Home / Style Guide / Learn About Cabinet / Accent Lighting / Cabinet / Accent Lighting Guide / How to Light The "How To" Lighting Guide Specialty Lighting Guide Now that you have taken inventory of your home and have determined which of the many areas should be lit, the correct method of lighting needs to be determined. Following the broad groups is the best method for lighting them, as well as giving an explanation why. Also included are secondary, and in some cases tertiary, suggestions with the pros and cons indicated. Advice on the use is also included.Use this information to determine the correct lighting fixture. Refine that choiceby reviewing the pros and cons for each lamp source. Under cabinets: How should I light what I want to light? Specialty Lighting Guide Best Choice The most functionally helpful lighting for under-cabinet use is a modular system that allows for the placement of the fixtures at the FRONT edge of the upper cabinet. Fixtures at the front put light on the front of the counter, where it is needed for all of the basic food preparation functions.Fixtures engineered for use as direct wire can be configured by the installer/electrician for forward mounting, but in most areas, this would entail the use of conduit or metal-sheathed cable. Often times, this metal tubing is considered unsightly and the smaller cable used on modular systems is preferred. Alternate Choices Cabinet lighting mounted at the rear surface of the underside is an adequate alternate. The biggest deficiency with this type of installation is light placement. The light is brightest at the back of the counter and on the backsplash wall. Fewer lumens of usable light can be projected to the front area of the counter where light is needed the most. Often times, rear-mounted, or direct wire fixtures are used because the electrician has pre-wired the area long before the user or kitchen design professional has defined the light source. When the cabinet installation professionals arrive, they understand how to adapt what the electrician has provided. It is vitally important that intent and desire are expressed prior to any tradesperson starting work, or preference may not be possible.Another alternate that works reasonably well in under-cabinet situations is tape lighting. The light can be mounted in almost any location, so illumination at the front of the counter is possible. The only negative can be the amount of light available. Linear lighting does have minimum spacing and maximum wattage numbers that must be considered. You may not have enough light if a tape system is selected.A final alternate for undercabinet lighting is a puck/disc system. Visually, this is an appealing choice. The discs are small, and in some cases, more attractive than linear units. This light is somewhat more directional and a decision will need to be made on spacing, but the light can be effective. This is a good choice if the installer wants to play with light arrays to make a more decorative statement in place of functional preference.Regardless of which system is selected for under-cabinet lighting, it is important to follow a few simple rules: Use a length (or quantity) commensurate with the size of the cabinet. You want to fill the full length of the cabinet with light, of course allowing space for accessories and attachments. Avoid dark spots. Install a lighting unit under each cabinet section. Don’t skip one, assuming the light will spill over to the neighboring area. Avoid dark spots. They will make the countertops look uneven. Over cabinets: How should I light what I want to light? Specialty Lighting Guide Best Choice Tape lighting is the best choice for over-cabinet illuminations. In this application, the effect of the light is more important than the lumen output, so equal spacing should be a priority in order to provide the most even flow of light. Many tape lighting systems offer the ability to add directional reflector (spot) accent lights. This lamp type is valuable when attempting to draw attention to artistic or collectable elements positioned in the space over the cabinet. Running a separate system is not required. Alternate Choices A direct wire or modular lighting system will work for over-cabinet lighting. Depending on the user and application, it might actually be preferred. You will generally get more light from an enclosed fixture and it will likely be easier to keep clean in these dust-prone areas. If this type fixture is included, it is important to link them end-to-end to avoid black spots or light voids. It is likely that this lighting solution will be more expensive than linear. Inside cabinets / inside drawers: How should I light what I want to light? Specialty Lighting Guide Best Choice There are two very good options for lighting the inside of cabinets. The choice really depends on what the illumination goal is. Tape lighting will provide a soft even glow of light that fills the entire cabinet. Disc lights will be more directional, almost like a spotlight. They will punch a concentration of light onto the items in the cabinet. If you have a few collectables or art pieces in a cabinet, the disc lighting is your best bet. If you have filled a cabinet with colorful but everyday dishware, the soft glow of tape lighting would work better.Lighting the inside of drawers can only be achieved with tape lighting. There is very little space inside a drawer and a low profile tape system may be the only one that fits. It is important, if this type lighting is planned to clearly map out placement and switching. Position of wire is also crucial to avoid being pinched by the drawer movement. These are tight spaces, and care must be taken. Discuss this option carefully with the cabinetmaker to determine if he or she has experience lighting and wiring these interiors. Under counters: How should I light what I want to light? Specialty Lighting Guide Best Choice Illuminating the underside of a counter edge can only be accomplished with tape lighting. There is typically a minimal amount of space between the counter edge and the extended drawers. Tape lighting with a minimal profile is likely to be the only light source small enough to fit in these tight areas. When planning the installation of lighting for the counter’s edge, it is advisable to have a conversation with the manufacturer of the counter. Accommodations such as routered undersides, extended edges, added skirts and raceways may aid in the installation and concealment of fixtures and wire. A larger than normal space between counter and drawer might also be needed. Toekick: How should I light what I want to light? Specialty Lighting Guide Best Choice Because of the tight space confines and minimal clearance, linear lighting is really the only viable option for Toekick lighting. Because the light source is reasonably close to the reflective surface (the floor) you should expect to see light patterns and beams. Lower wattages will ameliorate some of these defined pools so it may be wise to select wattage and lumen output that is reasonably low. The key in this lighting type is its service as an accent and NOT its value as functional light. Tables and benches: How should I light what I want to light? Specialty Lighting Guide Best ChoiceBecause of its ability to hide well, linear lighting is probably the best choice for installation under tables and under benches. The nature of linear lighting allows it to emit a softer glow that you might expect from alternate light. It is also typically a lower wattage and that is considered preferable.Alternate ChoicesModular lighting systems can be used in these applications as well. The self-contained units can be a clean and simple way to add light without the complexity of a linear system. If modular fixtures are used, care should be taken to avoid a spotty or inconsistent light effect.If a more deliberate pool of light is desired, disc lighting can create an effective design element. Rather than an even glow of light, disc will create a “spot light” effect that can be interesting.Lighting added under tables and benches should likely be powered by portable plug-in power cords, not hardwired unless they are permanently built-in furniture pieces. Coves and tray ceilings: How should I light what I want to light? Specialty Lighting Guide Best ChoiceTape lighting is the only real option available to illuminate coves or tray ceilings. Because of their tight spaces and lack of access, small flexible lighting systemsmust be employed. The key to effective cove and tray lighting is consistent and even light. Lamping should be spaced equidistantly, unless an array effect is the goal. Higher wattages will tend to distribute a spotty result. In general, lower wattages do a nice job of illuminating these areas. Other places: How should I light what I want to light? Specialty Lighting Guide Best Choice There are a number of locations where light can generate excitement and interest. If you can think of a place, it is likely that light can be added. Think about walk-in closets, bedrooms, pantries and garages. If there is an idea, consult with a lighting professional, and ask if they can help. It is likely they will find a way to light almost anything.