Saturday, July 29, 2017

Updating Our Lighting

Frank and I had been noting for quite a while that our lighting was inadequate as our eyes aged. We had been contemplating an update prior to his fall from the ladder in November and then other priorities intervened. So in late June, before and during our county fair and firework outings, and just one week prior to leaving on travel, we proceeded with a contractor to update the lighting in our family room/nook/kitchen. Crazy, huh? Timing is everything.

My daughter Robin advised me to take pictures before making any changes, a good reminder for something I rarely remember to do. Here is the family room with its two hemisphere fixtures on the ceiling.  They were very dim and I scornfully referred to them as the two boobs.  In the day time, since there is a eight foot sliding glass door at one end of the room, the lighting is passable.

But at night, the room is dull and we were constantly trying to maneuver task lighting and safely relocate lamp cords in order to see to read, play games, or do puzzles.

The nearby kitchen has a dropped ceiling which housed four ballasts and eight fluorescent light tubes. We do have under counter spot lighting and a few accents over the sink, but most of the time I felt like I was cooking in my own shadow.

Then we had someone point out to us that the center island looked like an autopsy table with its overhead fluorescent lab lights. Once noted, the similarity was difficult to deny and even harder to ignore. That somewhat morbid observation sealed the deal for an update.

Having come this far we would update the nook eating area as well. A stained oak box on the ceiling had been an afterthought at the time of building when a hanging chandelier proved to cast insufficient light. I have never been a fan of fluorescent lighting but at the time it was the most expeditious option.

While we were at it, we would also have a contractor remove the wallpaper and texture the walls in the eating area so that painting would be an option.

Painting. Ahh, yes. We had started to do that before Christmas, trying out some gray hues on different walls. Before he'd broken his hip Frank, had painted the stairwell wall to get an idea of how the change from peach would look.

Then he "painted out the brush" and we looked at the color on two other walls. This is the wall opposite the sliding glass door. A color sample of the more beige, "warmer", gray option is tucked under the clock.

This is the fireplace wall around the television. I was procrastinating on final selection of a color until the appropriate lighting had been installed. Once we had a contractor lined up and ready, though, I went with the sample we had started with. After all, we had being living with those peach/gray patchwork walls for over six months. 

The lighting installation was first to occur and was to take three days. All the furniture was moved and the floors were taped over with brown paper. There was an exploratory half-day to locate the joists for running an additional line for a dimmer on one of the circuits. Frank could not just sit still. He used his stud finder and marked the ceiling joists with blue tape. Eee gads - he did get up on a ladder again much to my protests! He rationalized, "Only the first step and only to put tape directly overhead. I will get down with care and move the ladder at each piece of tape so I am never leaning."

The joists ran orthogonal to the path of the line, of course, and so many, many, small rectangular access holes were cut out from the ceiling in order to drill a path through. The end goal was twelve lights around the perimeter and four lights in the center on two separate circuits that could be dimmed individually.

The central inset area of the kitchen ceiling was planned for six lights. An offset joist changed that plan and we were forced to go down to a matrix of four, and those four could not even map out into a perfect rectangle – but close enough.

Determined to have the lights installed before the painters were due to patch and texture, the electrical contractor called in seven electricians from three job sites, all at once, to finish the job that third day. I seriously do not know how they stayed out of each others' way. Frank and I had a tough time keeping out of their way!

Our first painter had bid the job as a small amount of ceiling repair around the recessed can installations. I think he was a bit taken aback by the extent of the patching and so reneged. After the electricians had scrambled, we had a two day delay while our contractor found another painter who was willing to deal with all the wall board replacement inserts, patching, and re-texturizing. Actually the break was welcome, giving us our home back for a brief respite.

The new painters came in and wrapped everything, and I mean everything, in plastic wrap. We could not get to the pantry, the cutlery, the sink, the dishes, or the refrigerator.

Every piece of furniture was wrapped.

The walls and hallways were wrapped. Gentle breezes wafting through would billow the plastic sheets like transparent curtains in a haunted house. The mood was eerie and somewhat creepy, especially with the accompanying rustling sound. I kept waiting to hear a low moan emitted from somewhere.

It made me feel like Patrick McGoohan, called Number Six, in the TV spy show The Prisoner, popular in the United States in the late 1960's and early 1970's. I felt like Rover, the thin walled bouncing ball that kept all the prisoners on site and in line, had invaded our home for a short stay.

Frank and I hid out in the living room or upstairs while all this was taking place. Of course the home environment was not quite as bad as the following image from The Prisoner but you get the idea. Fortunately the experience was short lived. 

We were going to remove the wall paper in the eating area and reconfigure the phone. When we originally moved into the house in 1988 we had a corded wall phone centrally located above the kitchen counter – our version of control central for the household. When we changed to a cordless satellite arrangement, the phone needed to sit lower, so Frank fashioned a wooden shelf with a high back to hide the hole in the wall from the phone jack outlet.

It then occurred to us that the main base could be elsewhere and this location could instead house a satellite handset, that did not require a jack. We collapsed the phone jack into the wall, wires intact so no service would be lost. But I marked where it would be relative to the cabinets and documented the location with a photo so we could find it relatively easily if we ever needed to dig it out from behind the wallboard. The wall paper pattern removed had been one of peachy swirls with red speckles.

Having dealt with wall paper removal in our master bedroom, Frank was not going to repeat his efforts. We had the painters removed the wall paper in the nook area. The process really did make quite a mess.

Then the texturing was applied on the walls and ceiling patches. Now we understood better why everything was wrapped in plastic.

The final paint color was applied. I went with the initial choice of Benjamin Moore Harbor Gray, and not a more beige-gray that had been a contender.  I kept my fingers crossed that it would not appear too cold and sterile as some bluish grays are wont to do. 

Here are the updated rooms. I like the way the kitchen looks with the autopsy light removed. It makes the kitchen feel larger and airier –  and cheerier.

We used a pairing of baseboard and crown moulding to dress up the central ceiling inset. Several people suggested pendant lights, but after nearly three decades in this kitchen I could not see myself negotiating around some blobs hanging obtrusively in the center, collecting grease and dust.

The nook, too, seemed more open without the extra huge array of light panels looming down from above. We are trying out the clock where the phone used to be. It may just be a tad too large for the space.

We have not rehung paintings nor the clutter of wall calendar and clocks citing times in different parts of the country. They do serve a function though, so we will need to work out that detail of what to keep, what to relocate and what to part with. I really do like (and use) that oak rimmed clock I got Frank as a retirement gift. It has only one hand, which points to the day of the week.

We had a choice of "temperature" when selecting the LED light bulbs; 2300K is soft cream and 4000K is crisp white. Being a pure color fanatic with my quilting, and doing this project so we had more illumination, I'd thought the brighter white would be my first choice and that the softer tone would appear a dirty yellow.

Not so. The 4000K lights were so white that I felt like I was in a jewelry store that was being protected from being robbed. The softer color was much more homelike instead of business like. We put in a large enough number that the softer toned 2300K was perfectly adequate. In fact everything can be dimmed and we rarely use full power!

All the wall decor is not back but most of the furniture is. We still have some tweaking to do as to placement. The contractors were out of here just in the nick of time for our travels to Oklahoma and North Carolina. Enjoying the updates would need to wait until we return from our travels. At least I could review the pix on my cell phone and use my imagination while we were away.


  1. What a HUGE difference! Amazing! You've inspired us to look into adding more lighting to our bedrooms (or, at least our master bedroom).

  2. I agree - that looks so much more well-lit and inviting! I don;'t know how you lived with all that plastic for 2 days (not having kids living at home probably helped), but the improvements to the house were definitely worth the tradeoff!