Brownstone Boys: It’s Electric-al!

A new switch box ready for our smart dimmers


    Editor’s note: Welcome to the 21st installment of Brownstone Boys Reno, a reader renovation diary about renovating a brownstone in Bed Stuy. See the first one here. They also blog at

    Our place currently looks like an episode of Stranger Things. Wires are hanging from the ceiling and weaving through the walls. They bundle together where holes are cut and then disburse to fixtures and switches. With all said, it’s moving pretty quickly and even just getting to the electrical phase feels like a major milestone. It’s one big step closer to closing up the walls!

    There is a lot of electrical work to be done. We’re rewiring the entire brownstone and fixing some interesting prior work. There are a handful of light fixtures and outlets that are staying in the same place, but 90 percent are new or being moved.

    The current placement of the switches honestly feels like someone intentionally wanted us to walk the entire room to find a switch. There are single switches everywhere rather than being grouped together and sometimes even installed behind doors.

    Imagine this: Open the door, feel for the switch on the wrong wall in the dark room, bump into furniture, close door, curse the person who decided installing the switch behind the door was the right thing to do. No thanks!

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    A new switch box ready for our smart dimmers

    Interestingly, there is only 20 amps running to the main panel in the duplex. We need to upgrade that to at least 60 amps. Even more interesting, for some unknown reason the previous owner ran some things in the garden rental unit from the duplex panel two levels above rather than from the panel in the actual garden unit. It’s a bit of a mess, and we are happy to get it straightened out.

    Upgrading the lighting is one place where we feel we have a big opportunity to create the design and aesthetic we want. Even where the moldings and woodwork will be original, a modern light fixture will bring the place up to 2020. We’re going to have a nice big chandelier above the dining table, three pendants over the kitchen island, and sconces with Edison bulbs (we’re still fans 😬) in the hallways.

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    A hole cut to expose the web of wiring running from the panel to various lights and switches

    Another way we have the opportunity to modernize is by installing smart switches on all of our lights. We’re big fans of dimmers (Barry hates bright light) and while it can be more costly, we feel it is more than worth the extra expense. We’re going to keep it relatively simple and opt for WiFi enabled dimmer switches that can be controlled through a smart phone app and set to schedules and timers.

    We’re going to skip the more upgraded option of installing a central hub and control panel. I’m sure there are advantages we aren’t aware of, but being able to control almost every light in the house from anywhere in the world (or just the couch) is plenty for us. Honestly it will take some getting used to as we have never had such modern technology in a house but dimming all lights on the parlor level with one click from the couch might not take too long to become our norm.

    A modern pendant for our entrance that we are obsessed with. These fixtures from Stickbulb are made from recycled Brooklyn water towers

    Finally, a big part of our plan is to run electrical for a mini split AC system. We’ll post more about this later, as there were some considerations in deciding when or if to do it, and we expect it might be an ongoing saga as we go through inspections. Should be interesting, but we’ll have electrical run for a unit in each bedroom, the living/kitchen area, and the outdoor condenser.

    That’s where we are for this week. Things are moving fast so we’re looking forward to updating you again next week.

    [Photos by Brownstone Boys]

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