Help Appreciated-Family Room Lighting

schicksalFebruary 21, 2014

I'm trying to figure out lighting for our family room and am looking for help. The house was built in 1959, sort of mid century modern in style and the space between the family room and kitchen is open. In the middle of the family room there's a load bearing beam that drops down (it's the gray dashed line in the layout). Right now it's all under construction and looks like this. The ceiling is about 11 feet at the high side, 8.5 feet at the low side.

Here's the layout I drew. The left side of the room is a breakfast area and it has an 8' ceiling. What I'm trying to figure out is the other part of the room...

I'd like to do recessed LED lighting like we did in the kitchen but I'm not sure of the spacing and whether a special type of fixture would be needed because the ceiling has a slight angle? I also was thinking of doing cove lighting in the areas with the red dashed lines, but I'm not sure if that really makes much sense and should be left out? There are two HVAC returns on the high wall and it might do nothing but draw attention to them. The other lighting idea was in the area with the green box. I plan on having a low entertainment center built to match the cabinets in the kitchen, wall mounting the TV with stone behind it. The idea is similar to this, with lighting from up above. I'm not sure how to pull it off though.

We were planning on having a fan, but a fan only (no light kit). We're thinking paneling (more like siding) painted white as the ceiling. Advice is totally welcome - we're quite lost when it comes to family room lighting.

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If the angle is Cove lighting could be a nice touch. However, it could cost quite a bit and requires lots of planning.

It depends on what you want the cove lighting to serve as - accent only or more?

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 10:43PM
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Thanks! That's great news about being able to use standard recessed lighting. The slope is no more than 5.3 degrees. There is advice all over talking about recessed light spacing for kitchens, but very little about living and family rooms. Any idea on that? I have found recommendations from 20 lumen/sq ft all the way to 50. I'm leaning towards the lower end due to lighting coming in from the kitchen and breakfast area. We wanted to go with LEDs on a dimmer as we did in the kitchen, maybe using some of the Cree CR4s I have left over.

The cove lighting I was thinking about would just be LED strip if bright enough. Purely for accent. The walls and ceiling are open from raising the ceiling up from 8' so I have total access to everything now. This room had no lighting circuit; that's what doing the I'm planning for.

Here's my second go at lighting. The red circles are Cree CR4s except for the one in the breakfast area labeled pendant light. The recessed overhead lighting on its own is good for 14.6 lumen/sq ft. The cover lighting has also been extended. Taking into account light coming in from the adjacent areas, does this seem adequate?

This post was edited by schicksal on Sat, Feb 22, 14 at 9:30

    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 8:28AM
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Since you have the ceiling open, is there any reason to not level the ceiling?

Typically, surfaces that are normally level are expected to be level and deviations could be construed to be defects.

Illumination in the living room could be less than that for the kitchen space which typically requires better lighting for detailed work (filleting, ...). So, yes, 20 lumens per sq ft or less.

Cove lighting could be utilized as a secondary layer of light too. If you intend to use low voltage lighting, the same computations for wire gauge, length as for UCL apply. The transformer (power supply) will have to be located in an accessible location too (i.e. - attic/ crawl space).

The light output has to be significant even for accent lighting since the light will be directed towards the ceiling.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 6:10PM
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That's a good call - the ceiling has been leveled. 2x8s were sistered in to the original 2x6 rafters for that purpose, and to stiffen the roof. The ceiling will be paneling painted ceiling white. For what it's worth the flooring will be white oak, bleached finish.

We have space for transformers in a closet adjacent to the family room. I planned on putting in a switched outlet and we'd like to be able to dim the lighting at the switch. Any recommendations for what kind of transformers/LEDs to get? Also, how to handle the fact that on the low end of the room the cove lighting would be a lot closer to the ceiling than at the high end?

    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 9:54AM
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Instead of measuring the location from the floor, measure the top of the crown molding/ cove from the ceiling. In that way, the space between the ceiling and the cove top will be constant.

If you intend to dim the cove lighting, plan on having it on a separate circuit. That way,
1. you get more flexibility in deciding whether to go low or line voltage.
2. Dimming a switched outlet (at the switch) is prohibited.
3. you're not limited to resistive dimmers after the plug.

Price out both line voltage and low voltage solutions.

The cove lighting could be split into either 2 or 3 parallel runs.

24V works better for long runs than 12V.

The other consideration is whether your electrician is comfortable with putting in low voltage lighting. If not, line voltage would probably be a better choice unless there are other constraints (e.g. - size of the cove) ...

A switched outlet should stand by itself.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 7:13PM
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The electrician is comfortable with installing high and low voltage writing (that's me). I mispoke with regard to the outlet - I've gotten in the habit of throwing one in temporarily in another room I'm working on with the intent of removing it and hard wiring in the transformer once the details about what type to use are settled. Here is what I was considering using.

A transformer similar to this: (12V) or (24V) and a Lutron magnetic low voltage dimmer (MALV-600) with LED strips, if they're bright enough.

This is the intended result, maybe just a bit brighter though.

Contemporary Bedroom by San Francisco Architects & Designers Rossington Architecture

The cove isn't built yet but I plan on doing that this week if possible. I'm looking at roughly 44' of LED strip... any recommendations on what type to use or specific transformers to look for / avoid?

I've decided to forgo lighting above the TV area for what it's worth. But the overhead lighting... does it seem adequate?

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 9:31AM
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The overhead lighting from the cans will be adequate.
The more likely lighting pattern will have the TV section more dimly lit.

It helps when the sofas are placed almost under the lights.

As for low voltage power supplies
some manufacturers that you could look into (no particular order)
Magnitude, Mean well

You could also look at the offerings from and

Avoid units which require cooling fans.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 12:00AM
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You're right - I ran numbers for the two halves of the room and could see the difference. Having four rows of two in the large side and three rows of two in the small side made it almost equal. That brings overhead lighting to 17 lumen/sq ft and lamps + adjacent areas will probably get us at or above 20.

You've given me a lot of homework to do on LED power supplies and strips. In addition I need to figure them out for pantry shelf, toe kick and under cabinet lighting in the kitchen. I'll try searching before making a new thread for that since it's probably a popular topic.

And thanks again on helping out with the living room - everywhere I've lived in the past has had either no lighting or only a fan+light. This place has been a whole other animal.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 9:10AM
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15 - 20 lumens per sq ft would work for areas that will not be used for detailed work.

The UCL continuation thread on this forum has much more information.

If it's too much of a hassle, use line voltage for the cove lighting. Philips has a pretty nice setup.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 1:20PM
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