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The Guide to Kitchen Lighting

The Guide to Kitchen Lighting

Many say that the kitchen is the heart of the home. Not only is it space where meals are created- it’s where friends, families and loved ones meet to nourish their bodies and discuss their days.

Now, imagine the value of the kitchen if you were to remodel it. Whether your budget range is small or large, or you’re replacing the backsplash or gutting the whole kitchen; these immediate changes can make a dynamic impact.

Let’s chat about the subject of lighting. As the kitchen is the hub of the home, it’s surprising that lighting becomes such an afterthought when remodeling the space. We’ve found that lighting is one of the most frequently ignored design features! In actuality, lighting should be an integral and focused design piece. Lighting is an essential part of the remodeling process, as it adds layers, depth, and function to a kitchen. 

Join us as we take an ILLUMINATED journey through the layers of lighting possibilities for your kitchen. 

For now, let’s take into three primary types of lighting: 

  • Ambient
  • Task
  • Accent

Good lighting design is a dance between science, engineering, and art.  While there is no right way to light a kitchen, there are many ineffective ways to go about it.  There is an interplay between light and finishes that sets an ambiance that is as unique as each individual person.

Ambient Lighting – Base Lighting

As indicated by the name, this is the general lighting in a room. 

Ambient lighting fixtures include:

  • Chandeliers
  • Track Lighting
  • Pendant Lights 
  • Ceiling Lights

Many kitchens and most other rooms are often designed with only ambient light.  When one relies only on ambient light, sometimes space can appear dull or dark. Think of ambient lighting as the base lighting of your home.

Task Lighting – The 2nd Layer

Task lighting is for….You guessed it, specific tasks. When your using a sharp knife in the kitchen, added light is needed so you can avoid accidents.  

Task lighting fixtures include:

  • Under the countertop lights
  • Vent hood lighting 
  • Ceiling light over a sink

Most vent hoods will provide task lighting for the cooktop. Careful placement of ceiling lights can provide task lighting in their immediate downcast. 

Note: A common mistake is to place lights too far back from the work area causing a shadow.

Lighting placed under the upper cabinets can contribute to task lighting on the countertop.  You will like your kitchen much more if you can see what you are doing as you cook and clean.  It is important to know that we need a great deal more light as we age. It is estimated that a 60-year-old needs three times more light than a 20-year-old does.

Accent Lighting – 3rd Layer

Get CREATIVE! Accent lighting sets the atmosphere and mood in a room.  It can also highlight certain features in your kitchen or conceal unpleasant design elements. 

Accent lighting fixtures include:

  • Wall sconces
  • Can lights & uplights
  • Ceiling lights
  • Inside cabinet lights

Accent lighting can be provided by placing lights above, in, or under cabinets. It can be lighting directed onto a piece of artwork.

Natural Lighting

Of course, the ideal light is natural.  It requires its own considerations such as direction and shading. An unobstructed eastern or western window can cause unwanted glare in the morning or afternoon respectively. Here in the Brazos Valley, that can lead to excessive heat gain.

People love skylights and solar tubes, however, they can provide excessive heat gain. While placing them on north sloping roofs will help some, the reduction of heat is not great.

 Remodeling is a great time to consider enlarging or adding well-placed windows in the kitchen. This often means eliminating some upper cabinets. While getting rid of cabinet space is never a desired outcome the reward can be worth it. Upper cabinets are shallow and don’t provide a great deal of storage so that lost storage can often be picked up elsewhere.  Large windows that connect the kitchen to the great outdoors can make the space much more cheerful.

 Now that you have enlarged or added a window, you want to be mindful of what you place outside that window.  Let your windows frame a beautiful setting. A bird feeder can provide wonder to the drudgery of washing the dishes. A flowering bush can perfume the air that comes in through that window when opened.

Lastly, don’t let the final decisions and the multitude of options overwhelm you! Your way is the best way and we’d love to offer our guidance + expertise to help you along the way.  Take a look at one of our recent kitchen remodels.

 If you’re ready to dive in now, schedule a meeting with us today! We’d love to help you begin the process of upgrading your kitchen-  the sacred and most lived-in space of your home. Thanks for reading!

Food For Thought

Food For Thought

Do you want value?  Of course, you do. Doesn’t everyone? 

But what does that mean?  Value is not a fixed point. It is an equation.  An often-used example in discussions of value is the fine Italian shoes that cost twice as much as a regular pair of shoes but last four times longer.  The Italian shoes are an excellent value… if you can afford them. 

Homes provide a much more complex equation than shoes. Just like shoes- durability, fashion, and design are key issues but with many more variables within each category. Additionally, the cost of maintenance and utilities are also part of this equation.

The single variable for home buying is cost per square foot, which throws all of these variables for value out the cheap, builder-grade window.  Unfortunately, the price per square foot is not a good benchmark for value but that is what sells homes. Typically, to get the price per square foot down, builders are encouraged to provide the most space possible for the lowest price possible.  This has given birth to a whole line of building products called “builder grade.”  This means that the builder will provide the lowest possible quality that will ensure getting through the short warranty period.

 The same opportunities to use cheap materials and cut corners on craftsmanship exist in remodeling. If fact, they are even more of an issue. This is because the spaces that are most frequently remodeled are those with the most finish in them: cabinets, tile, appliances, and fixtures.  For example, bathrooms and kitchens are rooms that sometimes lack the durability and quality that homeowners expect. This can be incredibly frustrating and inconvenient for the homeowner. This is due to many builders cutting corners in order to reduce the price per square foot. 

Just like you pay a mortgage payment every month, you also pay your utility bill every month. The difference is you never pay your utility bill off.

Unless you start generating your own energy you will continue to get a bill from the utility company, even after your mortgage is fully paid.

Here at Stearns, our crews are trained to NOT cut corners.  Nonetheless, we are happy to put our expertise to work for you! Even if you’re doing the work yourself, please don’t hesitate to email or call us. We’d love to help!

Now and Then

Now and Then

I was a young child when my family moved to the Brazos Valley in 1967 and I am infused with these clay soils. Back then, Bryan had about 30,000 residents and College Station about half that number.  Presently, College Station and Bryan are the 13th-largest metropolitan area in Texas with 273,101 people combined. Bryan and College Station have different histories and different personalities, and we are fortunate to have two distinct places within one larger community.

In 1860 Steven F. Austin’s nephew, William J. Bryan sold a one-mile square tract of land to the railroad commission to create a terminus point. Seven years would pass before the first train arrived and it would be another three years before the state recognized Bryan as a city.  Bryan was born as a railroad community. Given that the city had been established in a one square mile area with a plan in mind, central downtown was laid out in a grid, which facilitated foot and horse traffic.

College Station, on the other hand, has a very different story of origin.  In 1938, it was incorporated as a town serving the community of the Texas Agriculture and Mechanical College. The original neighborhoods were organized around Thomas and Dexter which is now Brison Park.

The two cities evolved from rather disparate beginnings that would shape two very different communities.  Bryan formed around the general commerce of downtown while College Station emerged as a means to serve a university community.  Due to the time gap between the two cities, transportation was vastly different. Horse travel was the primary means of transportation during Bryan’s development while College Station was born in the age of the automobile.

In College Station, with no centralized community center, its pattern of growth was much more dominated by the sprawl made possible by the automobile. Development happened in a leapfrog pattern because the land farther out was the least expensive.

Development in Bryan however, provided much more condensed and walkable patterns. 

Many of Bryan’s homes were built before residential air conditioning was available resulting in a different architectural style.  Homes were built that sought natural means of cooling, including high ceilings, large porches, and large windows.

There were two notable Architects at A&M about the time of College Station’s incorporation, Bill Caudill and John Rowlett. These two were very influential in the style of homes built during this time and Caudill designed many of the homes built just to the south and north of campus.

This was just before Air Conditioning, so most, if not all, of Caudill’s homes in the area, were designed with no central AC. Caudill and Rowlett would go on to form the notable architecture firm CRS, that has done significant award-winning commercial projects.  They continued to think about residential architecture and even wrote a book in the early 1960s on energy-efficient homes, clearly thinking ahead of their time. 

Texas A&M Campus 1920s

Oak trees, trains, Texas A&M, the evolution of vernacular architecture; these things and so many more are the terroir forming our sense of place and are uniquely different in Bryan and College Station. I invite you to look at some of our home renovations in the towns I call home. 


Bathroom Remodel

Bathroom Remodel

There are so many great reasons to remodel your bathroom! 

1) Increase the value of your home

2) Improve energy efficiency 

3) Enhance aesthetics and so much more! 

For this bathroom and client, the reasons were twofold and of tremendous importance. What if you have a bathtub and shower that you can’t get in and out of? 

Our solution was ripping them both out and creating a wet area with a roll-in shower and walk-in bathtub. We placed a slip-resistant tile between the two, to prevent any falls. 

Now, the bathtub is equipped with a large heated seat with mounted grab bars for safe entry and exit out of the tub. Remodeling this space allowed the creation of a safe haven for our client and of course, a cozy and welcoming space to relax.