To make the most of your natural light, you firstly need to make sure you have as much of it as possible to work with, so look at your windows and cut back on the clutter and window dressings. If you're not lucky enough to have south-facing floor-to-ceiling windows, there are a few tricks you can use to make the most of the natural light you get.
Textured surfaces, such as carpets and patterned wallpaper, absorb light, whereas hard, glossy surfaces reflect it. Choosing cabinets with a gloss finish and opting for similar tiles or hardwood on the floor will bounce the light around your room, making it seem brighter. Mirrors will also help in this respect, as well as making the space seem bigger.
Obviously there is only so much you can do with natural light - and it's not much use at night! Your kitchen design should therefore include plenty of artificial light options so you can use them to enhance the functionality of your space - bright lights over food preparation areas, for instance - or set the mood in a multi-purpose kitchen.
Splitting your kitchen into smaller zones is a good way to pin down exactly what types of lights you need and where. Powerful, focused lighting can therefore be used in places where you need an eye for detail, such as the food preparation area or over your hob, while other areas can make do with general lighting.
For those areas where a lot of light is important, LED bulbs are a great option as they provide a strong, focused beam and are more energy-efficient. If your ceiling is fairly low you can set your bulbs here, but if you're utilising high kitchen cabinets then recessing LED lights on the underside of them is a good option, ensuring the area remains illuminated without the risk of shadows creeping over your chopping board. A strip light is the easiest option for a compact space, but for something larger, recessed spotlights at intervals of around 50cm give you the most flexibility. We at Wren Kitchens offer a full range of these lights, and can fit them wherever you choose in your favourite cabinets.
Depending on the shape of your kitchen, you may find that certain important storage cupboards or drawers do not get much light, but a low-watt task light inside the cupboard or drawer - triggered by a sensor - could make life much easier.
Dining and mood lighting
If your cosy kitchen is a food preparation area alone, then you need not worry about mood lighting. However, most kitchens are multipurpose rooms also accommodating dining, entertaining and even working, so your lighting options should be as flexible as possible.
The key is to layer your lighting, so that on their own the bulbs serve a particular function, but use two, three or all of them at once and you have a brightly-lit room. As well as the task lights mentioned above, you can use feature lighting - such as an uplights to illuminate shelves or favourite objects, or downlights to create effects from the edges of worksurfaces. Coupled with a lamp in an opposite corner, this can provide beautiful, delicate lighting ideal for entertaining guests.
For eating areas, such as dinner tables or breakfast bars, you'll want a reasonable level of light without it being oppressive, but don't be afraid to try something different; low-hanging pendant lights or wall lights will have quite an impact and can set the mood nicely - as long as you don't use high-wattage bulbs.
While there are plenty of great options for layering lights, setting moods and making the most of features, it is still wise to incorporate some high-wattage ceiling lights. You may never choose to use them, but they're useful to have; you won't want the hassle of having to flick a number of different switches if you're trying to find something in a hurry, and you don't want to let your brilliant kitchen design down with a lack of light.