lightology

    Cable Lights (I think someone mentioned them above). You can even wire them into a ceiling junction box, I believe.

    [Traditional Kitchen[(https://www.houzz.com/photos/traditional-kitchen-ideas-phbr1-bp~t_709~s_2107) by West Chester Architects & Designers Archer & Buchanan Architecture, Ltd.

    feisty: Here's my non-helpful comment for the day -- tell DH he can be picky or lazy, but not both! ;)

    Here is a link that might be useful: Many types of linear suspension lights

    This post was edited by gooster on Sun, Apr 27, 14 at 15:51

  • feisty68

    I like your non-helpful comment Gooster ;) . You made me smile. Sorry for grumbling here. My sister has had the same issues with making design decisions with her engineer husband.

    I like the linear suspension lights! They wouldn't look stupid suspended above dh's sightline. I think cable lights are the same as track lights in terms of installation so they would be an option.

  • feisty68

    So, dh calmed down a bit and we had some constructive conversations. Budget will be quite an issue at this point in the renovation.

    Looks like track lighting is still on the table as the main lighting source, but we haven't settled on LED vs halogen.

    It also looks like dh may be open to having wall-mounted accent lighting as well - probably one on either side of the range, and one on a column over the island. I think that pendants won't really work over the island because they impact sightlines too much. Also, the three columns of the island are awkward-looking, and I think that mounting a fixture on one of them may help them look more intentional, like this:

    Love the fixture above (Artemide Tolomeo) but it's out of the budget. Any similar lower budget options? Something articulated like that would be perfect to allow flexibility of height and how much it extends over the worktop.

    This is not ideal, but a contender -

    Cedar & Moss Tilt Cone

    Dh finds the wall-mounted fixture idea acceptable if it's hardwired with an integrated switch - from both looks and installation perspective. The Tilt Cone fixture above can be ordered with a switch on the wall plate.

  • feisty68

    I finally went to the local lighting showroom/dealer to look further into options and talked to a very knowledgeable guy. He had a lot of interesting comments.

    * He thinks track lighting is great - when installed correctly. He recommended that tracks should not be too far from walls, and that care be taken to avoid glare in how they are directed.

    * He recommended diffusion lenses to avoid shine over polished granite.

    * He said that there are still a lot of issues with fixtures that have the LED built in. He said outdoor fixtures have been doing well, but that indoor fixtures are not lasting as long as they are supposed to - the modules last but the drivers and transformers don't. That's because they fixtures are generating a lot of heat to achieve the colour temperatures that people want in indoor situations.

    * He pointed out that they have had a lot of issues when built-in LED fixtures fail. He gave a local Burger King as an example. They had 7 matching fixtures. When one failed they could not get a replacement that had an identical color temperature and the difference was quite noticeable. They had to hunt all over to get a module that would reproduce the correct color.

    * He recommended going with a lamped LED fixture so that all lamps can be replaced at once to match color if necessary.

    * He thought it was a good idea to go with an MR16 track system so that I would have the option of LED MR16 or halogen. He says the jury is still out on whether LEDs will stand the test of time in residential situations (both in terms of longevity/cost tradeoffs, and aesthetics).

    * He recommended the Juno Trac12 system (with remote transformer) for a minimalist setup. One can order diffused and even louvered lenses to address glare issues.

  • feisty68

    Something like this?

    The tracks are miniature and the heads are very small.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Juno Trac 12 Notch Back 50W MR16 Lampholder

  • feisty68

    It looks like dh is on board with the Juno Trac 12 system above. You can buy lamps that have different spread angles that allow control over task vs flood lighitng. Maybe he'll actuall be an engineer and create a lighting plan for us! I think we'll do a white track - with black heads? The other option is white heads, though I've had problems keeping track heads clean in the past (not the best housekeeper).

  • LaurenDM

    I'm reading all your threads because I need to know what you decided! Okay,partly because GW reno threads are like soap operas, but also because I'm working on a no-uppers modern natural kitchen and am stuck for lighting solutions. My husband figures upping the wattage in the light over the table should do it...
    I'm in Germany and the no-uppers thing is pretty common. It's the 'soft' and 'natural' parts that I have to advocate for. Generally when I say I don't want high-gloss white they direct my to "country" stuff in raw knotty pine. Ew.
    A thought on your range hood issue: I'm going with a "head free" (I don't know what they're called in English, sorry) hood because of the head-whacking issue with my last, under-cab fan. It also gives a more open and slightly industrial esthetic, which would suit an exposed vent pipe. My neighbour here has an exposed pipe from a modern slimline hood and it looks good, not like 'we ran out of drywall', more like 'this is a kitchen and work is done here'.
    I should start a thread for my kitchen but time is seriously ticking (cab install is scheduled for July 30, and lighting/sound plan needs to be done, supplies sourced before then) and if GWers get going I'm afraid I'll wind up with either option overload or some perfect thing that I can't source here. So get on it Feisty! A lurker needs you!

    Here is a link that might be useful: example of the kind of range hood I mean

    This post was edited by LaurenDM on Sun, Jul 13, 14 at 16:24

  • feisty68

    Thank you so much for your encouragement LaurenDM :) .

    I like the idea of an exposed hood duct and I think my husband likes that too. I think it would look less bulky than a drywall soffit and there would be the option to spray paint it.

    That is a cool hood design. I see why that would work especially well without uppers too. Unfortunately, it seems like it wouldn't capture cooking vapours as well?

    I'm looking forward to seeing *your* kitchen!

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