my (not so secret) obsession with lights, part one

I gave a run at the Reflected Ceiling Plans for the project, although we might end up adjusting things slightly as work continues. An RCP is similar to a floor plan (a plan is a cut through the walls at a certain height above the floor – typically around 4′, and then the view down to the floor), except that an RCP looks back up at the ceiling, versus lying down on said floor and seeing the ceiling in reverse of the plan. Like imagining a mirror on the floor reflecting what you see above. So this sheet shows both floor and reflected ceiling plans – with power and data on the floor plans, and lights and switches on the ceiling plan. You can also see what the ceilings will look like in each room – the exposed framing in the basement den, and the skylights and ceiling changes on the main level. (The dashed squiggly lines show the switching – which lights are wired to the same switch, and where those switches are located on the walls.)


When we first renovated our house in 2000 we had a very, VERY tight budget. We thought about where we wanted light fixtures, but we only installed the recessed downlights in that plan. At all surface mounted or pendant locations we installed a $1 porcelain socket with a bare bulb, with the exception of the bathroom where we put in the cheapest Home Depot specials we could find. (Those came out in this renovation last year.) Over time we selected fixtures that we loved, and I’m pretty sure that we’re almost rid of those old $1 sockets! Just in time for this project, ha!

I have a feeling we might have some holdouts this go around as well. My taste in fixtures tend to run on the pricier side, and I don’t mind saving and waiting. In the kitchen and pantry, I’d like to use the same wall sconces we used in our master bathroom – these Artemide Dioscuri fixtures.


They have a very clean line to them, no visible hardware, and they let off a very diffuse glowing light. With no upper cabinets in the kitchen, we’ll have very tall walls that will look great with these fixtures on them. There would be a spot for one in the pantry as well, visible through the opening from the kitchen, and to the right of the high window in that room.

We’ll use recessed downlights for general lighting, but I do want one signature fixture for the center of the room. This light has several requirements – it needs to be able to raise and lower, and also to swivel and angle into various positions depending upon what is happening in the center of the room. We plan to have a mobile island in here – likely one that breaks into two pieces for added flexibility. So I want task lighting that can be pulled into use when the island is there, moved as the island moves, and lifted out of the way when the island is gone so we don’t bonk our heads on it.

The Artemide Tolemeo is always an option – we have one in F’s room, and its articulating arm is perfection. (Old picture / cute baby alert.)


My favorite is the Flos Mod 265 – it would be wall mounted and swing where we want it. I need to model it in Sketchup and see if it would really work. It’s very cool, and I think it could look great in the space.

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The photos above are all from our friends / owners of Centro Modern Furnishings in the CWE. It’s my favorite dream and drool store, and I’ve got no shortage of dreaming and drooling for light fixtures. (My motto: Dimmers on everything!!)

I’ll pick up the lighting conversation again in the next post.

how it all goes together

I’m pretty sure the framing plans are not that exciting to look at, but I’m sort of partial to them. When I look at them I see something real – not just a sketch or an idea, but a real plan for how this thing is going to come together. Framing

A few things of interest, if you are into this sort of thing – you’ll see in the foundation plan that we have a pretty complicated one for such a simple little room addition. All of our footings are offset, which is atypical. Typically you’d pour a wide, shallow footing below the frost line where each of your foundation walls are going in. The walls would be centered on those footings – so if you had a 12″ concrete foundation wall, it might sit on a 24″ wide / 12″ deep footing – so 6″ of that footing would be on either side of the wall. In our case, our new foundation walls are just 2″ off our property line – just enough to get the waterproofing and some perimeter drainage installed. That means our footings are offset – they extend out to one side only – towards the interior – and they must be wider and have specific reinforcing to accommodate for being off center. We have a three sided addition and a four sided garage on this project, and we have (at least) twelve unique wall sections, which is slightly ridiculous.

The middle plan shows the framing for the first floor of the addition and the infill at the old side porch. We have a stair opening there, and a pretty sizable header at the rear wall with the folding glass wall.

The plan on the right shows the roof framing – you can see the skylight openings there – as well as the second floor balcony floor framing. Along with the steel at the new masonry opening at the kitchen, we’ve got quite a few large wood framing members. And because of the limited site access, we’ll have to pour the foundations and set the framing for the addition and the garage in two separate phases.

Sometimes when I write this out it makes me feel like we’re a little crazy. Maybe you’ve known that all along – but I’m a little slower on the uptake!

big plans

Let’s move inside, shall we?

There’s a lot of information packed into these plans, but hopefully it’s not too difficult to see once enlarged. I think I’ll start on the main level, which is the middle plan below, and I’ll attempt to keep it to under a thousand words:

If we start in the kitchen, you’ll see that the we’re not straying too far from the original location, with several key changes. First, the old outdoor side porch will be enclosed and become a walk-thru pantry. The east wall will have floor to ceiling shelving with some drawer units as well. This will give us a lot of storage for food and other kitchen items, freeing up a lot of space in the original kitchen space. Which is good because we aren’t going to have any upper cabinets in the main kitchen. (I’ll explain more when I get to the interior elevations.) We’ll have a larger range, a larger sink, a dishwasher, and several base drawer cabinets in the kitchen, but the length of that galley wall will grow by seven feet into the new addition. The refrigerator and freezer columns will reside in that section, as well as a full height cabinets with drawers and pull out dish storage.

In that 7′ wide section – what I call the “link” between the new addition and the original house – we have a new stair. If you look on the east wall, you’ll see a new entry door that comes in at grade onto a stair landing. You can walk up a few steps to the addition or down a few more to the new basement den. Just off this landing is a small mudroom. It doesn’t have a huge footprint, but we have some cool ideas for maximizing storage inside it. And it will be the FIRST CLOSET in our house. We’ve had a closet-less house for seventeen years, building in wardrobes and cabinets where we’ve needed storage. The current entrance to our house is directly into our living room, and we’ve tried jamming all of our jackets and shoes into an old media cabinet. I’m really looking forward to this new layout. That entry wall is all glass – from the landing to the ceiling above, so roughly 14′ high. We also have two skylights in the roof above this link, so we should get a lot of natural light into this space. With the entire rear wall open to this link, that light should really flood the kitchen. The skylights will be motorized, so we can open them, and operate retractable screens and retractable shading devices as well to give us control over the amount of light coming in.

If the budget holds out, we’re hoping to differentiate the materials on all the surfaces of this link – the full height cabinets, the walls, the ceiling – hopefully in a light wood finish that still bounces the light around.

Moving into the addition, you’ll find our new dining room! It’s the same size as the front two rooms in our house – roughly a 17′ x 17′ square. The south wall will have a folding glass wall that fully opens, with a retractable screen that pulls out to keep the bugs out when the wall is open. There’s a large casement window on the east side of the room – I wanted a big opening there to let in the early morning light. We’re only 21 blocks from the Mississippi river, and one of my favorite things on our street is the early morning sunrise and pink skies just outside our house. I wanted to walk into the kitchen in the morning and see that giant swath of sunlight spilling across the table. The window will open as well, and in conjunction with the skylights, should create a nice breezeway on pleasant days – which apparently start in February now.

Downstairs (drawing on the left), we’ll have a Den / Playroom the same size as the Dining Room above. In the link area, the floor level is at the same level as the current basement because we can’t undermine the existing stone foundation. But we wanted a decent head height in the den, so we’ve lowered the slab 21″ (3 risers) in the den, which will allow us a higher ceiling. We’re leaving all the framing exposed down here – painting it all out white, similar to the way we’ll treat the ceiling in the garage apartment. That will increase the feeling of height in the space, and we’ve also got two operable awning windows on the east side for natural light and ventilation. This space will give us some overflow space for the girls and their friends when we have people over – it’s closer and more connected than sending them upstairs to their third floor bedrooms to play. It will also give us a nicer space to hang out in during tornado warnings. Those are only going to increase. (See spring in February comment above.)

Lastly (I’m currently at 825 words), the Second Floor / Roof Plan is on the right. The former balcony (that we never finished) is now enclosed, with oversized sliding windows to open for breezes. This room is adjacent to our current studio space, and we’ll be able to open everything up to those breezes on nice days. There will be a door at the end of the Balcony that accesses the Roof Deck over the new addition. Our roof is structured for occupancy and for also supporting a green roof / grow roof. So we’ll use this space for outdoor gardening and relaxing when we want a little more privacy. The second floor of our house is really a giant master suite – and I see this as an extension of that. We’ll have a hose bib installed, and electric as well, so we’ve got the flexibility to finish this out as we want. We’ll tackle most of this part on our own, as time and budget allow.

Those are the plans! Feel free to ask questions if you have any. (“any” was word 1,001!)