Totally Lost-- 1980's update

HeyLillieOctober 18, 2011

Hi everyone, I have been reading the threads here for awhile, and have gotten SO MUCH great info that this is where I have turned for help on my own problem. I never can seem to find much information on fixing up small, cramped kitchens online, so I figured I would just go for it and ask you guys.

Here is the basic background info:

My kitchen is approximately 11'x9.3' and has a 1980s recessed lightbox. We took down the diffuser panels and pulled off the frame and already the kitchen looks much bigger and more open (as much as a tiny kitchen can). The top of the lightbox area is at the 8' level and is a 4'x6' opening and the furdown itself is at the 7' level-- unfortunately, removing the furdown is not an option due to major structural changes that would have to be made. I am trying to embrace this 12" deep rectangular hole in my ceiling as a sort of tray ceiling, maybe adding some short crown to the top, etc. I should mention that we are trying to do this on a budget because this is a one-income household.

That said, the only lighting in the kitchen is the 3 original fluorescent fixtures inside the recessed area and a few hockey puck under-cabs I installed several years ago-- the kitchen sits in the center of the house, so it has no windows. I have become very accustomed to having LOTS of light from these six T12 bulbs (all the original fixtures), and can not figure out how to change the lighting in the kitchen without suffering heatstroke from recessed lights (remember the 7' ceilings?) or spending way more than I can afford. Honestly, lighting a small room with low ceilings is REALLY confusing and seems to be very challenging.

This evening, we tried a 5 light halogen fixture in the recess and the shadows in the room were horrendous-- the light fixture is GORGEOUS and I wish I could make it work, but I don't see how. Immediately after, we tried putting a four T8 bulb fixture with a nice white diffuser in the recess and ended up with a very dull, only sort-of lit room.

Here is a snapshot of my embarassing kitchen-- it is a disaster due to all of the popcorn scraping we have done (the WHOLE HOUSE) and other various projects going on. I would love to overhaul the whole thing, but right now, all I can do is the lighting and paint (which I think will REALLY help)-- it isn't much of a kitchen but I am trying to make it mine:


I did a sketch (I'm sorry, I am really bad at drawing anything to scale and am really new to all of this so I don't know if I gave you guys enough info) of the kitchen to share with you:

notes:

--the counter space next to the where I wrote "7' ceiling" has no cabs above it-- it is open looking into the breakfast nook.

--the dotted line marks about where the lightbox sits

--the counter spaces that have a line through the middle have cabs above them

ANY advice you might be able to offer me would be greatly appreciated-- this has been somewhat of a nightmare to figure out and I am pretty much out of ideas-- well, save for one crazy idea: rebuild the light box about halfway up in the recess using up-to-date materials like pretty crown moulding and matte white diffuser panels. I don't even know if it would work! In theory, it could still provide the level of light I want and end up being a neat fixture...... but it certainly wouldn't be something anyone is used to seeing.

I am happy to provide any additional information you might need and trust me when I say, if you have read this far, I appreciate your time SO much.

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David

Your options are limited if you cannot raise the ceiling. From the picture, it seems possible that you have a beam spanning the breakfast nook.

The most obvious (and cheapest) choice would be to put in multiple T8 tubes (4 - 8). The recessed box will trap a significant amount of light, though the loss will be compensated by the multiple T8s.

The next possible choice would be to put in LED troffer lights (CREE CR24?) instead of multiple T8 tubes.

The final option is to have pot lights in a raised ceiling.
If you were to raise the ceiling, leave the beam in place and raise the rest of the kitchen ceiling.

LED recessed lighting will not output as much heat as incandescent lights. However, the initial cost will be significantly greater.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2011 at 11:08AM
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cebury

Hey Lillie,

LOL I have almost the same kitchen as you! We were supposed to be in this house for a short time, but until we leave I'm tired of waiting and going to improve everything since it's now so out-dated and reducing our resale value fast.

Get this Temporary Kludge: I am in the process of changing the 3x2 equally spaced fixtures (6) bulbs to 4x2 (8 bulbs) T8 tubes and leaving a gap int the center. Then I'm putting in a Tubular skylight in between and putting the ugly diffusers back in.

Honestly, I think some form of Tubular Skylights (with built-in LED lights for added night-time) are your option if you're in a sunny climate. Maybe one big one over the breakfast area, instead?

Hope you find a great solution so I can copy you. :-)

    Bookmark   October 18, 2011 at 9:47PM
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Granite_Man

We opted for the Cree Troffer in a room in our basement which had a recession similar to your kitchen.

Thus far, the performance has been exceptional.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2011 at 10:50PM
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cebury

The exceptional performance, does that apply to diffuse/area light spread & peripheral shadowing? That's a big limitation of LED in general, but from their website it sounds if that's exactly what they were trying to overcome with the CR Troffer model.

Is it as good as/better than fluorescent in general area lighting in your opinion?

    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 8:07AM
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HeyLillie

I don't know much about LED lights, but we have decided to TRY the "updated" box idea. Imagine the light boxes people build onto their ceilings and then basically invert it into the recess.

White crown moulding, 8 low profile T8 4' fluorescents and white prismatic sheets... all about 6 inches inside the recess. If all goes well, it will looks like the ceiling itself is lit--- I hope. Haha.

I know that 8 4-footers seems like a lot, but between the depth of the recess and the fact that I can not perform in low light (side-effect of LASIK, for sure) we decided to go with 4... we can always remove one if it seems like too much!

I will be sure to post the pictures when we finish it.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 5:27PM
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HeyLillie

I don't know much about LED lights, but we have decided to TRY the "updated" box idea. Imagine the light boxes people build onto their ceilings and then basically invert it into the recess.

White crown moulding, 8 low profile T8 4' fluorescents and white prismatic sheets... all about 6 inches inside the recess. If all goes well, it will looks like the ceiling itself is lit--- I hope. Haha.

I know that 8 4-footers seems like a lot, but between the depth of the recess and the fact that I can not perform in low light (side-effect of LASIK, for sure) we decided to go with 4... we can always remove one if it seems like too much!

I will be sure to post the pictures when we finish it.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 7:14PM
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HeyLillie

I don't know much about LED lights, but we have decided to TRY the "updated" box idea. Imagine the light boxes people build onto their ceilings and then basically invert it into the recess.

White crown moulding, 8 low profile T8 4' fluorescents and white prismatic sheets... all about 6 inches inside the recess. If all goes well, it will looks like the ceiling itself is lit--- I hope. Haha.

I know that 8 4-footers seems like a lot, but between the depth of the recess and the fact that I can not perform in low light (side-effect of LASIK, for sure) we decided to go with 4... we can always remove one if it seems like too much!

I will be sure to post the pictures when we finish it.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2011 at 12:18PM
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cebury

Cool, I'd like to see pictures when you're done. I hear you about wanting 8 bulbs, we're doing the same b/c my wife hates dark kitchens.

If you live in a sunny area & depending on your roof immediately above the recess (if recess-roof distance Thanks for sharing your kitchen with others.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2011 at 1:57PM
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lee676

All good options so far. I'd also consider the Lighting Science Group "Glimpse" LED discs - they're bright, not all that expensive, available warm, neutral, or cool white colors, and need only an electric box to install in (not a recessed can) so you can probably fit them even in the high-ceiling area yet they're almost flush with the ceiling. Home Depot sells them rebranded as Commercial Electric for about $38 each, not bad considering that's for a fixture and a bulb. And being LED is very efficient and long lasting.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2011 at 3:34PM
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karinl

I'm a bit late to the party here and not a lighting guru at all, but I wonder if you have any ability to put some skylights in this room? If it were through the lowered part of the ceiling I guess it would have to be one of the solar light tube type - they perform quite extraordinarily.

With respect to the light box, I can see how much of an issue shadows will be, and for that reason I'd actually be curious to see how the original installation performed. And to use the problem as part of your solution, if you had not already embarked on a course I would consider lighting aimed at the sides of the recess to reflect at a better angle to your cabinets and work areas. If you can't get the light radiating to where you need it, then bouncing it might be a useful concept to work with next, if you find your solution unsatisfactory.

Karin L

    Bookmark   November 9, 2011 at 2:05PM
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