Houzz Logo Print

How to plan lighting for new kitchen and bathroom

6 years ago

HI all

My husband and I are doing a budget remodel of a kitchen and bathroom. Down to the studs, moving walls, but we're trying to save money nonetheless!

Lighting design is something I haven't touched yet. We're in the process of selecting a GC for the remodel, and I'll ask him this too, but:

1. what percentage of people hire a lighting designer for their home?

2. what would one expect to pay for this, for two rooms?

3. since my husband and I are both designers (in other fields) would it be unreasonable to expect we can DIY this aspect to some degree?

4. what's the best resource to learn about this type of design? I am trolling the web needless to say...

Many thanks!

Comments (12)

  • PRO
    D B Electric
    6 years ago

    (Kitchen) under cabinet counter top lighting, look at the major retailers Home Depot, Menards, Lowes for all kitchen lighting you can do online searches

    (Bath) Wall mount or ceiling mount usually works ok. Exhaust vents also have lighting as well as built in heaters.

  • PRO
    McMillan Cabinetmakers
    6 years ago

    Your GC will definitely be your best resource for lighting. There are so many products to pick from and solutions to meet your needs. I haven't met a client yet who has hired a lighting designer. We source our own lighting and the electrician hooks everything up. Our clients love the lighting package we sell which we buy from Hafele LOOX Lighting, (12v system, LED light strips.) It might be pricey compared to what you can find at the larger retail shops, but it's a great product. The price can fluctuate, and it all depends if you want on/off or dimmable lighting. Dimmable is the more expensive option.

    If you have never worked with lighting in a DIY situation, I would highly suggest hiring an electrician. Good Luck! - Becky

  • Related Discussions

    Help an utter newbie try to plan a new bathroom!


    Comments (5)
    Thanks for the input! The bathroom won't be a master bath -- it's just a second bath that will be used both by us and guests, as we only have one bathroom now. Our tastes are on the simple side, as in we like old-fashioned bathrooms, and will choose good quality but not fancy fixtures, and a tiled shower maybe 3 X 4 or so...? No kids. Single vanity. We plan to put in a skylight as there are no windows. I think the easiest wall for plumbing will be one of the short walls. The design nycbluedevil described was more or less what we were thinking of so far -- shower on one short wall closest to the door wall (i.e. on the high side), and sink and toilet on the low long wall. I was thinking there might be some nice way to build shelves or something into the remainder of the low wall, but frankly I am lousy at interior design and would rather be in the garden! So thanks again for your input.
    ...See More

    Help with bathroom in new house plan.


    Comments (3)
    I don't know much about ADA/wheelchair requirements. But I DO know last year, when I had to use a wheelchair, that I would not have been able to manage a barn door. And just looking at the space for the toilet, I'm pretty sure I couldn't have managed to get on and off that toilet. It doesn't look like there's enough room.
    ...See More

    Lighting plan for bathroom renovation


    Comments (6)
    Hi Zandelin, 1. Consider losing the pendants to go with some recessed lighting, preferably adjustable. The distance from mirror would be determined by ceiling height to center of mirror - adjustables would also help you fudge that distance. 2. 4-5" are typical, smaller are more expensive. As to where: place them close to surfaces you touch (shelves, counters, rods) or on walls you want to feature with a different material. Talk to the supplier about recommended color temperatures to achieve your desired mood. 3. There is no three... wink emoji. 4. With that size, (1) 5" would work. Great questions by the way - most people don't have the budget for lighting designers. Hope that helps, feel free to ask more. Have fun! -f
    ...See More

    New floor plan for neighboring bathrooms


    Comments (3)
    The toilet in the common bath is in an awkward location. You may consider placing it next to the tub and moving the door down and reverse the door swing. Also, door for master bath should be swinging inward.
    ...See More
  • mrroarke
    6 years ago

    So far i have remodeled two bathrooms and my kitchen. Living is ongoing. Some i did myself some i had contractors do. The layout and design was all done by my wife and myself.

    Sorry i am not able to answer your first two questions. Regarding question number three i would say that it wouldnt be unreasonable at all to DIY your own lighting. As far as the best source for learning i would say to go look at various displays in anyplace that sell or renovates kitchen or baths. This site and the web in general are great resources to learn and ask.

    Both of may bathrooms are fairly normal sizes. One has a bathtub/shower the other has just a shower. It was a fairly simple design. I have one 6" recessed light over the shower area and a light over the vanity. My exhaust fan also has a light built in. All of my lights are on different switches.

    My kitchen is a smaller galley kitchen. I have 2 recessed lights on each side of the galley to light the kitchen in general. I have 2 recessed lights over my sink and i added undercabinet LED lights. All are on separate switches. I have duct work in my kitchen ceiling some of the locations was predetermined.

    Let me also add that for all 3 jobs i never felt i needed a general contractor to oversee any of the work. I was fortunate for my bathrooms in that i didnt have a separate plumber, tile mechanic, electrician. I had one company who did all the work. I did the demo myself and choose the tile, fixtures, vanity, etc.

    Hope this helps.

  • Joseph Futral
    6 years ago

    (tl;dr, I say, since this isn't a huge undertaking, why not DIY, and then use
    the GC or electricians as resources for research, ideas, and feedback. I'm sure they would love to help. Trust yourself and your eye.)

    Probably a little late to help, but I guess what kind of lighting designer are you looking for? Do you want someone to choose the actual fixtures as visual elements in the room? Or are you looking for someone who will also approach it with how the light functions and serve how you see the room?

    I know it may seem a bit like splitting hairs, but as a lighting designer myself (for the entertainment industry, that is) just about any interior decorator or designer can help with finding nice fixtures that fit your decor and aesthetic.

    What I do find lacking in most designers and GCs (thankfully not all) here on Houzz and elsewhere is how little thought (or is it education?) they have for how the light from the fixture makes things look, how we perceive the things being illuminated, beyond simply "warm" or "cool". Usually they are concerned with how the fixture itself looks, less about the light coming out of it.

    It is rare that I've found a designer be concerned with how the lighting makes the _people_ look. Usually they are only concerned with how it fits in the room visually. Humans _live_ in the rooms. Seems like they should be a consideration. Not just by what they look _at_, but how _they_ look _in_ the room. Unless only one person will ever be in the house.

    Architects, I think, are a different breed. Lighting is part of their education, at least in the reputable schools I've encountered.

    But hiring an actual lighting designer for residential interior lighting seems a troublesome financial burden for most. So I don't think it is a high percentage of people who hire dedicated lighting designers. And those that do probably function at a different financial plane such that what is reasonable to them is probably unreasonable to us mere mortals.

    As for numbers 3+, if 2 rooms are your only need and since you are already designers (in a different field?) I say why not trust yourselves to find what you need? One thing designers (are you using a designer for everything else?) and GCs can bring is a lot of their own experiences, probably enough for you to bounce your ideas off of, at least enough to keep you from making too terrible a functional mistake.


  • H B
    6 years ago

    Joseph and Avatar have excellent advice! I have nothing to add except to encourage you to do whatever is necessary to get it right. We just remodeled a bathroom and between our wishes and the elctrician, happened to get it right. However, in another room inour house (where we had nothing to do with how it is set up) we can't figure it out (the lighting) and its terrible and adversely affects using that room.

  • Joseph Futral
    6 years ago

    Would love for you to circle back and fill us in on the final outcomes.


  • Annie
    Original Author
    6 years ago

    Thanks all! So, we feel more confident in DIYing this aspect now, and will take the great idea from AvatarWalt and get a consultation to verify our plans at a lighting store.

    Joseph Futral, you said "One thing designers (are you using a designer for everything else?) and
    GCs can bring is a lot of their own experiences, probably enough for you
    to bounce your ideas off of, at least enough to keep you from making
    too terrible a functional mistake."

    We're not using a designer, aside from (ahem!) Autodesk Homestyler for make a "walk through" 3D model of the new layout, but will certainly consult with all the contractors to get advice in case we have made hideous choices ;) I will be talking to a tile consultant next week for the kitchen and bath, and the place we bought our kitchen cabinets seemed to think the layout was great.

    Hoping to start the demo in a month or so... fingers crossed!

  • David
    6 years ago

    It is possible to come up with a design that you like by asking around.

    Starting from the fundamentals,

    1. Good lighting is needed for kitchen workspaces ~ 30 - 35 lumens per sq ft, using a really simplistic rule - sq footage of the kitchen * desired illumination to give the max number of lights needed (uniform illumination).
    2. Good lighting is also needed for bathrooms - usually around the sink and shadows should be minimized.
    3. The best lighting (high color rendition index - objects being illuminated are color correct, sufficient lighting, minimal light effects - shadows, diffraction effects ) should be for areas where detailed work is performed.
    4. Different light sources could be considered/ used as different "layers".
    5. Color temperature - cool vs soft white
    6. Color effects - color and/ or hue/ temp changing,

    Following is a thread that Jem199 started from a series of questions she asked. There is another long running thread on recessed lighting.

  • Joseph Futral
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Nice overview and great thread. Although I would still recommend getting LEDs with a separate controller (either available for the fixtures or even through an app) versus using a transformer. The problems everyone has with dimming LEDs is because they are electronic in nature and not electrical. It is still possible to have flickering LEDs even when labeled as "dimmable". (The thread does talk about this! My window stopped scrolling so I thought I was at the end of the thread when there was a whole lot more.)

    I never read anyone around here talk about angles (either direct or reflected). That has a huge affect on shadows, and thus visibility, and contrast (softness).


  • David
    6 years ago


    A discussion on angles would probably be lost on a general audience as it would involve a considerable amount of optics (e.g. - reflection, refraction, diffraction, polarization).

    Having said that, lights that are shaded/ obscured or deliberately focused (e.g. PAR) produce "cones"/ spots of light. That is one drawback of traditional recessed lighting.

    Cove (indirect) lighting utilizes reflected light off matte surfaces. This is used to provide ambient lighting in modern commercial aircraft as well as in some spaces with vaulted ceilings.

  • Joseph Futral
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    (tl;dr, OT!)


    You're probably right. I come from an industry where the angle of light is one of the primary considerations (live performance lighting). There are a lot of basics there that seem to get, at best, ignored in home lighting, or worse, aren't even considered. How the fixture looks in the room is of utmost important, with no consideration for how it makes everything else in the room look (including people). Of course, I mean _both_ are important, how the fixture looks aesthetically as well as the light it provides.

    In terms of angle, I read one thread about under-cabinet lighting (it took me a while to figure out what "UCL" meant) people discussed about the lighting needing to be toward the face of the cabinet vs against the backsplash/wall. From a casual perspective I can see why most would think that.

    What that doesn't address is that down light can make seeing what one is cutting difficult to see because of the shadows cast by one's hands. Personally, I prefer against the wall/backsplash tilted forward a bit. That gets the light more under my hands, still lights the whole counter space, and can highlight the backsplash (assuming one has a backsplash that benefits from being highlighted).

    I also prefer sidelight (sconces, table/floor lamps, or low other fixtures) for rooms where people gathering is the primary function. It is a far more flattering light for people than can/pot/down lights. But that has never, that I've seen, been suggested on Houzz. I could be wrong. Maybe it has been brought up here in the GW forums. I've only recently started frequenting the forums.

    In another thread a while ago the discussion was about lighting a more sculptural piece of wall art, which had a head as a prominent part of the work. Everybody was suggesting down light. While, yes, that would accent the texture. But it would also make the face look garish. I suggest something more from the front and a bit off axis, to give it more natural, defining shadows vs deep shadows under the eyes, nose, and chin.

    I get it, I suppose. It is easier to talk about how a light fixture looks rather than how than how the light from it makes everything else look. But I don't think one has to hire a lighting designer or be a master electrician just to understand some basics. They just need to be thought of. Even little things like how a more diffused light can actually _look_ brighter than a clear glass, exposed light bulb simple because the shadows are softer. Ah, well.