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Kitchen Design Rules

In 1944 the University of Illinois conducted a number of studies of kitchen design


and developed fundamental design principles that are still very much in use today. Today the National Kitchen & Bath Association updates and publishes these basic design standards

Rule 3 - Distance Between Work Centers (Kitchen Triangle)


Guideline: In a kitchen with three work centers the sum of the three traveled distances should total no more than 26' with no single leg of the triangle measuring less than 4 feet nor more than 9 feet.
Notes: A major appliance and its surrounding landing/work area form a work center. The distances between the three primary work centers (cooking surface, clean-up/prep primary sink, and refrigeration storage) form a work triangle.

When the kitchen plan includes more than three primary appliance/work centers, each additional travel distance to another appliance/work center should measure no less than 4' nor more than 9'.

Each leg is measured from the center-front of the appliance/sink.

No work triangle leg intersects an island/peninsula or other obstacle by more than 12".

Rule 4 - Separating work centers


Guideline: A full-height, fulldepth, tall obstacle should

not separate two primary work centers. A properly recessed tall corner unit will not interrupt the work flow and is acceptable. (Examples of a fullheight obstacle are a tall oven cabinet, tall pantry cabinet, or refrigerator)

Rule 5 - Work Triangle Traffic


Guideline: No major traffic patterns should cross through the basic work triangle.

Rule 6 - Work Aisle

Guideline: The width of a work aisle should be at least 42 for one cook and at least 48 for multiple cooks. Measure between the counter frontage, tall cabinets and/or appliances.
Code Requirements:

A clear floor space of at least 30 by 48 should be provided at each kitchen In a U-shaped kitchen, plan a minimum clearance of 60 between opposing arms. Include a wheelchair turning space with a diameter of at least 60, which can

appliance. Clear floor spaces can overlap.


include knee* and toe* clearances.

A wheelchair turning space could utilize a T-

shaped clear space, which is a 60 square with two 12 wide x 24 deep areas removed from the corners of the square. This leaves a minimum 36 wide base and two 36 wide arms. T-shaped wheelchair turning spaces can include knee and toe clearances. Notes:

* Knee clearance must be a minimum 30 wide (36 to use as part of the T-turn)

and maintain a 27 clear space under the cabinet, counter or sink for a depth of 8. The next 3 of depth may slope down to a height of 9, with a clear space of at least 17 extending beneath the element.

* Toe clearance space under a cabinet or appliance is between the floor and 9

above the floor. Where toe clearance is required as part of a clear floor space, the toe clearance should extend 17 minimum beneath the element.

Rule 7 - Walkway

Guideline: The width of a walkway should be at least 36. Universal Design Guideline: If two walkways are perpendicular to each other, one walkway should be at least 42 wide.

Rule 8 - Traffic Clearance at Seating

Guideline: In a seating area where no traffic passes behind a seated diner, allow 32 of clearance from the counter/table edge to any wall or other obstruction behind the seating area.
Notes:

If traffic passes behind the seated diner, allow at least 36 to edge past. If traffic passes behind the seated diner, allow at least 44 to walk past. A 32" clearance is almost never appropriate. It can be appropriate in a seating

Comments:

area that has just one seat. If there are two seats, however, then the user of the second seat will have to pass behind the user of the first seat to get to the second seat, and the 36" clearance rule applies to allow the second dinger to edge past. A 44" clearance is better.

A seating area should never extend into a work aisle, but may extend into a walk

area if a minumum walk space of 44" is provided. This allows a walker to pass behind the seated diners. A 60" space is better.

Universal Design Guideline: In a seating area where no traffic passes behind a seated diner allow 36 of clearance from the counter/table edge to any wall or other obstruction behind the seating area.
Notes:

If traffic passes behind the seated diner, plan a minimum of 60 to allow passage

for a person in a wheelchair.

Rule 9 - Seating Space


Guideline: Kitchen seating should be a minimum of 24" wide for each person and,

For 30" high tables/counters, a minimum 18" deep clear knee space for each seated diner. For 36" high counters, a minimum 15" deep clear knee space for each seated diner. For 42" high counters, a minimum 12"deep clear knee space for each seated diner.

Universal Design Guideline: Kitchen seating areas should be 28 34 high x 30 36 wide x 19 deep to better accommodate people of various sizes or those using a mobility aid. Recommended minimum size for a knee space at a table or counter is 36 wide x 27 high x 19 deep.
Comments:

Measure knee space from the front edge of the table or counter top. While a 24" wide space for each diner is workable, it is not very comfortable. A 28-

30" wide space is better and should be considered the minimum where space is available.

Rule 10 - Cleanup/Prep Sink Placement


Guideline: If a kitchen has only one sink, locate it adjacent to or across from the cooking surface and refrigerator. Universal Design Guideline: Plan knee spaces at the sink to allow for a seated user. Recommended minimum size for a knee space is 36 wide x 27 high x 8 deep, increasing to 17 deep in the toe space, which extends 9 from the floor. Insulation for exposed pipes should be provided.
Code Requirements:

The sink should be no more than 34 high or adjustable between 29 and 36. The sink bowl should be no more than 6 1/2 deep Exposed water supply and drain pipes under sinks should be insulated or

otherwise configured to protect against contact. There should be no sharp or abrasive surfaces under sinks.

Rule 11 - Cleanup/Prep Sink Landing Area

Guideline: Include at least a 24 wide landing area [Note C] to one side of the sink and at least an 18 wide landing area on the other side.
Notes: Note A: If all of the countertop at the sink is not the same height, then plan a 24 landing area on one side of the sink and 3 of countertop frontage on the other side, both at the same height as the sink. Note B: The 24 of recommended landing area can be met by 3 of countertop frontage from the edge of the sink to the inside corner of the countertop if more than 21 of countertop frontage is available on the return.

Note C: Landing area is measured as countertop frontage adjacent to a sink

and/or an appliance. The countertop must be at least 16 deep and must be 28 to 45 above the finished floor to qualify. Comments: In Universal Design, it is not uncommon for the cabinet containing the sink to be lower than the adjacent cabinets. Hence the standard in Note A that allows the landing area to be at a different level than the sink countertops as long as there is at least 24" of same-level countertop space on one side of the sink.

Rule 12 - Preparation/Work Area


Guideline: Include a section of continuous countertop at least 30 wide x 24 deep immediately next to a sink for a primary preparation/work area.

Universal Design Guideline: A section of continuous countertop at least 30 wide with a permanent or adaptable knee space should be included somewhere in the kitchen.

Code Requirements:

In a kitchen, there should be at least one 30 wide section of counter, 34 high

maximum or adjustable from 29 to 36. Cabinetry can be added under the work surface, provided it can be removed or altered without removal or replacement of the work surface, and provided the finished floor extends under the cabinet. Comments: There are very limited circumstances under which the countertop next to a sink should be less than 30" wide. However, as a practical matter, it is sometimes necessary to decrease the depth of the countertop (never to less than 21"). If this is the case, increase the width of the countertop work area to 36".

Rule 13 - Dishwasher Placement

Guideline: Locate nearest edge of the primary dishwasher within 36 of the nearest edge of a cleanup/prep sink.
Notes: Note A: Provide at least 21* of standing space between the edge of the dishwasher and countertop frontage, appliances and/or cabinets, which are placed at a right angle to the dishwasher.

Note B: *In a diagonal installation, the 21

is measured from the center of the sink to the edge of the dishwasher door in an open position.

Universal Design Guideline: Raise dishwasher 6 12 when it can be planned with appropriate landing areas at the same height as the sink.
Code Requirements:

A clear floor space of at least 30 x 48 should be positioned adjacent to the

dishwasher door. The dishwasher door in the open position should not obstruct the clear floor space for the dishwasher or the sink. Comments: The modern dishwasher is an ergonomic disaster. It's much too hard to use. You have to bend and stoop a lot to load and unload it. You have to spend a lot of time opening and closing the top tray to reach the bottom tray. The bottomhinged drawer gets in the way of people moving around the kitchen and makes it much harder for mobility impaired users to load and unload. It is not a very userfriendly or efficient appliance. The solution is to faise the dishwasher off the floor so that the center of the appliance is about waist high. In kitchens were it is possible, that's what we do. The new drawer-style dishwashers are a vast improvement, but as of yet, very pricey. For more information of dishwasher placement, see Mise-en-Place: What We Can Learn About Kitchen Design from Commercial Kitchens. For more information about ergonomic kitchen design, see Body Friendly Design: Kitchen Ergonomics.

Rule 14 - Waste Receptacles


Guideline: Include at least two waste receptacles. Locate one near each of the cleanup/prep sink(s) and a second for recycling either in the kitchen or nearby.
Code Requirements: No national code requirements.

Universal Design Guideline: Kitchen guideline recommendation meets

Rule 15 - Auxiliary Sink

Guideline: At least 3 of countertop frontage should be provided on one side of the auxiliary sink, and 18 of countertop frontage on the other side, both at the same height as the sink.

Universal Design Guideline: Plan a knee space at, or adjacent to, the auxiliary sink.
Code Requirements:

A clear floor space of at least 30 x 48 should be positioned adjacent to the

dishwasher door. The dishwasher door in the open position should not obstruct the clear floor space for the dishwasher or the sink.

Rule 16 - Refrigerator Landing Area


Guideline: Include at least: A. 15 of landing area on the handle side of the refrigerator or B. 15 of landing area on either side of a side-by-side refrigerator or C. 15 of landing area which is no more than 48 across from the front of the refrigerator or D. 15 of landing area above or adjacent to any undercounter style refrigeration appliance. Universal Design Guideline: See code requirements.
Code Requirements:

A clear floor space of 30 x 48 should be positioned for a parallel approach to the

refrigerator/freezer with the centerline of the clear floor space offset 24 maximum from the centerline of the appliance.

Rule 17 - Cook Surface Landing Area

Guideline: Include a minimum of 12 of landing area on one side of a cooking surface and 15 on the other side.
Notes:

Note A: The 12 and 15 landing areas must be at the same height as the cooking Note B:For safety reasons, in an island or peninsula situation, the countertop

surface.

should also extend a minimum of 9 behind the cooking surface if the counter height is the same as the surface-cooking appliance.

Note C: For an enclosed configuration, a reduction of clearances shall be in

accordance with the appliance manufacturers instructions or per local codes. (This may not provide adequate landing area.) Comments:

Note A is ambiguous. Surfaces adjacent to a cooktop or range are almost never

exactly at the same level as the cooking surface. The guideline is met if the adjacent surface is roughly at the same level as the cooking surface.

The purpose of the guidelines for cook surface landing areas is not just ensuring

enough working space on both side of the cooking appliance, but to ensure that there is a sufficient space between the cooking appliance and any combustible cabinet materials for safety.

A range with oven requies two landing areas, one for the rangetop and one for the

oven. These are consolidated as required by Rule 24, so a combined landing zone of at least 27" is required on one side of the range.

Universal Design Guideline: Lower the cooktop to 34 maximum height and create a knee space beneath the appliance.
Code Requirements:

When a forward-approach clear floor space is provided at the cooktop, it should

provide knee and toe clearance and the underside of the cooktop should be insulated or otherwise configured to prevent burns, abrasions, or electric shock.

The location of cooktop controls should not require reaching across burners

Rule 18 - Cooking Surface Clearance


Guideline: Allow 24 of clearance between the cooking surface and a protected noncombustible surface above it.
Code Requirements:

At least 30 of clearance is required between the cooking surface and an If a microwave hood combination is used above the cooking surface, then the

unprotected/combustible surface above it.

manufacturers specifications should be followed

Rule 19 - Cooking Surface Ventilation

Guideline: Provide a correctly sized, ducted ventilation system for all cooking surface appliances. The recommended minimum is 150 cubic feet of air per minute (cfm). Code Requirement: Manufacturers specifications must be followed The minimum required exhaust rate for a ducted hood is 100 cfm and must be ducted to the outside. Make-up air may need to be provided.

Comments:

Formerly it was permissible in most jurisdictions to recirculate vented air back into

the kitchen. The air was drawn into the ventilating device through carbon filters, then blown back into the kitchen. Recirculation is now not allowed in most jurisdictions. Air must be vented through and wall or the roof to the outdoors. The earlier practice of venting into the attic is also no longer allowed due to the risk of fire.

Generally the specifications provided by the manufacturer of the ventilation device

or system must be followed, even if they conflict with other building code requirements. Where the manufacturer's specifications are silent, then guidance is to be obtained from the applicable building code requirements.

Typically make-up air is required when the capacity of the ventilation system

exceeds 300 cfm. The belief is that at this capacity the house can no longer provide enough air and there is danger of backdrafting gas appliances. Makeup air is merely aid drawn from outside the dwelling through ducting that is installed by a mechanical

contractor.

Universal Design Guideline: Ventilation controls should be placed 15 44 above the floor, operable with minimal effort, easy to read and with minimal noise pollution.

Operable parts should be operable with one hand and not require tight grasping,

pinching or twisting of the wrist. The force required to activate operable parts should be 5 pounds maximum.

Where a forward or side reach is unobstructed, the high reach should be 48 Where a forward or side reach is obstructed by a 20 25 deep counter, the high

maximum and the low reach should be 15 minimum above the floor

reach should be 44 maximum

Rule 20 - Cooking Surface Safety


Guideline: A. Do not locate the cooking surface under an operable window. B. Window treatments above the cooking surface should not use flammable materials. C. A fire extinguisher should be located near the exit of the kitchen away from cooking equipment.

Universal Design Guideline: Place fire extinguisher between 15 and 48 off the finished floor.
Comments:

Put the fire extinguisher in plain view even if you don't like the "industrial look."

National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) Guideline 10, Paragraph 6.1.3.1 states, "Extinguishers shall be conspicuously located where they will be readily accessible

and immediately available in the event of fire." Paragraph 6.1.3.3.1 states, "Fire extinguishers shall not be obstructed or obscured from view."

A kitchen fire extinguisher must be rated for class B fires. These are fires fueled

by flammable liquids and grease. Most fire extinguishes are rated for class B fires, but check to be certain.

When you install your fire extinguisher, read the instructions for using it to fight

fires. Stopping to read the instructions while a fire is blazing is not a good idea, but using it without reading the instructions is a worse idea.

Test your extinguisher at least every 6 months, or more often if the manufacturer

recommends a shorter interval, to make sure it is still charged and functioning.

Rule 21 - Microwave Oven Placement

Guideline: Locate the microwave oven after considering the users height and abilities. The ideal location for the bottom of the microwave is 3 below the principal users shoulder but no more than 54 above the floor. If the microwave oven is placed below the countertop the oven bottom must be at least 15 off the finished floor.
Comments:

The current guidelines do not address drawer-type microwaves. These are

intended to be mounted under the countertop and are accessed from the top, not from the front. Until guidelines are developed, the best course is to carefully follow manufacturer's instructions for placement and mounting.

Typically over the range micro-hoods will meet these requirements, but in a

contest between this guideline and safety guidelines, the safety guidelines win. Always mount micro-hoods in accordance with the manufacturer's directions.

Universal Design Guideline: Locate the microwave controls below 48".


Comments: This guideline is a little vague when it comes to controls that have a vertical dimension, such as a keypad, but the illustrations that accompany the guideline seem to suggest that the entire pad should be below 48".

Rule 22 - Microwave Landing Area


Guideline: Provide at least a 15 landing area above, below, or adjacent to the handle side of a microwave oven. Universal Design Guideline: Provide landing area in front of or immediately adjacent to the handle side of the microwave.

Rule 23 - Oven Landing Area

Guideline:

Include at least a 15 landing area next to or above the oven. At least a 15 landing area that is not more than 48 across from the oven is acceptable if the appliance does not open into a walkway.

Comments: An oven in a range has to share the landing zone on one side of the range. In accordance with rule 24, the combined landing zone has to be 27" or larger. Code Requirements: For side-opening ovens, the door latch side should be next to a countertop

Rule 24 - Combining Landing Areas


Guideline: If two landing areas are adjacent to one another, determine a new minimum for the two adjoining spaces by taking the larger of the two landing area requirements and adding 12".

Rule 25 - Countertop Space

Guideline: A total of 158 of countertop frontage, 24 deep, with at least 15 of clearance above, is needed to accommodate all uses, including landing area, preparation/work area, and storage.
Notes: Built-in appliance garages extending to the countertop can be counted towards the total countertop frontage recommendation, but they may interfere with the landing areas.

Code Requirements: No national code requirements.

Universal Design Guideline: At least two work-counter heights should be offered in the kitchen, with one 28 36 above the finished floor and the other 36 45 above the finished floor.
Comments:

Any countertop at least 24" deep can be counted. Almost all standard countertops

meet this requirement most are 25" deep. If a countertop is shallower than 24", then, according to this Rule, it does not count toward the 158" of countertop frontage. However, in remodeling older kitchens, shallow countertops are often required to meet the 42" and 48" work-aisle requirements of Rule 6. This where the designer's good judgment comes into play in making the trade-off. We recommend any countertop at least 21" deep but less than 24" be counted as 2/3rds. So, 3' of 21" countertop would count as 2' of countertop frontage.

Inside corners do not count toward the minimum counter space specified in this

guideline.

The guideline allows counting the countertop in front of appliance garages and

other similar storage that rests on the countertop, even though this reduces the usable countertop area.

The guideline is not clear how island countertops are to be counted. Do you count

just the one side or both sides. If the countertop is accessible from both sides, we count both sides.

Rule 26 - Countertop Corners

Guideline: Specify clipped or round corners rather than pointed corners on all countertops.
Comments: Although the guideline does not distinguish between inside and outside corners, it is clear that the recommendation applies only to outside corners.

Round or chamfer outside corners for safety.

The guideline does not provide a minimum radius for rounded corners. On a 1"

overhang countertop, the typical overhang, the largest radius is about 2".

Corners may be clipped (the more common term is "chamfered") or rounded

("billeted"). Both options meet the guideline.

Rule 27 - Storage
Guideline: The total shelf/drawer frontage is: A. 1400 for a small kitchen (less than 150 square feet); B. 1700 for a medium kitchen (151 to 350 square feet); and C. 2000 for a large kitchen (greater than 350 square feet).
Guideline Distribution of Shelf and Drawer Space Small Medium Large Wall 300 360 360 Base Drawer Pantry 520 360 180 615 400 230 95 660 525 310 145

Miscellaneous 40 Notes:

Shelf and drawer frontage is determined by multiplying the cabinet size by the number and depth of the shelves or drawers in the cabinet, using the following formula: Cabinet width in inches x number of shelf/drawers x cabinet depth in feet (or fraction thereof) = Shelf/Drawer Frontage.

The recommended distribution for the shelf/drawer frontage in inches is shown in the table at left. The totals for wall, base, drawer and pantry shelf/ drawer frontage can be adjusted upward or downward as long as the recommended total stays the same.

Do not apply more than the recommended amount of storage in the miscellaneous category to meet the total frontage recommendation.

Storage areas that are more than 84 above the floor must be counted in the miscellaneous category.

Storage/organizing items can enhance the functional capacity of wall, base, drawer and pantry storage and should be selected to meet user needs.

Comments: The whole notion of minimum shelf/drawer frontage is an attempt to quantify functionality that is not readily susceptible to quantification. While the

calculation may serve the need to have some math problems on the various NKBA certification examinations, it has little real world utility because it does not distinguish between accessible and inaccessible storage. Consider the following comparison:

A 24 inch-deep base cabinet with two shelves has the following frontage: 24" x 2' x 2 = 96 inches. A 24 inch-deep base cabinet with two drawers has the same frontage: 24" x 2' x 2 = 96 inches. But all of the drawer space is accessible storage. To reach the back 12", just pull the drawer out. Only the front 12" of the shelves is useful storage, the back 12" is inaccessible. To treat the two storage modalities as if they provided the same amount of useful storage is misleading. The drawers are more useful storage and their higher utility should be accounted for in calculating minimum frontage. We consider the following inaccessible storage:

The back of a base cabinet shelf behind the first 12", The part of any upper cabinet or tall cabinet shelf behind the first 16", and Any storage above 84" from the floor.

We use a calculation that weights inaccessible storage at only 1/2 the value of accessible storage. The formula for the accessible part of the shelf remains the same: (width in inches) (depth in feet) (number of shelves), but it applies to just the front 12" of the shelf. So using the above example, the frontage of the accessible part of the base cabinet shelves is 24" 1' 2 shelves = 48" of frontage. The revised formula for the back 12" of shelf is (width in inches) (depth in feet) (number of shelves) 2. This gives the back half of the shelf a frontage of 24", calculated as follows: 24" 1' 2 shelves 2 = 24" of frontage. The total frontage for the base cabinet with two shelves is 48" + 24" = 72". The base cabinet with drawers retains its original frontage of 96". Now the comparison of frontage scores clearly shows the drawer cabinet to be more useful storage. Code Requirements: No national code requirements.

Universal Design Guideline: Plan storage of frequently used items 15 to 48 above the floor.
Code Requirements:

Where a forward or side reach is unobstructed, the high reach should be 48 Where a 20 25 deep counter obstructs a forward or side reach, the high reach

maximum and the low reach should be 15 minimum above the floor.

should be 44 maximum.

Rule 28 - Storage at cleanup/Prep Sink


Guideline: Of the total recommended wall, base, drawer and pantry shelf/drawer frontage, the following should be located within 72 of the centerline of the main cleanup/prep sink: A. at least 400 for a small kitchen; B. at least 480 for a medium kitchen; C. at least 560 for a large kitchen.

Universal Design Guideline: Plan storage of frequently used items 15 to 48 above the floor.

Rule 29 - Corner Cabinet Storage


Guideline: At least one corner cabinet should include a functional storage device
Notes: This guideline does not apply if there are no corner cabinets. Comments: Corner cabinets are not required in a kitchen. The guideline recommends that if corner cabinets are used, they should contain usable storage.

Rule 30 - Electrical Receptacles

Guideline: GFCI (Ground-fault circuit-interrupter) protection is required on all receptacles servicing countertop surfaces within the kitchen Universal Design Guideline: Lighting controls should be placed 15 44 above the floor, operable with minimal effort, easy to read and with minimal noise pollution.
Code Requirements:

Operable parts should be operable with one hand and not require tight grasping,

pinching or twisting of the wrist. The force required to activate operable parts should be 5 pounds maximum.

Where a forward or side reach is unobstructed, the high reach should be 48 Where a forward or side reach is obstructed by a 20 25 deep counter, the high

maximum and the low reach should be 15 minimum above the floor

reach should be 44 maximum.

Comments: For more information on the structural components of the kitchen; the piping, heating and cooling, electricity and lighting, see Behind the Scenes - The Hidden Kitchen.

Rule 31 - Lighting
Guideline: In addition to general lighting required by code, every work surface should be well illuminated by appropriate task lighting. Photo: Merillat
Code Requirements:

At least one wall-switch controlled light must be Window/skylight area, equal to at least 8% of the

provided. Switch must be placed at the entrance.

total square footage of the kitchen, or a total living space which includes a kitchen, is required.

Universal Design Guideline: Lighting should be from multiple sources and adjustable
Code Requirements:

Operable parts should be operable with one hand and not require tight grasping,

pinching or twisting of the wrist. The force required to activate operable parts should be 5 pounds maximum

Where a forward or side reach is unobstructed, the high reach should be 48 Where a forward or side reach is obstructed by a 20 25 deep counter, the high

maximum and the low reach should be 15 minimum above the floor

reach should be 44 maximum.

Light Up Task Areas


A task area is any place in a kitchen where work is done. The cleanup area around the sink, the cooking area surrounding the range, the countertop where food is prepared: these are all task areas. Task areas are best lit with bright (but not glaring), shadowless light from two or more light sources. This is usually done with a combination of general room lighting combined with focused undercabinet lighting. Fluorescent tubes are particularly well suited for undercabinet lighting because of their large surface area and high lumens per watt. We typically recommend flat T8 fluorescent lamps with electronic ballasts

(or the flatter T5 lamps if the light valance is very narrow). These lamps are hidden up under the wall cabinets they are attached to, so the don't have to be pretty (which is a good thing, because they're not). Photo: Brilliant

Lighting

Good design floods every surface of this kitchen with multiple sources of soft, shadowless light.

You want to get the fixture close to the task area, so the underside of the wall cabinets is where most designers put the lights. Where there are no upper cabinets, then there are two choices: projecting light from a ceiling mounted fixture, or using pendant lamps that hanging on long cords from the ceiling. Island lighting and lighting over the sink is often done this way. The key is to use soft, shadowless light and to direct the light so your body does not cast a shadow on the work area, to use soft. Making sure there is enough light is also critical. Lighting experts use special meters to measure the amount of light falling on the work surface and from this information have produced tables that tell us how much light we need to provide in each situation. If buying a new fixture, choose one made specifically for a CFL. Almost all lighting manufacturers how make their lamps adaptable to CFLs. And even in fixtures not specifically designed for CFLs, a fluorescent bulb can now be found that will work. There are even dimable CFLs now, something unheard of as little as three years ago. Since CFLs produce little heat, they are especially suitable for recessed fixtures. incandescent lamps produced so much heat that special recessed fixtures were needed for contact with insulation in the ceiling to prevent fires. CFLs don't produce nearly ass much heat, but most electrical codes have not caught up yet, so these special fixtures are still required.

Incandescent lamps are also suitable for task lighting just more expensive to operate. Recessed incandescent lights above counters, usually in the form of halogen or xenon low-voltage lights, can provide good task light especially if limited "spot" lighting is required. Many manufacturers make a line of lowvoltage halogen lamps especially designed for this application. But, unlike the softer fluorescent lamps, these lights cast very hard shadows which make their placement critical to avoid eye strain and even headaches in some people.

Ambient Light
The term "ambient lighting" is just lighting-engineer-speak for general room lighting. It is the overall light that fills in shadows, reduces contrast, and lights vertical surfaces to give the space a brighter feel. This background light is what you need for casual activities in the kitchen. If the kitchen has light colored surfaces and lots of windows you should have plenty of natural ambient light during the day. But kitchens are used from before dawn until after midnight -- we can't rely on windows and skylights. Fluorescent tubes are well suited to the job of providing general room illumination or "ambient" light. They provide broad, even illumination and their efficiency makes it possible to fill the space with light without turning it into an oven in the Summer. You can put the tubes in a central fixture but you may want to try some other approaches, like placing them on top of the upper cabinets to reflect light off the ceiling. This technique is called "cove lighting". If you have at least 12 inches of space from the top of the upper cabinets to the ceiling, this is an inexpensive way to brighten up a kitchen. But it works best if the kitchen cabinets are especially designed for cove lighting, including placing a reflective surface on the top of the cabinet. Another nice thing about cove lighting is that you can buy the cheapest fixture that works it will never be seen. A fluorescent fixture so ugly that you wouldn't install it in your garage is perfect for cove lighting and costs about $15.00. Photo: Merillat

Accent lighting is used to highlight special features, create lighting effects and provide visual depth.

Accent Lighting
Accent lighting is used to illuminate a key feature of the kitchen. This lighting gives your room a sense of depth and dimension, adding to the quality of the space. It is used very sparingly to emphasize those special home objects that you want people to notice and admire. You may be lighting artwork, architectural details, collectibles, or a food presentation area. Lights in glass-front cabinets used to store fine china, or lights in display alcoves are examples of accent lighting. To be completely effective, accent lighting should be 3-5 times brighter than the surrounding ambient light.

Night lights under the toe-kick clearly define the perimeter of the walk path in this small bath created by Kitchens by Design.For accent or small area lighting, use CFLs

where possible and halogen/xenon lamps in preference to incandescent bulbs. Although more efficient than other incandescents, halogen lamps

are still much less efficient than fluorescents. Their main advantage is a crisper, white light and better control over the light beam.

Night LightsKitchens and baths should have a low-voltage standing


light a light that is constantly on at night. In most kitchens, the standing light is the fixture over the sink. A new option is a string of perimeter toe-kick lights. The toe-kick is that recess under the front of the cabinet where your feet go when you are working at the cabinet. Low-voltage linear lighting systems in the toe-kick walking aread in your kitchen as well as "floating" the cabinets in a pool of light. The design effect is dramatic, and because the perimeters of the kitchen are outlined in light, it is easy to find your way around without stubbing a toe. Toe-kick lights are typically rope lights (small halogen lamps enclosed in a transparent tube) often controlled by a motion sensor that turns the lights on when someone enters the room but only at night. Like all electronic devices, the price of this sophisticated switching has plummeted in recent years, making it an affordable option for most homeowners.