- Another 5 star review on Yelp!
- This job was a real pleasure to do, because the clients were sooo nice and because they so badly needed the lighting improved in their kitchen! They have a 1990s townhouse in Hyde Park, with a big kitchen. I would say 15x15 easily. The developer gave them one tiny little track light above the island to illuminate the most important room in the house. Cheap or dumb, you take your pick! Anyway, Cheryl contacted me by email originally with the most basic inquiry. "My kitchen is completely dark, what can I do?" After some lengthy email exchanges (see below the review) we came up with a plan. WE were both quite pleased with the result!
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I highly recommend Peter
McCarthy if you are looking for a great electrician and professional
business person. We moved into our (Hyde Park area) home last summer,
and I didn't know until fall and winter darkness came how horrible our
kitchen lighting was! I had heard many good things about Peter in the
neighborhood, so I decided to check in with him. After e-mailing him,
Peter wrote back with an extremely helpful and detailed response
describing what our possible options might be, explaining the basics,
and offering to come by to take a look. We had a few ideas, and Peter
created a design for us. We were very excited to get started!
his crew came on the day of the job, they were very efficient and had
things done quickly. Everything was neat and you wouldn't even know
work had been done. Peter also directed us to a place to get a
decorative piece (per our request-- we were not excited about the
selection at Home Depot) and even got us a deal there. Now that the
kitchen is done, it all looks great! Every time I turn on my lights I
am SO happy not to be in a dark, shadowy room anymore.
Peter was very
good about returning calls and e-mails and keeping on top of things. I
wish all home repairs/work were this smooth! We will definitely call
Peter gain should we need anything.
I am starting to think about you place. It is a very, very blank canvass at
this point. So a few Qs are in order. Please reply with the best answers you
can at this point.
1. Have you seen anything anywhere that you like? In magazines, or other
friends homes? If so what was it? Conversely, have you seen or lived with any
type of lighting you hated?
There are 3 basic types of lighting:
1. General lighting: The overall lighting in the room. That which is
meant to make it not dark. Ambient lighting, overall lighting. In the old days,
this was the one center light fixture in the room. In modern days, is usually
the center light in a bedroom, the overhead light in a bathroom, and a
combination of multiple fixtures in the kitchen.
Kitchen general lighting is achieved by a combination of artistic or aesthetically
pleasing fixtures (the decor portion of it) installed and located in locations
that create in total a sense that the room is well lit. That it is not dark,
that you can see what you are doing easily and automatically, not having to
think about it. That there are no significant shadows on you or the work areas.
In an older, cheaper kitchen, someone could take out the previous center
fixture and install a ceiling fan with 4 little stem lights on it. Often done,
never works. Not enough light. Movement of air, yes, but dim. Other times folks
will take out the center fixture and install big 2x4 florescent surface mounted
fixtures. Sometimes one, sometimes more. Result? Lot
of light, dimness banished! But very ugly. Are you staring to get the picture?
Good residential lighting design is a combination of type of fixtures that are
decoratively and architecturally/aesthetically pleasing to the client,
installed in sufficient quantity and locations that the whole space is amply
lit, without seeming crowded or cluttered with lights or as if they were put in
as an after thought. Enough fixtures that one center fixture does not end up
burnt by years of abuse with two 100 or 150 watt bulbs in it, turning it into a
de facto easy-bake oven, because it is the only fixture in a big dark room.
A very common type of general lighting for a kitchen is recessed lights, (can lights).
They work well because you can space them in proper locations and they aim
straight down. Shadows are not thrown to front or back. Each one can have large
enough lamp that in total they make a well-lit room. They throw light down in a
cone fashion so for each fixture the field of light overlaps with its neighbor
fixture. When done right, the whole area is well-lit, and the source of
"where is the light coming from?" is not obvious. It is just there.
When it is done right, we don't notice it, either by its presence or absence.
It just seems normal and natural. Tracks do not do this very well.
Recessed cans have a multitude of trim styles that can be installed to meet
your preferences. They come in 6", 5" or 4" openings (the size
of the round hole you see from below. The 6" is the old standard that you
see all over. They are not as fashionable as the 5" these days. They seem too
big or out of proportion I think. Better for a basement rec room than a
kitchen. But Ok, I guess. The 4" are out there as well, but they are too
small to use as general lighting. They can be installed in specific locations
to highlight or frame a smaller area where larger ones would seem out of
proportion. But they definitely do not work as stand along general lighting.
Tracks do not work that well as general lighting. Mostly, they are ugly and
dated. Keep in mind, the issue with tracks is usually with the heads, not the
"track" per se. There are places where tracks are both attractive and
useful. Think a long hall in
Park railroad apartment.
Track lighting is excellent there because for very little damage to existing
ceilings, it can run down the center and track heads can be aimed in any
direction to highlight the artwork or family pictures. The deal there is that
the hall is narrow. Maybe 5 feet wide. Lights aimed at the wall are also
sufficient for the overall general lighting because the light hits the wall and
reflects off it as well, resulting in sufficient light for the hall, where you
are not working but walking through. Not the same at all in an open space like
A common issue with tracks is the heads. A 20 year-old, huge cumbersome head
will look like crap wherever it is used. There are nice looking heads that work
well with track when it is installed in place where it fits in and works
proportionately. They make numerous pendant type fixtures that can hang off
tracks (Think the lovely orangish/dark reddish fixtures that often hang in the
window at a Starbucks, or over the tables in coffeehouses. Or over islands in
fancy kitchens. Often they will install 2 or 3 of these over an island or
peninsula in a modern kitchen. These type of fixtures can be installed easily
in a new construction kitchen by locating junction boxes in the ceiling
wherever you will want them. But in a rehab, especially a vintage plaster
building where the ceilings or walls are not being gutted, the advantage of a
track is that it only requires the ceiling to be cut and broken in one location
to give it power. Then the track sits on the surface, and it can be run in
either direction and over as many locations as you wish to have hanging lights.
2. Task lighting. This is light for specific tasks and uses, not meant to light
the whole room. In kitchens, this is almost always under-cabinet lighting. They
light the counter surfaces for optimal functionality. They take the form of
either florescent strip fixtures or round halogen "puck" lights. There
are a lot of choices with pros and cons to each. I like the idea of these
lights, but am somewhat disappointed in the lack of durability in the products
themselves. I am resigned to it. Most florescent under-cabs will require repair
in 2-3 years. Most round puck lights will burn through bulbs pretty frequently.
That sucks and is embarrassing to me as an electrician. But ask around your friends
and relatives who own homes. I think it is a result of our societal desire to
have manufactured products as cheap as possible, made in China
under loose specs, ect. Soapbox is coming out here.
But this kind of lighting does have a nice utility, even though its high
3. Decorative lighting. While you don’t want any "un-decorative"
(ugly) lighting, this term means light fixtures that are installed to serve
primarily the purpose of decoration by way of light. It is highlighting art on
the wall or the 3 lovely cone shaped lights hanging over the island. These are
there for looks and they help make it easier to see things, but they can not
carry the load of general lighting. You don't find too much of this in an
average kitchen. Sometimes you will have puck lights cut into cabinets
that are fancy and have gorgeous crystal in them. They usually have glass doors
so that you can behold the lovely items from outside the cabinets. Sometimes
folks will have indirect strip or florescent lights mounted on the top of the
cabinets, pointed up and not visible. They provide a nice glow if you have the
design of cabinets that do not go all the way up to ceiling. That's mostly it.
So that's a jumping off point. Recessed lights, either alone or in combination
with a pendant light (hanging over a table, usually smaller) if you have one in
the kitchen is a good set up. Pendants can hang for decoration and ambiance
over islands or peninsulas as described above. A ceiling fan can be nice to
move the air, but one with a light kit is not a good choice in my mind. The
dinky little lights that attach to it are not enough for general lighting, and
look kind of chincy. (sp?) In a real low budget place, where you have
only that one existing center light location and you want a fan but can't loose
the light, it is an adequate choice. But your place will surely be more elegant
If you are opposed to recessed lighting on principle, (everyone has their own
particular taste and style,) the kitchen could be lit with stand-alone
fixtures, either the surface mounted or pendent type. But that would be a
highly individualized configuration, and would require some good long study and
inquiry into fixture preference and light/brightness options. Everything is
possible. Some is more costly and also more intrusive than others, some is less
So your New Year is off to a good start. I encourage you to start looking
intently in the outside world at the kitchen lighting you encounter. I would
say both look at and ask your friends and relatives. Often we don't look
hard at these things until we have a reason to. I would say ask your colleagues
and peers what they like or hate about the lights in their kitchen. It is
valuable input. Nobody can think of everything on their own. I am a big
believer in this. Also, I think seeing it in context in real life is more
helpful than in a home depot or lighting store to start. That is just me. You
can certainly look at specific types of fixtures, ect on websites, at lighting
stores, ect. But I think that is more phase 2. First is thinking about in
general, what do you like, hate, need, and want as far as broad strokes. Other
issues of dimmers, low voltage vs. line voltage, "green" options, are
all legitimate things to consider, especially where you feel strongly for or
against. But for now, we are brainstorming the bigger picture.
Thank you much for your time. I look forward to working with you!