Getting the lighting “right” in the house is sort of a passion of mine. I am a big fan of great built-in lighting. In our old house we owned exactly two lamps because everything else was built-in. In the upstairs bedrooms here we put in recessed can lighting on the room perimeter and set them all on a dimmer – you get great adjustable light coming from many directions so you don’t have harsh shadows. The living room has great lighting already with the cornice and ceiling lights (and of course the Sputnik chandelier.)
The downstairs, however, was a different story. It has built in ceiling lights and the bar has lights, but they provide relatively harsh lighting. There are really awesome features in the bar and the fireplace that I thought would look great with accent lighting, so I thought about the best way to do it and remain compatible with the mid-century feel. Ultimately I landed on flexible LED strip lighting.
While LED lighting is thoroughly modern technology, it can be discreetly hidden out of sight and can be found in a variety of colors, including warm white (2700K), giving a look similar to an incandescent light. For this project I found a great inexpensive flexible 5 meter long low voltage LED strip kit on Amazon. To make it work you also need to purchase a power supply transformer. Total cost? About $30. The strip even has self-sticking adhesive on the back. Here’s a look at the LEDs before installation:
One of the cool things about LEDs like this is that they are very small in profile and can be mounted under virtually anything. To round curves or bends you simply snip the strip with scissors (there are marked cut points) and solder wire between the contacts on each cut end to link them together and turn a corner. You can link them across longer distances this way, too. In addition, because they are low voltage, you can use very small wires – you can even touch the wiring while it is “live” and you don’t get shocked. (you can also power the entire strip using a 9 volt battery…) One caveat: LEDs like this are very bright individually. They need to be mounted somewhere that your eyes cannot directly see the light source or it will cause pretty severe eyestrain.
So – I decided I wanted to add lighting underneath the bar and underneath the ledge of the fireplace mantel, and I wanted to add a switch on the bar to control all of them. Through the house I have replaced all outlets with Leviton Decora outlets in white. The spot where I wanted to put the switch was an outlet, so I re-wired it to have an outlet and switch combination. That switch was kind of it’s own big deal as I worked through getting the wiring correct and adding the outlet needed in the basement:
I had previously experimented with exactly how I wanted to place the lights, so now I was ready to run them. Breaking out the soldering iron and purchasing a spool of 24 gauge wire to interconnect them from our awesome local electronics store Unicorn Electronics, I started cutting the lengths of light strips, soldering the components together and sticking them up into place. Under the bar looks like this when lit:
Because I am fortunate to have a nice drop ceiling on the downstairs level, I also ran connector wiring from the fireplace over to the bar area and dropped it down the back of the ceiling into the basement. In the basement I set up a mounted outlet powered by the switch I installed earlier, and mounted the power block as well:
Once that was done I cleaned everything up, got all the covers back on the sockets…and gave it a whirl to see what it looked like:
I still need to run the wiring for the wall-mounted TV through the ceiling, but one project a time. Next up is adding similar LED lighting to the back patio – these lights are suitable for outdoor mounting as well.
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