let there be light

When we first started working on our house we were two broke kids just out of graduate school. When I think back to that time it’s still hard to imagine what we were thinking, taking on a project of this size. We didn’t even live in the same city – M was living in Minneapolis and commuting to St. Louis every Thursday night – Monday morning. We had a miniscule FHA loan that would cover the cost of basic renovations to the shell of the house and the addition of new building systems – mechanical, electrical, plumbing. Anything that we couldn’t cover with that loan required sweat equity over nights and weekends for months on end.

Despite our budgetary constraints, we tried to make smart choices about everything that we did. We tried our best not to cut corners on anything, preferring to live with something undone rather than finishing out projects with subpar materials or workmanship.

We both have an affinity for nice lighting – and an equal dislike for cheap lighting that looks like it’s trying to be old and fancy. If our house had originally been outfitted with ornate chandeliers, we would have gone to great lengths to restore them or replace them with period appropriate replicas. But our house was a simple two-family working class home, and while the period style is evident throughout the building, nothing was as elaborate as the larger stately homes in nearby neighborhoods like Lafayette Square. So we’ve applied our objective – restore the historical details of the house to the best of our ability, and allow any changes to the home to stand apart as modern interventions rather than copies of a bygone style – to the house’s lighting as well.

I really love layering lighting within a room, and one of my favorite things to shop for is modern lighting. We almost always work through Centro Modern Furnishings here in town, and we’ve slowly collected fixtures over the past fifteen years. We’ve had $1 porcelain sockets with bare bulbs in more than one location, which is a nice alternative to installing a builder grade fixture in the interim while we save for the fixtures we love.

The one exception to this rule was in the Master Bathroom – I can’t really remember the reason why we broke that rule in there. Maybe we wanted a little more diffuse light and a slightly more finished look. So we ended up with some really unexciting sconces that I’m sure we purchased as Lowe’s or Home Depot.


Most of the light comes from recessed lighting in the ceiling, but there are two wall sconces – the one over the toilet and one over the wall mirror / sink. I want to replace those sconces in this project, but I’ve been unsure of what to use.

Then about a week ago I was sitting in the girls’ bathroom thinking about what a bright, inviting space it is. The light over their sink is the Dioscuri Wall fixture from Artemide (one of our favorite lighting companies). Our friend at Centro helped us select that fixture in a hurry – we needed to replace the porcelain light socket / bare bulb that was in that bathroom before the room was professionally photographed for This Old House Magazine. We chose it for that room because it was playful and recalled the shape of the oversized frameless round mirrors in the room without calling too much attention to the fixture itself.


It creates such a bright light with zero glare, which makes it perfect for a bathroom. And then it hit me – this same fixture would be perfect in the master bathroom as well!

This weekend I plan to take the girls’ fixture down and hold it up on the walls in our bathroom to double check for size. The Dioscuri is available in multiple sizes, so we might want to scale down a size for our bathroom. It think this fixture is going to work really well in the room – it will provide the light we need without being a statement piece on its own. And it’s a lot simpler than trying to decide on what kind of statement we wanted to make in there – there are so many lovely ideas for fixtures, but I generally prefer to resist the trends with lighting and live with something with simple, clean lines for the long run.


I want the key players in the room to be the saturated color on the walls, the utility and beauty of the pegs, the furniture like quality of the room itself to be the focus. And lighting that makes me look like I’m twenty again, right?

9 Responses to let there be light

  1. This speaks to me because I hate all the light fixtures in my house.

    (pauses, to consider whether this is an overstatement… Nope.)

    But the lighting I want is $$$. (I actually happened upon–via Pinterest–the most amazing chandelier ever and I was like THIS IS IT for my dining and the price was ACTUALLY $37,000. (pauses to double check comma placement in that number… it is correct.)

    Anyway, resisting the siren song of better-than-what-we-have-now and trying to hold out for what-we-really-actually-want. (It still won’t cost anywhere NEAR five digits. Or four.)

  2. Ummmm . . . I have your bathroom ripped out and saved for future reference in my inspiration binder. I had absolutely no idea that it was YOUR bathroom
    I have stared at those photos so many times. Wow. Love the Dioscuri.

  3. Now now…21…don’t get too carried away. 😉

  4. Lighting! Can’t live with it (the ugly variety), can’t live without it (rooms need light!) Imagine my shock and surprise when the fixture I fell. in. love. with. for the guest bathroom was $995. Now the ugly original fixture just sits there and taunts me.
    Cheers – CT
    CT recently posted…1975 Fender Precision Bass with Jazz Bass NeckMy Profile

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