Renovation & Design

Luminate before you create

Enhancing kitchen lighting always a bright upgrade

During the drywall mudding, sanding and painting stages, the LEDs were temporarily left to dangle.

After establishing the dimensions and specifications for the build, the lumber framework was mounted.

Photos by Marc LaBossiere / Winnipeg Free Press

The size and placement of the custom lightbox was determined by the old fluorescent box location.

Inadequate kitchen lighting is a travesty. Whether novice or professional, any chef will attest that cooking in a dimly lit environment is detrimental to culinary success. There are the obvious lighting alternatives and solutions. In some instances, however, it becomes necessary to get creative with a custom, ‘space-specific’ lighting design.

Sometime this spring, a site visit to the home of a potential client revealed the most unfortunate kitchen lighting I’d seen to date. The kitchen itself is set in the back corner of the house’s footprint and boasts a multi-sloped ceiling whereby the seam at the highest elevation runs along the hypotenuse of the room, from one corner above the upper cupboards to the opposing corner. As such, the existing kitchen lighting fixture, an undersized rectangular box of fluorescent bulbs, was mounted to the ceiling on one of the flat surfaces before the seam. Essentially, the multi-sloped ceiling prevented the fixture from being centred within the space and rested awkwardly along one of the angled ceiling planes which in turn, drastically reduced the amount of lighting on the opposite side of the room. The homeowner had had enough.

The first obstacle was the multi-slope ceiling would it be feasible to introduce new pot lights along the two angled planes? Certainly, but the overall aesthetics would suffer as the removal of the existing fluorescent box would unveil the mounting locations which in the stipple, could not easily be hidden adequately. Therefore, after pondering the matter for a few moments, I suggested creating a level plane upon which the new pot lights could be mounted. It would be a custom design that would also cater to the multi-sloped ceiling, and middle hypotenuse seam. A quick sketch allowed the homeowners to better visualize my concept, and the design was subsequently refined and finalized.

Once the hectic summer build season began to slowly wind down, a start date for the kitchen lighting project was confirmed.

The first day, the old fluorescent box was removed entirely. Exact measurements were taken to establish the minimum size of the impending ceiling framework to both hide all evidence of the old fluorescent box, as well as center the custom ceiling feature. Once marked, the elevations for the underside of the custom lightbox from the grade of the dual-sloped ceiling were calculated based on the degree of slope, at set intervals. To confirm these heights, the two low side of the ceiling horizontal framing boards were fastened directly to the ceiling and a string line was hung temporarily along the high side, onto a pre-cut vertical support at the opposite corner. Once everything checked out, the other two horizontal boards were fastened to that initial vertical support. With the main perimeter of the structure established and level, the intermediate horizontal framing was introduced within the structure at 16-inch intervals. As well, multiple vertical ‘hangers’ were set along the perimeter framework wherever the tops could be securely fastened to the ceiling trusses, a step repeated for the inner horizontal framework as well.

With the entire ceiling structure securely mounted (tested by hanging from it myself), electrical wire was pre-positioned along the inner cavity to the intended six locations for the new four-inch LED gimbal pot lights. Drywall was fastened first along the underside of the structure, and the sides received the same sheathing. As the structure had now begun to take shape, a four-inch auger bit was used to drill through the underside of the newly created level plane at the pre-marked locations for the LEDs. Once the holes were completed, the wiring was pulled through each, and all six lights were connected to the existing circuit that had powered the old fluorescent box. A dimmer switch replaced the old toggle, and a quick test revealed success — and boy oh boy was there a lot of light! The homeowner was ecstatic.

The next stages included taping the drywall seams, and corner bead along all outside 90-degree edges of the ceiling feature. Over the following four mornings, subsequent coats of mud were added using a wider and wider trowel. By the final day, all surfaces of the newly built lighting box were smooth, and ready for sanding in preparation of the painting stage. On the final day of the project, the lights were temporarily dismounted from their locations, allowed to dangle while the entire structure was sanded, and the subsequent priming and painting was completed soon-thereafter. Due to the bold nature of the feature’s shape against the existing slopes of the kitchen ceiling, a flat white premium kitchen paint was chosen, not necessarily because it better blend in with the white stipple ceiling, more so to minimize having the new feature stand out ‘too much’. And just like that, the kitchen now has a centered lighting feature that provides an abundant amount of light, evenly distributed throughout the entire kitchen space by adjusting the tilt of each gimbal pot.

That old fluorescent box lighting mounted off-centre in that kitchen, hung there awkwardly for over two decades. And any attempt by the homeowners to locate an alternative ‘off-the-shelf’ lighting solution had proven irrevocably futile. Over time, their frustration yielded to determination, and the hunt for a solution to their kitchen lighting albatross culminated into a very cool custom ceiling light design. Fortunately, the search for better lighting is over, and their kitchen is now extremely well lit — thank goodness, ‘cuz meals always taste better when the chef can see what they are doing.


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