Kitchen Lighting: Brilliance on a Budget

Adding quality lighting to your kitchen doesn't have to involve big, expensive fixtures or exhaustive remodeling, as long as you think carefully about what you want to accomplish and then use a little creativity.

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Use Fixtures That Perform Multiple Functions
"I'm a big believer in using the 'layers' technique for designing kitchen lighting," says Frankie Cameron, account manager for BellacorPro.com, a lighting retailer based in Mendota Heights, Minn. These four layers, Frankie says, represent the functions that lighting performs in the kitchen:

The ambient layer: The general overhead lighting in a room.
The task layer: "Ambient lighting often doesn't provide enough lighting for specific tasks you want to perform," Frankie says, "so you have under-cabinet lighting, for example, or a light over the sink or over an island."
The focal layer: Used to highlight objects such as pieces of art, architectural details, etc.
The decorative layer: This layer is used purely for fun. It's "meant to enhance the overall interior design," Frankie says.

Your best bet for budget lighting is to try to find pieces that perform several of those functions at once. Richard Landon, owner of RL Design LLC in Bellevue, Wash., and winner of Best Overall Kitchen in the National Kitchen & Bath Association's annual design competition, did this in his own home by combining ambient, focal and decorative lighting in one smart fixture.

"I bought an interesting, S-shaped 4-foot-long fixture from IKEA," Richard says. "I took out the ugly pendant lighting over my dining room table and put in this really long, curvy thing where I could aim individual lights at the walls in different directions. That would work in the kitchen, too. If you have a single fixture in the middle of the ceiling, go buy a light that's very interesting and eclectic from a budget place where you get good quality for a low price."

Richard particularly likes monorail lighting, which is a stylish modern twist on traditional track lighting that allows you attach different individual lights to one long, curving track. The track is suspended from a single point on the ceiling and its curve can often be manipulated to suit your space. "If you hunt around you can find less expensive ones," he says. "My dining-room fixture is similar to this (see photo), and I bought it for $49."

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