...because home doesn't happen overnight.
12.06.13 / Cabinet Lighting

It’s snowing here today and when it snows it sorta makes our skylights nonexistent. From inside, all we see is snow-covered glass. I’m so happy we decided to put those four skylights in during renovation. We’ve grown accustomed to living with them and don’t realize how much natural light they let in until they’re buried in snow. Gloomy days like this also make me thankful that our electrician-in-law talked us into installing cabinet lighting.

cabinet lights 3

I’ve been meaning to post about the cabinet lighting for a while but keep forgetting. Thank goodness for dark and snowy weather to jostle my memory!

We hired our electrician-in-law to help us update the electrical in the house. I cannot stress enough how important his knowledge was to us. He made several suggestions about where to install new lighting and which type of lighting to use. For instance, in the hallway that leads to the bedrooms and bathrooms, our EIL recommended installing a few recessed can lights staggered along the ceiling so that they would wash areas of wall space. Genius! We totally would have lined the cans straight down the center of the hall.

Another idea our EIL had was to install quality over- and under-cabinet lighting in the kitchen. We had overlooked cabinet lighting assuming lighting from other sources {skylights, pendants above the island, sconce above the sink, lamps in the living area, track lighting along the apex of the vaulted ceiling, etc.} in the open kitchen / living space would provide us with all the light we needed. But after the idea was mentioned, HH and I bit.

cabinet lights 2

Our EIL suggested a Kichler cabinet lighting kit. It’s a linear lighting system that houses 12V / 10W LED’s which put off warm white light. New electrical had to be run to supply the cabinet lighting. Our EIL handled that and to save money, HH installed the cabinet lighting system himself. The track is screwed into the cabinets, a cable snaps into the track and LED festoons snap on top of that. To disguise the track from the front, HH screwed slim white PVC trim from Home Depot along the tops and bottoms of the upper cabinets. The PVC matches our cabinets close enough so we didn’t have to paint it but you could if necessary.

The system was not cheap but considering how much we use it, it was a worthy investment. In the evenings and early mornings or on dreary days like today, we have the cabinet lighting on. It gets used on a daily basis and provides warm ambient light that beats rope lighting or fluorescent undermounts any day. {We’ve had both in previous houses.} HH and I both have a thing for good artificial lighting. A house can be as stylish as ever but if there isn’t enough lighting when it’s dark, or worse yet, when lighting is harsh or blue-ish, we both notice it and it’s bothersome. Spending money on good lighting goes along with #9 on Belinda’s list of things she learned while renovating her previous home.

“The amount you spend on a project should reflect how much you use it.”

I couldn’t agree more. If lighting isn’t your thing, then by all means put your money elsewhere.

We do have one complaint about the cabinet lighting. Every once in a while one or two bulbs won’t light when we flip the switch on. A gentle tap is all it takes to get it working so apparently there is a connection problem. It’s not a huge deal but when the bulb that is out is over the cabinets, then someone has to climb onto the counter to tap it. Plus, we paid good money for this system. HH recently contacted Kichler about the problem. They said the problem is known on their end and they are sending us complementary replacement LED’s to fix it. We’ll see…

UPDATE: Here are links for the lighting system and bulb / socket we have.

cabinet lights kitchen

cabinet light 1

It’s difficult to convey warm artificial light in a photograph but hopefully you get the idea. {Please forgive the blank desk area. It’s a work in progress!} I like that the cabinet lighting helps warm up the kitchen at night when we’re hanging out in the adjacent living room. By nature, kitchens have a lot of slick and shiny surfaces that make them feel cold and industrious in an open concept space. Anything we can do to warm ours up makes for a better atmosphere in the open living / kitchen space. Often times at night, we will utilize only the cabinet lighting and a few accent lights {floor lamp, task lamp} in the living area and forgo the track lighting along the ceiling and the pendants above the island. It makes for some very cozy mood lighting.

cabinet lights 4

We’re in for more snow this weekend so you can bet our cabinet lights will be on. Here’s to a warm and cozy weekend!

P.S. – Another lighting project suggested by our EIL.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

I’ve had requests to share my favorite etsy shops and finds. Dare I say I spend more time browsing etsy than pinterest? It’s true. I’ve decided to try weekly etsy features and see how they go over. Let me know if you enjoy them!


This week on etsy I stumbled upon the most amazing collection of handmade chandeliers and sconces via Stimulight. The urchin-like starburst lighting has a midcentury vibe that reminds me of the Sputnik but is more affordable than the popular vintage pieces. Most of the fixtures are listed with a price tag of less than $400 while true Sputniks and even high end replicas can sell for upwards of $1,000.


The custom fixtures are made with the utmost attention to detail. The metal spines are crafted from high quality wire and can be adorned with hand painted wood beads for an explosive effect.


Along with chandeliers, the shop also offers handsome wall sconces and table lamps. I could see a pair of urchin sconces above a buffet in a dining room or flanking the bed in a master bedroom. A single sconce near a rocking chair or glider would be so adorable in a nursery.

After discovering this inspiring little shop, I was delighted to find out more about the maker and designer behind the pieces. The shop is the result of a creative collaboration between a visual display manager and an engineer. Zach Dutton, one half of the Stimulight duo, is a visual display designer for West Elm. Yes, THE West Elm. I’m a huge fan of West Elm so it’s really no surprise that I’m drawn to the experimental lighting gig spurred by one of their designers. I don’t think this newly introduced tangent shop will be sitting on the sidelines for long!

What do you think of these affordable spins on a vintage design? Are you a fan of West Elm too?

images: Stimulight

You already saw our kitchen go from this…

…to this…

Yeah. That was a complete gut job. Since then, we’ve been doing what we do best. Tweaking.

We originally installed four open shelves near the range. They were totally functional and got me on the open-shelving-in-the-kitchen bandwagon but left a lot to be desired. The white MDF boards got lost against the light-colored wall and looked a little meh. A reader with a keen eye also noted that the shelves seemed too low and would look better if they were in line with the hood.

We lived with them that way for a few months. I really liked having our everyday serving ware {plates, bowls, glasses, etc.} out in the open for quick access but felt that something was off. I went back through my kitchen inspiration photos and noted that many incorporated wood shelving. And after I looked further, I noticed that {as the wise reader above had suggested} the open shelving was in line with either: 1) a range hood 2) wall cabinets or 3) both. Aha!

I mentioned to HH that I thought the shelves would look better if they were raised so that the top shelves were in line with the hood and the bottom shelves were in line with the bottom of our wall cabinets {on the perpendicular walls}. He just looked at me.

He didn’t say a word but I’m pretty sure he was thinking, “What?! I just hung those shelves. They’re not going anywhere.”

Then I added, “And wouldn’t it be nice if we could find some reclaimed wood to replace the MDF?”

Still, the look and no words. This is what HH has to put up with on a daily basis. Have pity on him.

But I had planted a seed. And eventually it sprouted some roots because a few weeks later HH told me we had a few fence boards leftover from our DIY ‘love’ headboard. On top of that, they were 1″ thick – exactly what we needed. He thought we had enough to replace the MDF shelf boards. He also said something about installing a backsplash while he was at it.

I love that man.

I’ll have full-on ‘how we did it’ posts next week but feast your eyes on this…

How you like dem apples?

First, let’s discuss the most obvious tweak. The backsplash.

We chose 2″x12″ white subway tile and a contrasting warm gray grout.

We decided to tile up to the hood but not to the ceiling because we really didn’t want the hood to be an ‘in your face’ focal point from the adjoining family room.

Likewise, we chose to only go three tiles high with the rest of the backsplash. Don’t get me wrong. I do enjoy an entire wall of tile now and again but when it’s visible from a not-so-utilitarian space {like our wide open adjoining family room} then it feels a little cold to me. Not to mention, keeping our backsplash minimal saved us time and money. Unless your kids are doing the cooking in your house {in which case TELL ME YOUR SECRET}, you really don’t need a backsplash that extends to the ceiling.

It’s hard to tell from this shot but the low backsplash wraps around under the microwave.

No backsplash along the desk area. I’m reserving the under-cabinet space for an inspiration board, memos, reminders, etc.

Now for the less obvious tweak. The reclaimed wood shelves…

Seriously. They might be my favorite thing in the entire kitchen. Besides the skylights. The wood is old fence boards from HH’s family farm back in Pennsylvania. Like I mentioned, it was from the same lot that we used to DIY our previous headboard. {Don’t worry. HH sealed it so there’s no risk of contaminating our dishes with nasty chemicals or harmful dust.}

This shot shows how the raised shelves follow the lines of the kitchen better. I liken their new, higher position to a good {not Joan Rivers} facelift. It’s like that’s where they were supposed to be all along. Oh, and I have no problem reaching stuff on the shelves at their current height. At 5’4″, that was a slight concern for me but, turns out, it’s just like reaching up into a wall cabinet for something on the bottom or middle shelves.

The wood isn’t perfect. It’s bowed and warped which did pose somewhat of a challenge to hang. It has an aged patina that can’t be bought and only comes with time. We purposefully left some of the old paint on the boards.

Each shelf is actually made up of two boards placed side by side. Since we reused the IKEA brackets, HH had to cut the boards length and width wise to fit. Even though there are two boards and they aren’t perfectly smooth, it’s not enough to make our dishes wobble precariously above us.

I love the function of the open shelving so much that I bought two more brackets and we added a low shelf over near the fridge for easy water drinking. {See how the backsplash continues along this wall?} The height of the shelf is in line with the backsplash and still allows us to utilize the electrical outlets properly. This corner needs work. I want to hang the paper towel roll and I’ll probably remove the coffee maker since we rarely use it.

HH was worried the area under the shelf would be wasted but it’s perfect for storing cutting boards.

Some more shots because I can’t enough of the reclaimed wood and it’s Friday!

The mix of the shiny white tile, glass globe pendants, stainless steel brackets & appliances, weathered wood shelves, warm walnut island top, dark lower cabinetry and aluminum stools are so us. We love the contrast of light + dark, old + modern, shiny + matte.

I still have a short list of things to add to the kitchen, mostly final touches and accessories: window treatment, rug, maybe some hooks under the lower shelves near the range for towels/kitchen tools, wall art to the left of the window, etc.

Last week, one reader guessed another addition to the kitchen…

Cabinet lighting. {I’ve yet to paint those damn french doors. Why?! It’s not that hard!}

HH installed it himself. I have no idea how. I’m clueless when it comes to electrical work. I do know our electrician-in-law {who did the rest of the electrical work on the house} ran supply wire and hooked it up to switches so the cabinet lighting turns on/off with the flip of a switch. Presto! If you have any questions about it, feel free to ask in the comments section and maybe HH can answer them. I’m sorry. I have no desire to be an electrician.

But I do love what lighting can do for a space. I wish I could capture the ambience of the cabinet lighting at night. It’s the only lighting we use in the great room in the evenings after the kids are tucked in bed, lunches are packed for the next day and the kitchen is cleaned up. Cabinet lighting – that’s about as romantic as we get, people.

One last thing before I go…THANK YOU for voting for Mabrey’s room in the Room for Color contest over on Apartment Therapy. We won the dark division! I couldn’t have done it without you.

Have a happy weekend! I’ll be attempting a weekend warrior project that involves paint. Fingers crossed the kids cooperate.

Click here to see who won this week’s Bona giveaway.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

10.25.12 / All Lit Up

Ever since I can remember I’ve always had a weird obsession with peeking in people’s homes at night. Okay, that sounds weird. But it’s not the people I’m looking at. I’m looking at the house. The innards of the house. There’s something about seeing lights on, a TV flickering and pictures on the walls that grabs my attention. When I drive by my favorite local homes at night, I slow down in hopes of catching a glimpse inside. Total stalker. I know.

The weather was so beautiful tonight {I’ll take upper 70’s and sunshine in late October anytime Mother Nature} that I slipped outside to peek into my own house for fun and realized that I’ve totally forgotten to show you the exterior lighting we added to the Underdog. Forgive me. Also, please forgive the aftermath of our new hardscaping. Yes, that is the original screen door lying horizontally propped up against the house and a wheelbarrow to the left of the picture window and a hose reel on top of the brick planter. Junking up the front yard. We’re cool like that. If you look closely, you can see our grassy lawn too!

Our electrician-in-law urged us to go with exterior downlighting installed under the eaves. HH and I hadn’t really thought too much about exterior lighting and, if our EIL hadn’t mentioned downlighting, we probably would have added landscaping up lights instead. We’re so happy that we went with the downlighting! Our EIL placed the recessed lighting so that it washes flat areas of the brick facade. We like that it warms up the brick and gives it a soft glow. That way there’s no annoying bright light shining in through any windows to the interior.

Are  you peeping in my window? Haha! That’s okay. I’ll let you look in mine if you let me look in yours.

You can see in this picture how the lighting is placed closer to the house to illuminate the brick {accent lighting} and then further out from the front door to act as task lighting. The gray heart is covering our house number. Seriously. How does one see a house number that small from the road anyways? We might as well not have one. Which is why we have plans to replace it with larger, more modern numbers down the road. Well, not literally down the road. You know what I mean.

After living with standard incandescent flood lights for only a few months and almost all of them burning out, HH decided to look into replacing them with LED’s. I was leery. Typically, I don’t like LED’s because I associate them with a cold blue light that feels sterile – not warm. HH did some research {the man loves his research} and found a Sylvania 50W 2700K soft white flood light. It’s an LED good for 50,000 hours but gives off that warm glow I love so much. HH tracked a bunch down when they were on closeout a few weeks ago, hitting up several different Lowe’s stores to acquire enough for our house. Even at the sale price, these bad boys weren’t cheap. We paid $39.97 a pop! But they’re guaranteed to last three years or we get a full replacement. Sweet. If you’re interested, this is the newer available version.

The back of the house has downlighting too. And two new patios {!}. We’re replacing the back lights with LED’s as they burn out. We don’t turn on the back lights as frequently. You can see one light is burnt out now and needs replaced.

And because I like peeking in houses at night so much, here’s a shot of mine. Complete with kid lunches on the island in preparation of school tomorrow.

I’ve been wanting to reveal the kitchen backsplash in a true before-and-after post when the kitchen is put back together. But, what the heck!, I’m keeping it real and showing you what it looks like right now. We went with this 2″x12″ subway tile and contrasting epoxy grout in a warm gray. I love subway tile but was afraid that traditional subway tiles would have looked too busy…too many grout lines. {FYI – We’ll be using this same tile but with white grout on the walls in the kid/guest bathroom!}

You also might have noticed that we backsplashed {yes, I just made “backsplash” a verb} sparingly. We tiled up to the hood above the range and only three tiles high the rest of the way. Why didn’t we tile the entire wall? After all, I love me a focal wall tiled all the way to the ceiling. Well, three reasons: 1) It was cheaper not to. 2) It was easier not to. 3) I didn’t want the wall to be a focal wall because you see it from the front door and family room. We did something similar with the backsplash in our previous home because the kitchen, dining room and family room were all open to one another and liked the results so figured we’d go that route again.

HH removed the open shelving to install the backsplash. Once it was down, I decided I didn’t like the previous placement. While it was perfectly fine to reach and use, it was too low visually. Here’s a picture from a few weeks ago to jog your memory.

One reader recommended raising the shelves to incorporate the hood. I looked back through several inspiration photos and discovered that most of them had an open shelf in line with the bottom of the hood. I think putting the top shelves in line with the hood and the bottom shelves in line with the bottom of the wall cabinets is the way to go.

HH really doesn’t want to drill new holes and patch the old ones but I got him on board by saying it will be one of those little things that makes a big difference design-wise. We’ll be reusing the stainless steel brackets but replacing the white MDF shelving boards with reclaimed fence boards. I can’t wait to see the results of this little tweak!

What about you? Are you a legal Peeping Tom like me? Have you added exterior lighting to your house? Are you tweaking your kitchen? Did you notice anything else new that I didn’t mention? ;)

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking