Tag Archives: lighting

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?

unwrapping: bedside beaded cord lamp

I scaled way back on my DIY Christmas plans for gifts this year, but I did manage to get two of them done. The first was this beaded cord lamp for F’s room, and I’m really happy with the results. When her big sister was three we gave her a reading lamp on a timer and started letting her stay up for a short time past her tuck in time. It was an independent reading time, and even though she wasn’t quite reading yet, I think she really loved (and benefited) from that time that was solely devoted to the act of looking at books. Having the “bonus” time specifically for that – because she couldn’t use it for playing or romping around the room – really instilled a love of winding down the day with a good read. She still does it every night, on her own.

We were a little behind on this with F, but I was determined to get on the ball for Christmas. I outlined the plan (and all the links) for the supplies that we used here, and I had no trouble getting any of it… except for those pesky wooden beads. I scoured all the local craft and hobby stores to no avail. I ended up purchasing them from this etsy shop and had them in my hands three days later.

I originally thought I might spray paint all the beads a nice glossy color. But my favorite source for the best colors of spray paint is ArtMart, and those suckers are kind of pricey when you just need to paint a few beads – and you need six different colors. I wasn’t really interested in forking over $60-$80 on spray paint, so I got out my stash of acrylics and started mixing.

A few days later, while F was busy in the tub, M installed the small white hook into the ceiling, and I played around with the installation, marking where I wanted the thumb switch, and thinking that we might trim the mint colored cord to the correct length. But then we decided to leave the cord long for flexibility in future installations. I arranged most of the beads I had painted in a completely random order – selecting them with my eyes closed, and only putting them back if I had two colors in a row. M got busy wiring the whole thing after F was in bed. 

Here’s a shot of the lamp with the light off.

We originally purchased the silver tipped bulb shown in the diagram above, and it was super cool looking. It cut the glare out at eye level, but directed light up and off the walls. There was just something about the metallic look of it that didn’t quite go with the rest, so I found a few alternates and liked this frosted bulb a lot better. It’s 60W, and it would probably be better at 40W. It’s definitely not blinding though, very soft on the eyes, even without a shade. I’ll keep my eyes open for a 40 watter the next time this one needs replacing – might need to purchase one online. It’s supposed to last two years, so we’ll see. (It will be easy to check with everything documented here!)

I’m pretty excited with the results, and bedtime has been a little bit smoother with the new lamp. (Not perfect, I promise – she’s still quite the spitfire when it’s time to call it a night.) We love hearing her through the monitor “reading” her books aloud – it reminds of E when she was little, and we know it won’t be too much longer before she’s doing it completely on her own.