Photo Pool Challenge: Kitchen Lighting

Above is a photo of our kitchen, currently under construction. We’re doing some plumbing work to the right of the fireplace. Once that’s finished, we’ll restore all the moldings in the room, stain the bead board, plaster and paint. The question is, before we plaster, should we put in two points for sconces on each of the short ends of the room? Also, what ceiling fixture should replace the one in the middle of the ceiling? We’re thinking about pendants with flat opal glass shades for over the sink. Though actually we don’t mind the bare Edison bulbs that are there now too much. What about you? What are you using or thinking of using for kitchen lighting? Please share your photos and ideas here. Thanks!




Photo of opal pendant light by Vintage Barn Lights

21 Comment

  • I like this post! Very old-school brownstoner. Mix and match vintage sconces? Or would that look too much like a Brooklyn restaurant c. 2011?

    For practicality, maybe a ceiling fan?

    Something simple, but with good light? It’s a shame they don’t make vintagey oens with milk glass sconces. (Or maybe they do, but I looked._)

  • I thought I was the only weird person that doesn’t mind bare Edison bulbs. We have a few in our house and I actually like them. Love the idea of a pendant, but we have one in our garden level and I hit my head on that damn thing more times I can count – but that is probably because it’s hung in a really dumb place.

    Here is a photo of some salvage fixtures we are hoping to incorporate into our house some day. Currently working on getting them functional again. Not sure where they will eventually go. Maybe kitchen?

  • @heather my mom has two ceiling fans like these in her kitchen:

    she changed out the sconces in favor of vintage milk glass ones, it looks nice!

  • Thanks for your advice! So do you think we could not go wrong putting in sconces on each of the short ends? One would go between the two windows pictured above, and the other would be more or less opposite, between two doors above where you see that little table. Or we could put shelves there, and a lamp…??? I don’t know, will it look too cluttered? It’s a huge room and probably could use more light. There is also a light above the fridge. (Another bare Edison bulb.) I agree with Heather’s point — this kitchen suffers from too many different styles of lighting fixtures.

  • Oh, and that ceiling light above the table isn’t centered in the room nor is it centered over the table, which makes me hesitate to use a pendant there, since it would call attention to the poor placement. (And we can’t really change it, since the ceiling is tin.)

  • Yeah, Cate, I think pendants would really lock you in on table placement and the like and would be a pain in the forehead above the sink. I think you’ll be unhappy unless the kitchen, particularly work spaces, is well lit. It may be too hard to make it work with old-ish fixtures. You may need solutions that are modern and functional but stay out of the way.

    I agree with heather that this is exactly the kind of thread that made the site fun in the old days.

  • Thanks, Slopefarm. We’re somewhat limited by the tin ceiling. Can’t do recessed lighting, can’t change the footprint of the center-ceiling fixture because there’s a pretty big hole there. We could do Edison bulbs everywhere, plus sconces. Or something like that. Any other nominations for fixtures? Reproductions are fine.

  • Lots of retro choices at Rejuvenation Lighting:
    Nice quality; I used one of their schoolhouse fixtures in my kitchen.

  • Are you thinking of something like this in white for the sconces?

    If you are thinking along those lines–small/vintage–then I would suggest adding three instead of just one. 1 on the left of the left window, 1 in the center of the windows, and 1 on the right of the right window. If the sconces are on the small side I think you can get away with it. It would certainly provide more light, which it looks like you desperately need! We had a very similar issue with our kitchen pre-renovation. For the opposite wall, you could do one in between the doors, or match the spacing from the windows.

    I like the two bare bulbs over the sink. Have you thought about putting a mirror over the sink so that you can see out to your garden while doing dishes? Maybe an old 4 pane window with mirrors instead of glass? It could also have a small “sill” which you could use as a shelf to put some containers/doodads. If the window frame is beat up enough it won’t look too kitschy or shabby-chic. Whatever mirror matches your intended look would help move light around in the room and make it appear brighter.

    If the lights in the ceiling are not centered, I would avoid using a pendant light in those spots. It will just make you notice that it’s off center imho.

    It’s sort of off topic, but I see you have a radiator to deal with. I’ve recently seen in a few British home magazines photos of radiators painted in such pretty and surprising colors. One was painted a bright daffodil yellow in a dark navy room and the other was painted a light pink in a white room. Both looked amazing and very cheery. Food for thought!

  • Love the cabinets & sink! Can’t suggest any lighting but strongly recommend ceiling fan. Don’t worry that it’s off-center. Many think they are unfashionable but they are so practical that it just doesn’t make sense not to use them, especially in a kitchen. Here’s what I’ve used in all rooms, including partially vintage kitchen. Modern but really not very noticeable.

    please, I agree with others, more threads like this one

    Good luck with renovations!

  • Cate – what else are you doing besides the lighting for the kitchen? I feel compelled to write in and ask that more (some?) counters be put in–a real functioning kitchen needs it!

  • For those who are interested, this kitchen originally had only one light, a j-hook just to the side of the fireplace above the sink. I’m sure they supplemented with kerosene lamps, but still, what a dim and dark place it must have been. The original wall color was a dark green, not quite hunter, more like the oven mitt hanging there or parrot green. With the red brick fireplace and dark stained bead board, it must have been quite an attractive Victorian scheme.

  • For those who are interested, this kitchen originally had only one light, a j-hook just to the side of the fireplace above the sink. I’m sure they supplemented with kerosene lamps, but still, what a dim and dark place it must have been. The original wall color was a dark green, not quite hunter, more like the oven mitt hanging there or parrot green. With the red brick fireplace and dark stained bead board, it must have been quite an attractive Victorian scheme.

  • Thanks, everyone, this is really helpful. I admit a ceiling fan had never crossed my mind, but I will look into it. More ventilation cannot hurt. Re the sconces, we were thinking something like Rejuvination’s Carlton, which we have in the baths. I was thinking single arm, but now that I look at the space, a double might fit better. Re other aspects of the kitchen remodel, that will be the subject of another post! We are not planning to build counters, but we have to do something with more-functional tables. Here’s the light fixture:

  • Catboot, I like your vintage fixtures, especially the one for the single bulb. Those two-bulb ones were common in bedrooms, and could work anywhere, I think.

  • Add one more vote for the ceiling fan. We have ours going most of the summer and they drastically cut the need for air conditioning. We just have the Hunter fans that came with the house, but if we ever moved, I’d make sure to install them throughout a new house.

  • I think you need to think about where you need light to work – not about how it will look (in determining placement and sconces, and such). So, you definitely need to light that sink area, and the stove, the area in front of the fridge, and the table.

    You are not limited by your ceiling, I don’t think, to center a hanging light over your table. You simply buy a chandelier-type with a chain (in whatever style you like) and attach it to the electtrical box that’s there – then, to center it, add a hook in the ceiling that you loop the chain of the fixture onto, and you have your lamp centered over the table. This also gives you the option of raising the lamp when you want – say, keeping it fairly low over the table for dining, raising it out of the way (by putting a different loop of the chain over the hook) when you move the table to clean, move furniture, or have a big party where you move the table elsewhere. I don’t know what’s under your tin, but there have to be beams of some sort you can attach a hook to securely in order to support the weight of the lighting fixture.

    Secondly, think about your habits before you install a ceiling fan in the kitchen. If you cook meat, or even if you don’t but saute vegetables, your fan blades will get covered with a layer of grease that is not as easy to clean as the usual layer of dust that collects. This will be especially true if you don’t have a hood over your stove that vents to the outside (maybe this is included in your reno plans.) I find that even cleaning dust tends to unbalance the fan blades if I’m not careful – I’d hate to try to clean off grease. (You could, alternately, just replace the fan blades when they got disgusting.) If you do go for a ceiling fan anyway, I wouldn’t put it over the table – papers and stuff on it will fly off. I’d put it elsewhere in the room, not centered over the table. Actually, I might not put one in this room at all, much as I like them. If you don’t have plans for a vent hood, I’d either install a portable twin fan in the window you can turn on when you cook to vent the place (one fan turned to suck air in, the other to draw it out), or else look into installing one of those old fashioned fans high up in the wall, up high, that will suck hot air right out of the room to the backyard. Looks like you have a hole in the wall there already from the old stove vent.

    You don’t need to worry about having different lighting styles in the room – just pick ones that work well together, usually meaning the same sort of style, from the same design era. I’d go with something of the era and general style of the house – not barn or country style.

    You want some lighting directly above the sink. You might also want something simple direcly above the stove, high up. (I just stayed in a vacation rental this past weekend where the dearth of light above the sink and stove had me move the floor lampt from the living room to light those areas so I could cook.) If you don’t want to cut into the ceiling a above the stove, you could maybe attach lighting to the wall there. Or, when people do want to run electrical wire and not go through the ceiling, they often run the wire inside little metal casings to where they want it – when run in the corner where the ceiling meets the wall and painted, it is not all that visible.

    Whether you go with sconces on the short walls should be determined by whether you need them there to provide light after you plan your main task area lights. You might, you might not. I don’t think they will light your task areas (sink, stove, table) sufficiently, but they may add needed ambient room light, if you need more once you’ve lighted those areas directly. This will depend on the wattage and spread of whatever center and pendant lights you install. You might also want to add some interior lighting into those lovely glass-door cupboard you have to add more ambient light to the room, and to highlight those nice tall cupboards.

    Also, if you do want to change the ceiling electrical connection placements, many of the old tin patterns are available in reproduction – either in small squares or longer strips. If you can find your pattern, you could likely do patches around your electrical work that might look almost seamless when painted.

  • This is amazingly informative. Please, keep this coming, if anyone has any more thoughts.

  • Brokelin is probably right about the ceiling fan getting gross… although cleaning the blades isn’t that hard, and I wonder if one of those indoor/outdoor ones with a sealed electronic system would make it easier to deal with? Ours is over our dining room and I’ve never had any issues with paper blowing.

    But I wanted to add, one thing I’m slightly obsessed with: Hoosier cabinets. Why install custom cabinets when you’ve got the floor space for one or two of them? It would be totally in keeping with the look of the kitchen, I think.

  • it’s worth considering that you can use the existing ceiling fixture for power and hang a chandelier type light over a bit from that (ie over your table), you’d just need to add a hanger to the spot where you want the light and accept that a extension cord looking wire will span from old fixture to new… not so different from a lamp in a room, just on the ceiling (and with a white cord against white ceiling not even as bad as a lamp in a room really).

    We did this in our kitchen and kept the base of old ceiling fan out from which sprouts a white extension cord type cable which connects to homemade chandelier my husband made from hardware store parts (it’s a awesome chandelier by the way) which hangs from a hook… approx 2 feet away.