Lighting for function, decoration becomes priority in kitchens

| Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, 2:18 p.m.

Donna Grover admits she was a little in the dark about lighting her kitchen.

“In the past, I had a light in the middle of the room, so when I was working at the counters, I was in the way,” she says of her home in Blawnox. “Now, it is wonderful. I have lights under the cabinets, and I can see.”

She is part of a growing clientele who have seen the advantages in design and function to lighting in kitchen remodeling projects.

Julie Ann Metz says it is because “all the rules” are gone in remodeling. She is the designer and showroom manager of the new kitchen and bath design center in Plumbers Equipment in Plum. She has seen steadily increasing interest of all kinds of lighting in kitchens.

Metz sees most customers spending between $700 and $1,000 for kitchen lighting.

Mark Uchida, owner of A ReMARKable Kitchen in Blawnox, says homeowners are realizing that ignoring the “10 percent that lighting costs, it makes the other 90 percent look bad.”

He did the project for Michael and Donna Grover, and Donna says “he came up with good ideas that I would never have thought of.”

Jeff Dross, corporate director for education and industry trends of Kichler Lighting in Cleveland, says most people are seeking a blend of “functionality and aesthetics” that make the kitchen stand out as a work and social space.

Liz Krohe, a designer for CopperLeaf Kitchen & Bath in Wexford, says that blend of looks and work results in the greater use of LED lighting under cabinets to illuminate work spaces. Those tiny, light-emitting-diode bulbs can be used for task-lighting and can be accents, or night lighting at the kickplates, she says.

“They are functional, but they also create some ambiance,” Krohe says.

A blend of use seems to be one of the biggest advantages to some kinds of lighting. Uchida, for example, says “semi-flush” lighting not only provides an attractive element in the center of a room, but it conveys more effective lighting.

Semi-flush lighting involves the placement of a bowl covering bulbs that are mounted just below the ceiling. The light not only reflects off the ceiling, but it bounces off the crown molding and tops of cabinets to provide more illumination.

Dross agrees semi-flush fixtures nicely combine function and appearance.

Often, such decanter lights are popular over islands where they can shine directly down at the work space, Krohe says. Uchida added one above the Grovers' sink to have direct light on the work area.

But Dross says recessed lighting can be effective when it is directly over a work area, but it loses strength if the ceilings are higher than most.

“If you have a 9-foot ceiling instead of an 8-foot, you need practically twice as much light,” he says.

Metz says she has seen a bigger interest in putting some kind of chandelier or a more decorative fixture over islands.

But the most popular form of work space lighting, the professionals say, is under-cabinet LED lights. Cabinets tend to cause darker areas in the work areas below them, Uchida says. LED lights illuminate that area and can be used in a number of ways.

Metz, for instance, says the light strip can be changed to provide a seasonally decorative function, such as “adding red and green colors for Christmas just 'cause.”

Grover is thrilled with the way her under-cabinet lights can be turned on or off completely as well as being done side by side, giving her options on the way the room looks.

Dross says under-cabinet lighting “is practically a must-have item in new building.”

One of the biggest aspects of LED lighting is its steadily lowering cost, which is making it more attractive for under-cabinet purposes as well as kick-plate night-lights.

That reduced cost means a total of $700 to $1,000 for most kitchen jobs, Metz says.

She has been surprised at the great interest in lighting at the Plumbers Equipment site. Even customers who are being cautious of budgets are taking steps to add wiring or outlets so they can update lighting later, she says.

The lighting design work is part of the kitchen and bath center that opened in May at the Plum office. Lawrence J. Iovina, general manager of the firm, says the facility has increased its cabinet business 200 percent and overall sales 55 percent.

Lighting has a practical side that makes the expense worthwhile, Uchida says.

“You want to produce good things in your kitchen, and you want to make it easy to make them look good,” he says.

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7852 or

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