A Kitchen Designer’s View on Lighting
July 14, 2010 - 1:15pm

Gail Drury: I always tell my customers: Lighting makes or breaks the design. You can have $1 million in materials, top-of-the-line marble, exotic veneer woods and beautiful polished nickel hardware, but if you don’t have proper lighting, the marble won’t sparkle, the nickel will look dull and you won’t see the depth and beauty of the wood.

You’ve got to have functional lighting. We put lighting underneath the cabinets, and we direct lighting down on islands and peninsulas using hanging pendants and recessed can lights. I like to use fixtures that don’t flood the room. Lighting is meant to be felt and not seen. So, I use lights that have certain reflector trims, like the Alzak baffle. It reflects light onto surfaces without illuminating the room. I like those because you don’t feel like you’re in a grocery store. If you have a granite or marble shiny countertop, the last thing you would ever want to do is put a light strip underneath your cabinets, because you will see balls of light reflected on the countertop.

We put everything on a dimmer. We like the lighting systems with several buttons: “Preparing a Meal,” “Evening Entertaining,” “Eating Dinner” and “Watching TV.” You press a button, and you have that perfect lighting.

Certain kinds of light make certain colors of wood look different. If you put a cool light on a warm cherry cabinet, it looks kind of muddy. These are things you just feel in a room. People notice that the cherry looks pretty. That’s why I say you can have a $1 million kitchen and the wrong lighting will make it look terrible. Or, you could have a low-budget kitchen but do the lighting correctly, and it can look nicer than that $1 million kitchen. Lighting makes or breaks it.

Where do I find inspiration? I just came back from Ireland. I saw these architectural details in old castles and thought: “Wouldn’t that look pretty in a hood over a cook top?” My inspirations come from everywhere. A lot of times I’ll pull four or five pictures out of a magazine. I’ll combine them and make something that meshes together. When I first started in this business I thought my job was to show them a perfect design and just draw it and do it. Over the years, I’ve realized there is no perfect design. I’ve simply gotten more client-focused as time goes on.

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