See the light: Why appliance lighting is a key component in kitchen design

Modern kitchen design plays on opposites: light and dark colors mixed throughout the room; rustic wood finishes and stainless steel appliances sitting side by side; an open kitchen that feels homey and intimate; and lighting that’s subtle but powerful.

Kitchen appliance designers are integrating unique lighting concepts that help homeowners reimagine their kitchen while improving the functionality of their appliances. We’ve seen this in grills, which are using blue LEDs to illuminate controls and indicate heat levels. We’ve seen this in cooktops from both Viking and Wolf, which use LEDs to highlight icons, indicate active elements, and illuminate oven controls. We’ve seen this in extractor hoods, which are designed to blend into the kitchen — models even appear as simple as a ceiling light. We’ve seen this in cooktop control panels, where LED lights highlight buttons and provide optical feedback for touch switches.

While lighting was once an afterthought in certain appliances and surfaces, today designers are embracing light elements to create unique designs. And this push for better lighting has now reached the fridge.

Illuminating the fridge

Refrigerator lighting used to be nothing more than an incandescent bulb at the top of the fridge, a scheme that left much of the fridge in shadow, but one that consumers made do with for decades. LEDs now offer a more efficient and brighter lighting option, using at least 75 percent less energy than incandescent lighting, and lasting 25 times longer. Designers are adding them not just at the top of the fridge, but along the sides and in the back to better illuminate the fridge’s contents.

Whirlpool's Wide French Door Refrigerator with CoolVox Kitchen Sound System

Whirlpool’s Wide French Door Refrigerator with CoolVox Kitchen Sound System

A new lighting concept developed by SCHOTT and integrated in the Wide French Door Refrigerator with CoolVox Kitchen Sound System from Whirlpool takes this concept a step further. Engineers have integrated LED lights under the lip of the shelf’s front trim, so that each shelf illuminates the contents of the shelf uniformly below it. Designed to be highly efficient and effective, yet invisible, this lighting scheme is constructed so no wires are showing. Each shelf’s lighting is powered through the ladder system that holds the shelves in place in the back of the fridge. Homeowners can move and adjust shelves by removing them from one rung and adding them to another, and as soon as they’re snapped into place, they receive power through the ladder. Because the position of each shelf is easily adjustable, consumers can conveniently organize shelves to their needs.

This lighting concept is spreading to other refrigerator brands as well, including Maytag, JennAir, and KitchenAid, and appliance designers will likely continue to integrate them throughout the industry. This feature sets the stage for continued lighting innovation in the refrigerator, a future that could include fiber optic accent lighting, or decorative lighting and new colors, like blues or reds, which can further set brands apart.

Why lighting stands out

Oven interfaces with light up switch functions. Cooktop burners divided by white or blue LEDs. White light offering a new level of illumination on fridge shelves. As lighting grows more energy efficient, component manufacturers are making advances in materials and manufacturing processes that better integrate lighting across home appliances and kitchen features. Designers are finding new ways for lighting to refresh a kitchen’s aesthetic, better indicate temperature levels or on and off settings, and create brighter, cleaner interiors. If you’re looking to follow the future path of kitchen design, keep an eye on lighting as it will become more common, visible, and integrated to create unique designs.

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Hello, I’m Chris Schechter, Product Development Engineer at SCHOTT Gemtron Corporation. I joined the company in 2010 and currently lead development projects focusing on product innovations. I work out at SCHOTT’s Flat Glass plant in Sweetwater, Tennessee. I earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. In my spare time, I like to hike, backpack, ski, camp, and mountain bike.

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