Interior Lighting Detail

Finally, we come to the final post on this blog that involves a stage of the project and the expenses associated with it. Whew!

Onto the subject of the post: lighting.

I came into this construction project liking one type of lighting above all others: indirect lighting. Indirect lighting usually comes in two flavors: cove lighting and sconce lighting.

That’s three sentences in a row with colons, by the way.

Cove lighting is a style of lighting that conceals the entire light fixture behind a ledge in the wall such that you only see the reflection of the light on the walls and ceiling but never the light itself. It’s a warm, subtle effect that gained popularity in midcentury design and can still be seen in modern projects today.

Sconce lighting also hides your bulbs from view but within a wall mounted fixture instead of behind a ledge. Sconces are more popular in traditional interior design than modern interior design but there are some great examples of how they can be used even in the most modern of settings.

As much as I like both of these forms of indirect lighting, we didn’t end up using them in the house. The clean, minimalist lines of the house just seemed like a better fit for recessed can lights and hanging pendants. This strategy provided us a cost-effective way of lighting most of the areas (cans) and a decorative, changeable option for selected areas like the kitchen, dining room, and great room (pendants).

For the cans, we went with some pretty standard Lightolier 4 and 5 inch enclosures which aren’t worth discussing much. All of them point straight down now but we’ll be replacing several with pointable eyeball-style ones to direct light more dramatically at a few walls.

For the pendants, we had three areas to outfit: the great room, the dining room, and the kitchen. Fortunately, we found these George Nelson Criss Cross lamps right away and ordered three of them to hang low in the great room. To light the ceiling in the great room, we went with eight fairly cheap Lite Source Olwen Contemporary 3 Light Pendants. We felt fairly confident in our choices for the great room so dropping $2000 and change for the 11 fixtures was not a huge deal.

For the dining room and kitchen, however, we were much less confident. Because we had to purchase the lights before the cabinets, floors, appliances, and furniture were in, it was a big leap of faith to purchase anything. We comprehensively scoured several major online lighting sites (with tens of thousands of items each) as well as visiting some local lighting stores. After weeks and weeks of combing, we settled on a short list (!) of about 15 fixtures for the kitchen and 15 for the dining room. We then sent the list over to team Build for their expert opinions and they whittled the list down to a few for us.

Even with the comprehensive searching and comprehensive whittling, we felt there was a good chance we wouldn’t love our choices after the rest of the house came together so we did the safe thing: we picked relatively safe, inexpensive choices from the list knowing we might replace them soon. The choice for the kitchen was four Lite Source Ethel Transitional Pendants because they matched the wenge cabinets nicely. At $57, these were a steal and ended up working out great.

For the dining room, we went with three LBL Lighting Cypree Small Pendants because they looked elegant and didn’t obscure the view from the front door through the dining room window. While these look ok, we aren’t thrilled with them because they don’t light up the ceiling in the dining room enough. Since we don’t have any cans in the dining room, we really need a fixture that will radiate light in all directions, so sadly, these are probably going to have to be replaced. We are currently looking for a light that fits the bill so if any come to mind, let me know.

Finally, if you’re looking for the best places online to look for lighting, my vote goes wholeheartedly to Their selection is fantastic, their prices are almost always the cheapest, they ship quickly and inexpensively, and their service is great as well. Two thumbs up. We also ordered lighting from Arcadian and YLighting and had good experiences. In general, however, takes the cake.

What’s next

Since all stages of construction are now documented, it’s time to start writing the wrap-up posts. There will probably be a couple of them. First up: a breakdown of the final costs. That will be coming shortly. I also need to stitch together the final time lapse. Soon.

Costs accrued during this stage:

Four kitchen pendants ($207.00
Three George Nelson Criss Cross pendants ($1,077.00
Longer cords for Nelson Balls (Seattle Lighting)$26.00
8 Lite Source LS-19147 Olwen 3 Light Pendants ($835.00
LBL Lighting Cypree Small HS463 Dining Room pendants (Arcadian Lighting)$801.00

15 Responses to “Interior Lighting Detail”

  1. Carsten Says:

    Wow, boxes.jpg is great! I think that is from an upper level, maybe where you step out of the bedroom in the morning. That’s a nice view over the lake. :-)

  2. Beautiful. But I’ve gotta ask: what’s the plan for changing the light bulbs for those short ceiling-mounted lights in the great room? Would a standard ladder even reach those?

  3. Mike D. Says:

    Adrian: Bought a 14 foot platform ladder for that. Climbing it is not for the squeamish.

  4. What will happen with this blog once you’re finished documenting the process? I think it’s a great resource for people who are entertaining the idea of having a custom home designed/built. Will you be keeping it in place as a reference for people?

  5. Mike D. Says:

    Cameron: Absolutely. That’s the primary reason I am doing this… to help others in similar situations. It will stay up forever.

  6. Sandy Says:

    Back to Mike Industries posting, please?

    Seriously Mike this effort is first class. Outstanding job.

    Thanks for sharing this!


  7. Cody Mast Says:


    This is Cody Mast. Cale told me about your blog and said my wife and I should see what you’ve done. I’m exactly the type of person you created this blog for, so a big thank you from both of us! We are in the beginning of a custom build in North Bend and I’m about as green as you get when it comes to new construction. Congratulations on your beautiful home and great blog. It will be very helpful and I am sure I will revisit often!

  8. Mike D. Says:

    What’s up Cody! Congrats on the new project. My experience was 99% positive so I wish you the same luck on yours. I definitely recommend talking to Build if you haven’t picked a contractor or architect yet.

  9. Cody Mast Says:

    Thanks Mike. I’ll talk with my wife and see how she feels. It may be a bit more modern than what we’re looking for but I imagine they are flexible. I’m impressed by how close they stuck to the budget and essentially got you more than you wanted. That says a lot.

    Take care Mike! See you at the 20!


  10. Contrarian Says:

    LOVE LOVE LOVE your house and your blog…. but I gotta say, the great room looks a little busy with all those fixtures. The Nelsons seem less special, somehow.
    If it were me, I’d take down the 4 in the middle and replace them with cans, then use those 4 grouped together (in a row or a square) in your dining room, maybe?

  11. Creative lighting solution in the Great Room . . . adds drama and sure beats recessed cans.

  12. Ashish Aleti Says:

    Hi Mike,

    I would like to ask regarding the can lighting, did you go with low voltage Halogens or line voltage Incandescent bulbs? I am at the point of deciding on the lighting and thinking about halogens, but they run pretty hot. what suggestions you received and the pros and cons associated.



  13. Mike D. Says:

    Ashish: I’m not sure why you’d go with low voltage unless you wanted really tiny lights. With line voltage, you have a ton of choices and don’t need additional transformers.

  14. Ashish Aleti Says:

    Hi Mike,

    Sorry it took me a while to get back, so we finally went with line voltage halogens everywhere. Used mostly WAC 5″ and 4″ recessed cans.

    The only place where we are using low voltage are in the showers.

    I again thank you for all the wonderful information you have here..


  15. Bhaskar Says:

    Mike, you have done an amazing work by publishing entire home construction details so meticulous with photos shared through dropbox folders. Thanks & appreciate your entire approach & details shared helping all of us.