Bright Ideas Add Pizzazz To Your Kitchen & Bath

Filed in Design and Decor by on August 31, 2014

pendant and recessed lighting progressivelighting

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Choosing how to illuminate cabinets certainly isn’t the sexiest aspect of home remodeling or building, but it is one of those extra touches that can greatly affect the mood, style and tone of any space.


With one flip of the switch you can create warmth and comfort or coldness and distance. Most experts agree that cabinetry lighting can make or break the design of any kitchen or bathroom, so follow these simple rules to bring a contemporary and warm feel to these most heavily-trafficked rooms.


Rule #1 – Think Small


According to Beth Kemmer of Wood Specialists in Fargo, the size and scale of cabinetry lighting is shrinking. “Gone are the days of the old, 2-inch thick fluorescent under-cabinet light with the noisy ballasts,” says Kemmer, a certified kitchen designer and a certified lighting consultant.


Pendant and hockey puck lights, as well as rope lighting, have replaced larger-scale installations that used to overpower the cabinetry design. Kemmer says these smaller lighting pieces “can really be used as the ‘jewelry’ in your kitchen design.” It’s like a nicely-accessorized outfit – your jewelry should accentuate how you look, not detract from the beauty of the garments.


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Rule #2 – Think High


Under-cabinet lighting has long been de rigueur in kitchen cabinetry. And while this method is not likely to fall out of favor anytime soon, designers are taking a closer look at how to illuminate kitchens with accent lighting.


The American Lighting Association ( says up-lighting casts a warm glow on wood grains, painted walls and/or patterned wallpaper that can transform the ambiance of a room. Terry Braaten, co-owner of Braaten Cabinets in Fargo, says more people are choosing rope or linear lighting strips as above-cabinet lighting options. He says the LED (light emitting diode) styles are extremely energy efficient and easy to install.


However, be cautious if installing above-cabinet lighting in rooms with deep wall color, says Kemmer. “The up-lighting (can be) absorbed by the dark paint colors, and the effect (can be) basically lost,” she says.



Rule #3 – Think Inside


If you want the most progressive cabinetry-lighting look, you must go inside the box, so to speak. Lights need to be placed on the cabinets’ interior preferably at the top so the light trickles down through the shelves, says Kemmer.

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You’d probably have to stick to glass cabinets for this style. The most popular options for this area xenon hockey puck and LED strip lighting or low voltage mini-track lights. Keep in mind how you will be displaying items in the cabinet. Kemmer recommends putting glassware at the top and more solid items like plates and bowls toward the bottom.


“This way, the light source at the top of the cabinet isn’t blocked by a solid object,” she explains.


Rule #4 – Think Style


Before you pick the right lighting, you first need to choose the appropriate cabinet style for the design aesthetic of your room. If you get the cabinet-and-light combination wrong, your room will likely feel disjointed and uncomfortable. Braaten says cabinet styles and wood types have changed significantly over the last 15 years.


“We used to build cabinetry primarily out of oak wood,” Braaten says. “Now maple and cherry are our most popular woods for cabinetry.” Other hot choices are birch, hickory and alder. Glass is also gaining favor with more people because it allows for so many unique lighting options.


Braaten says rustic wood cabinets made from alder, cherry and hickory are the most common choices for lake homes. “The knots and wood grain and color streaking give the finished product a unique look with lots of character,” Braaten says, adding that the right lights can then create a very warm and inviting feeling for your lake home.


One thing to keep in mind is cost. The average price tag to replace your kitchen cabinetry can range from $7,000 to more than $20,000, Braaten says.


So there you have it – four easy rules we hope shed some light on this illuminating topic.



by Patricia Carlson




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