Around the House: Kitchen Lighting Progress

This kitchen lighting project is not at all where I thought it would be when I shared it with you. But sadly, things don’t always go smoothly around here, and I don’t want to be all fake flowers and sunshine (plus it may be a little while before we’re where I’d ideally like to be), so I’ll show you where we’re at now.

Ta da:

Ok, maybe this needs a little more explanation. Or at least a before picture to do it justice.

The over-sized (read giganticly huge) fluorescent light in our kitchen has been driving me insane for two years. And we finally got around to tearing it out!! Yes!!!

What took so long? Well, fear of the unknown mostly, combined with a little indecision. We weren’t exactly sure what to expect when we took this beast down. What the ceiling would look like or what the wiring would be like, or what options we would have for new lighting placement or styles. I originally wanted to DIY something awesome like this:


But having a 6’5″ husband (who does most of the cooking around here), I couldn’t very well have anything that would hang low enough to leave a permanent bruise on his forehead. Which ruled out almost everything except a flush mount fixture. Which was an issue for two reasons, first, because there were two fluorescent lights which led me to suspect there were two sets of wires, which would mean two lights right next to each other (awkward). Second because we already have a flush mount a few feet away, that would not line up with either of the new lights (extra awkward). For reference, it looks like this:

Sorry, for the terrible angle. I now realize you cannot tell the relationship to the kitchen lights at all from this picture. Here is another old picture of what the space used to look like when we first walked through the house. The giant gold chandelier is where the flush mount light is now. It’s also a good reference of how close the hub’s head is to the kitchen ceiling.

Anyway… we finally came to the decision to install recessed pot lights that would give Bretty plenty of head clearance and wouldn’t look as strange if they were off-center from the current light. The only problem was that we’d never installed them before. But we don’t like to let a little thing like that stop progress, so we dived in anyway. (I’ll get into the details of choosing and installing recessed lighting in another post, because this is already getting long.)

First we removed the existing light:

It was difficult and loud but I pretty much skipped the demo debris out to the curb with pure happiness.

Once it was down, we had a nasty ceiling and a surprising three sets of wires (instead of two like we expected), but the room looked better already.

Despite the extra wires, we started out thinking we’d just go ahead with our plan for two pot lights where the old holes already were, and wire them up the same as the lights we just took out, to keep things simple. So I cut and cut and brushed my shoulders off and cut some more until I had two perfect holes for our lights.

Only to find this:

In case you can’t tell, that is copper plumbing from our guest bath and basically meant that there was no room to recess any light in the ceiling in that spot. (Oops.)

Not to be detoured, I stepped back and looked at the space for a while, trying to come up with another way to position the lights so they wouldn’t look crazy, and so that the existing wiring could be used (ie not too far away).

Finally I came up with a configuration of three lights (to take advantage of that third wire) that would give us some added task lighting over the island. Here’s a photo that shows the holes I cut, and the placement (and alignment) of the new holes I needed to cut. Oh and that light in the far back over the sink was already there, hence the alignment of the new lights.

I originally wanted pendant lights over the island, but that would require an electrician and some extra cash, soap DIY solution it is. We ran out and bought a third light, and I did some more cutting. Mind you, the electricity has been off this whole time and it’s starting to get dark by now. Also, our kitchen is out of commission completely, and looking like this:

We got two of the three lights installed and then realized that the placement of the third would require the wiring to run through a ceiling joist. (Second oops. Also this photo is from after the hole patching.)

Still determined not to get down, we called it a night and turned the electricity back on, thinking we’d patch the holes we’d created and finish up the wiring the next day. Which is when we discovered that only one of the two new lights turned on. Cue the end of my optimism.

I cleaned up the mess, patched the holes (leaving two open so we can still get to the unfinished wire and the joist to drill), and primed the stains left by the old light.

And that is where we still are. Not exactly glamorous. But it looks a lot better than it did before. My optimism has returned and I have a plan A and a plan B to get things finished up in here.

Plan A: Check wiring in non-working light (hopefully something just came loose when we stuffed it up there and it will be an easy fix and turn right on), drill through joist and hook up third light (Based on some research I’ve been doing, this isn’t as big of a deal as I originally thought if you do it correctly. Fingers crossed it goes smoothly.)

Plan B: If the third wire we found is not working at all, we may have to revert back to a two light configuration, which would mean a less bright kitchen, but might also eliminate the need for drilling through the joist.

In either of these scenarios, we will also be replacing the existing pot light over the sink with a dramatic pendant light (I’m leaning toward a Moravian star), to help me get over the lack of a prettier main light and the lack of island pendants. We’ll also have to paint the whole ceiling, just because it’s all gross and stained from past water damage. We can’t very well just have a nice white square in the middle of the room.

So that’s where we’re at. Hopefully it won’t stay this way for long, but we have a tendency to put not-so-fun things off, so who knows. I’ll keep you posted.

Ah the trials of a DIY life. Anyone else encounter unforeseen snags in a project lately?



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