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Ma'am, step away from the Can Lights

Well, we closed on our home last week.  We're officially homeowners in the state of Virginia!  My brain has been hyperventilating over potential projects I hope to tackle, and as I alluded to in this post, the kitchen is one of them.
BTW, my alter-inner voice is all, "Whoa, there, Tonto.  Let's PACE ourselves."
The not-so-inner voice of Ben is all, "Whoa, there, Tonto, let's figure out what this is gonna COST."
Realities are sometimes the shitter, aren't they? I've been tucking away little morsels of inspiration, and focusing on all things from cabinet finishes to lighting options (we'll need some), I've noted a trend toward alternatives to recessed (i.e. "can" lighting) in kitchens.

As my astute colleague, Bailey pointed out recently, designer Katie Ridder is apparently a fan of eschewing can lights for a more interesting option.  I concur.

 Trying to figure exactly what those fixtures are.  I'm sure I'm wrong, but they almost appear to be ceiling medallions with a silver-dipped bulb through them.
Something like these....but more fancy.
Another spying:  Designer Eric Cohler used something similar in a sun porch at the Traditional Home Showhouse in North Carolina.  (Say that sentence five times, fast!)
Ya sense a pattern, here???

via great bones, good pieces
Ya dig 'em?  HERE ya go.
You're welcome.

So, I did a little super-sleuthing, and found several interesting alternatives to can lights in action.
This kitchen is going for a relaxed, retro vibe.  The schoolhouse-style fixtures work to that advantage.
Traditional Kitchen by Peachtree City Architect Historical Concepts

 A slightly sleeker style in this traditional kitchen.  I think it's worth noting that the semi-flush mount fixtures are used alone.  The kitchen has a lot of natural light, but I wonder if they're sufficient at night.
Traditional Kitchen by Minneapolis Architect Meriwether Inc

Hicks pendants are nearly ubiquitous these days, but you see them used more often as accessory lights.  Here, used alone.  I like the solitary statement.
Contemporary Kitchen by San Francisco Interior Designer Angela Free Design

 This kitchen really makes the point: it's about mixing it up.  Focusing on tasks and choosing fixtures appropriately.  It's not to say recessed lights can't serve that purpose, but that there's other, maybe more interesting ways to accomplish the goal.

Finally, this is a situation where I'd have to say the designer went a wee bit overboard with these ginormo industrial-style lights.  Is it a kitchen, or a tanning bed?  They could've tucked in a couple of recessed lights, and still had a strong impact with the pendants.  Just me. 
Traditional Kitchen by New York Interior Designer Michelle Everett Interior Design

 So, what's the consensus?  Are we still can light cheerleaders, or are we ready to step away? Designer friends:  Have you done kitchen installations without using recessed lights?  Do flushmounts or other decoratives offer as much light?  Spill it!


Kim said...

I have alot of can lights Alison ... I have old colonial house low ceilings and never really pondered the options ... some of these are fantastic ... but I agree one or two are plenty!! Thanks for the inspiration! xo

spark! (Ada-Marie) said...

Oooooh, so glad you will be a fellow Virginian, even if I am about 90 miles south. Can't wait to see the new place and all that you do with it. Congratulations! xxoo

MFAMB said...

i think if you have a choice then do away with can lights in general bc as you say, WAY more interesting options. but if you have them i'm not so sure i'd go to the trouble of getting rid of them...maybe replace one or two with a ubiquitous hicks.

Keith Hoffman said...

Why can lights are awesome:
1. Do you have ceilings over 96" in height? If so, then dropped fixtures can work. If not, your husband (6'+?) will see them in his vision all the time. It doesn't matter if you have head clearance, they make the room feel small.
2. People who says cans don't light tasks put their cans in the wrong place. Countertop can lights need to be between the cabinet and a person standing at the counter. Cans above the traffic area, will not illuminate the counter and you'll be forced to install under cab lights. Half of those pictures above have this problem with the drop fixtures!
3. Cans are cheap. Let's face it, people remodel on a budget. Do you want to spend your money on tile, counters, and cabinets? Or light fixtures? 'Interesting' light fixtures cost a lot; cans don't. Spend your 'interesting' dollars on the dining room table chandelier or two story entry chandelier.
4. Cans take high efficiency bulbs nicely. There are flush insertion kits and they hide LED bulbs well. Don't assume your 'interesting' fixture takes a standard A base bulb. You may find custom little halogen bulbs that cost a lot, don't last long, and crank out the heat.

Of course, there are some reasons they stink too. It's best not to poke holes in the exterior envelope (i.e. an insulated ceiling), if you put halogens in them you'll have a room that burns 500W per hour in a heartbeat, and the are not great in rooms with high ceilings.

Well, don't rule out cans. Your husband might like the line item cost and the bright task lighting...

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