Kitchen lighting

Recommendation 141
Provide optimal work lighting in the kitchen

Chapter (theme)
Installations and appliances (kitchens)

Because of
sensory oversensitivity and concentration problems

In order to
contribute to optimal conditions for food preparation.

Unless cooking has the special interest of an autistic individual, kitchens and food preparation tend to be neglected by those who live independently. This is unfortunate because eating and cooking together are activities which facilitate social contact in an uncomplicated manner. Moreover, a healthy diet contributes greatly to ones general well-being. The threshold for cooking for pleasure is significantly lowered in kitchens which are attuned to the autistic user. Adequate lighting is one of its prerequisites.

Generally, in view of the times of day food is prepared, artificial lighting is unavoidable. As discussed in the theme ‘lighting’ fluorescent lighting is dissuaded because of the – often perceptible – flicker and also because of the disturbing humming. Compact Fluorescent Lighting (CFL’s) is no viable alternative.

Kitchens primarily require a general light level which illuminates it as evenly and brightly as possible. Highly mounted incandescent lighting seems the best alternative, but is not easily available. Halogen is probably the best choice, although there are individual complaints. LED is probably about as good.

A second requirement implies three prerequisites regarding work lighting around various places in the kitchen such as the furnace, the counter, spaces where vegetables and meat are prepared and so on. One prerequisite pertains to the kind of light source, as just discussed. A second prerequisite is that lighting contributes to a clear visual structure, meaning that places for different activities are clearly distinguished.

A third prerequisite is that work stations are amply illuminated. Because the shadows of wall cabinets and of the people in it, most kitchens fail in this respect. The architect Dough Walter identifies this problem and offers illustrated solutions. Light from above is partly blocked by ‘the cook’ because light fixtures are usually fitted in the middle of the kitchen or its pathways. Besides, the local light fixtures such as under cabinets tend to be placed too far against the walls forcing the cook to work in the shadow of his own hands too. One solution is not to place the high lamps in the middle of the kitchen but above the edge of the counter, chopping block and the like. The other solution is not to place the undercabinet lights against the wall but further away from it.

Walter has more to say and argues it’s possible to have much better lighting with fewer lamps.


Dough Walter

Walter, Dough, “The Right Way to Light a Kitchen. Old-school theory doesn’t work in Practice.” In: Professional Remodeler, 02-2016, p 50-53. PDF Found on, accessed 12 March 2016.