Home Improvement

And Then There Was Light

Even though we declared our kitchen project done over a month ago, there are still little dangling tasks hanging over our heads. Some, quite literally. See that shadeless stick of a pendant hanging down from the ceiling in the fireplace area?

That old pendant has been broken forever (despite me fixing it once already) so that half of the room has been cloaked in darkness for months. Well, or least in comparison to the rest of the room which has been light and bright since our little lighting overhaul during the kitchen reno.

Our temporary lighting solution has been this floor lamp tucked in the corner. But it too has woes of its own. One of the switches broke, so leaning over behind the chair and unplugging it/plugging it in is now the only way to turn it off or on. Not the end of the world, but not the nicest thing on the ol’ back when you’re doing it multiple times a day. We were over it after a few weeks and it has been the routine for a few months now.

We even grew to call it the Bend & Snap (Legally Blonde, anyone?) – and although it makes the “exercise” mildly more entertaining, we were always keeping our eyes peeled for the perfect replacement for the broken ceiling pendant. And it took a while to find it.

The struggle that we were having was finding something that doesn’t compete with the other pendants in the room. We wanted something pretty flush (since I’m a tall guy and I didn’t want anything that felt too close to my head in such an open area), but nothing boob-light-ish. Oddly enough a ton of flush mount lights in our price range were what Sherry affectionately calls boob lights. Any lighting industry peeps listening? There’s a hole in the market for good clean-lined and simple, not-curvy flush mounted fixtures that don’t cost an arm and a leg. Sure there are a few crisp drum shade-ish options, but not the same insanely wide variety that there are for their buxom counterparts (frosted boob lights, marbled boob lights, ORBed boob lights, etc).


Finally, at our recent trip to Ikea, we came across Aläng. Let’s just call him Alan for short. No wait, let’s do Alän since I just learned how to type that umlaut and I’m feeling proud of myself (ALT+U then whatever letter you want under it, fyi).

Anyways, Alän came in two sizes and we got the larger 18″ version for $40. Gotta love Ikea prices (many 18″ drum shades alone are around $40 without the light itself). But like most Ikea pieces, he required assembly – giving me flashbacks to assembling Max in our bedroom.

It wasn’t that bad, though. First I had to pop each of the three light sockets into the central fixture. Easy. Though it created a bit of a jumble of wires that made me raise an eyebrow.


But it looks like Ikea was one step of ahead of me, having already placed clips and channels to wrangle the cords. My eyebrow returned to its default position.


You can see how the wires are held against the sides of the central fixture in the pic below. Though I actually took this picture to show off how Space Invader-y this thing was starting to look once I added the spokes that would eventually hold the shade in place.

With the light as assembled as it could be without actually attaching it to the ceiling, I flipped off the power to the whole house (since neither our fusebox nor my memory is labelled well enough to be sure what breaker controls what) and began removing the old light.

With old light out, Alän could begin taking his pläce. Here’s he is all wired up and ready to be set flush against the ceiling.

The system that secures the central fixture to the ceiling is kinda just a glorified zip tie, which was a little strange to me – I’m used to screws and bolts for these things. But it was easy and seemed to work great, so I shouldn’t complain.

Then came turning the power back on to make sure my wiring was successful (it was). Oh and these incandescent bulbs were the only bulbs that we had three of at the time – but we’ve since replaced them with… wait for it… LEDs! And we love them so far. We’ll have to give you a full report down the road as to how they last and how we like them over time. But they give off a really nice bright glow and we love that they should last an unbelievably long time and save us loot in the long run.

But back to hanging the shade. You may be wondering how it’s secured. Well, those little spokey dudes are MAGNETIC. Yup they’re tiny, very very strong magnets. Like the Altoids of magnets.

This, like the zip tie, they had me doubtful at first – but as soon as I felt the shade snap firmly into place with pretty surprising force I was all smiles. It was easy and quick to do and I’m pretty sure I don’t have to worry about it falling on my head anytime soon (but if I did, the shade is pretty darn light anyways).

This is one of those can’t-capture-the-true-beauty items that we own, but in person everyone who walks in comments on it. This picture is the closest thing to showing the pretty subtle woven detail and the soft glow that it gives off. Update: lots of folks are asking if it gives off a lot of light, it’s not a glowing beacon that blinds you or anything but it should definitely be bright enough for a decent sized room or hallway. It only takes three twenty watt bulbs, but if you use CFLs or LEDs, they give off a lot more light at lower wattages.

Of course that awesome subtle texture is lost in further away pics (but oddly enough, not in person – maybe because these pics are much smaller than life sized?), but here’s Alän from further away. Ta-DÄH!

I don’t know why I stood semi to majorly off-center to take the shot above and the shot below, but in person it’s centered exactly between the two beams and it lines up with the mirror if you stand in the right spot. Düh.

But enough with the celebratory umlauts. In short: Sherry and I are thrilled with it. It’s pretty much exactly what we were looking for. Something that doesn’t fight for attention with the other pendants. Something that we’re not going to bump our heads my head into. And something that’s not very boob-like. Plus it helps define that area over by the fireplace and feels more in proportion with that space than a single can light (or a directional light aimed at the fireplace) that we could have installed instead (we weighed both of those options and decided a nice clean-lined shade really helped add to the “casual living zone” feeling of that side of the room).

Heck, from the kitchen side of the room when he’s off, you hardly even know he’s there.

Though when the light switches are flipped on, we definitely appreciate his presence since it means the room is (finally!) evenly lit and we no longer have to bend over to plug in that darn floor light in the corner. In fact that light has since been banned from the room. We just don’t need it anymore (huzzah! no more bending and snapping!) and now that corner with the chair looks more balanced.

It’s hard to tell in these wide room shots since it just gets kinda blown out and the detail is lost because they’re small pictures (as opposed to actually standing in the room with it, where things are all life-sized), but in person the texture is such a nice detail that makes the light look special – but not so special that it’s fighting with the more special over-sized globe pendants over the peninsula (don’t tell Alän I said that). It’s a delicate balance. Wish we could capture this guy better for you, because the photos here really don’t do him justice. You’ll all just have to come over for tea and scones or something.

So that’s one thing off of our lingering kitchen to-do list. Although Sherry and I have been talking about spray painting our stools at the peninsula (we wanted to live with them as-is for a while before making any rash decisions) and we’re still not sure which way we’ll go. We’re hunting for a more permanent rug for the living area of the kitchen (the zone in front of the fireplace), so we’ll wait to get that pinned down before making any final stool decisions. You know in case we find an awesome rug with some tone that we wanted on the chairs that would then be overkill if it was in both places. But we promise we’ll keep you posted! For now we’re just trying to enjoy having a nice, well-lit spot for our nightly dance parties with Ms. Clara. Have you guys installed any lights lately? Or had any issues finding the right flush mounted fixture? Are you currently debating painting metal stools or some other accessory in your house?



A Time of Transitions

Since sharing this photo over a month ago, some of you have asked for more detail about putting the transitions around the cork floor in our kitchen (and around the fireplace’s floor surround).

Oh but remember we’re eventually going to be refinishing the rooms with the orange wood flooring to match the darker cork tone, so it should look something like this down the line (pardon the bad photoshop):

Finding the right thing for the job was a bit of an effort on our part since our Lisbon Cork doesn’t come with matching transitions. In fact, the guy at Lumber Liquidators recommended against any kind of cork transition because they’re not as durable as a harder wood when it comes to the kicks and bumps that transitions may have to withstand. Lumber Liquidators sold oak transitions that we could’ve stained to match (I think the price was around $45 for a 72″ piece), but I found an engineered option at Home Depot for $27 that was a pretty darn close match already. The only bummer was they only carried 48″ pieces in stock, so I had to special order the 72″ pieces (and then wait a few weeks for them to arrive at the store where I could pick them up) which is why only our shorter doorways got transition-ed back when we finished the floor in March. So yeah, it was about time we got on the rest of them.

 When it comes to installing transitions on cork floors, there aren’t a lot of tutorials out there (at least not that I could find) so while I’d love to create one, I’m not sure I’d call my methods perfect – but I’ll tell you guys about my process so at least there’s something out there on the ol’ internet. Since I didn’t photograph the process of putting in the transition above back when we finished the kitchen, let’s follow the story of this guy instead (who we finally tackled last week).

Since we installed our floating cork floor over an existing floor (due to an asbestos liner under our vinyl tile), our transitions have a smidge of a step down. Around 1/4-1/2″ because the existing floor was already a tiny bit higher than the original hardwood in the dining room (keep in mind these rooms didn’t connect like this until we made them). In instances where hardwood floors aren’t the same level, you need a transition piece called a “reducer.” I’m sorry the photo below looks like a hand puppet choking on a giant piece of wood, but you’ll see how one side slopes down and one side steps up – that’s how it connects a slightly lower floor to a slightly higher one without making a big bump that everyone trips over. The key to the most seamless look is to keep it gradual and not go for anything that looks crazy curved, like the letter C.

 Once I stripped the plastic off of them (that’s what looks marked up in the third picture), I drew a line with a ballpoint pen where I needed to cut it in order to get a good fit. Then I made the slice with my miter saw.

Some of the tutorials I read suggested using adhesive to keep the transitions in place. All of the transitions in our house are nailed in, and that’s how the transitions were in our last house too – so I decided to go that route again. Since we haven’t purchased a nail gun (although we do plan to take that plunge soon), I pre-set the nail into the wood before putting it into place in the doorway by partially banging it in with a piece of scrap wood underneath to get it started (pre-drilling a very small hole could also work, especially if you worry about your transition splitting).

Here’s how I was positioning the transition along the doorway. Since this was the most drastic drop, I actually rested the small lip on the high end on the top of the cork to keep it in place.

After banging it all in to get things flush (tip: we like using a $3 nail punch to avoid denting the wood), it actually came out looking pretty good. And now it’s no longer the toe-stubbing hazard that it’s been for the last four months, though we’ve somehow dodged getting tripped up on it (perhaps because the for-now floor color change makes it so obvious).

The transition along the hallway was pretty much the same exact process, so I’ll skip right to how we finally tackled the unfinished fireplace. It was an interesting case since it has corners that I had to miter, but I just cut 45 degree angles with my miter saw after measuring the length of each side. You might remember seeing the raw edge most recently in this post.

Right now the fireplace is lower than the cork, so we needed to use the reducers again. It’s kind weird, but it’s only temporary (once we find tile that we love enough not to feel like we’re settling, we’re planning to retile this area, which will raise things up so it’s all flush and we’ll scrap these tide-us-over-for-now transitions).

But for now, our transition trim actually works pretty well. It’s so funny how sometimes these little steps like trimming something out can make such a big difference when it comes to something looking polished and complete. Three cheers for no more raw edges!

Here’s a view from the hallway of the new transition in that doorway (and the fireplace beyond it). Oh and yes, that is a giant faux clam shell in the fireplace. It was the item from our Joss & Main collection that we bought for ourselves (you know how Sherry is about giant fake clam shells…). It’s huge and probably weighs twice as much as Clara, but oddly enough at least five of our friends/relatives have asked where they can get one for their empty fireplace. Haha, let’s start a clam-shell-in-the-fireplace movement.

And now for a shot of all three freshly transitioned-areas at once. Ta-dah! We have officially trimmed out our way to a completed cork floor. Don’t mind the place-holder rug in there (it’s leftover from our first kitchen, but would love to replace it someday).

Anyone else have any transition adventures? Or need to take care of some doorways around their house? I was so surprised there weren’t as many cork transition posts on the interweb as I thought there’d be. In the words of Keenan Thompson: what up with that?