Captain’s bedroom ceiling: Two wins and a fail

Adding the lighting and HVAC to the list for the captain’s suite renovation was an easy decision. The ceiling in this space was just messed up. True to form, the previous owner decided to “accent” the HVAC with orange paint. That was bad enough, but the vents were also the wrong style, limiting their effectiveness to keep this room hot or cold.


The lighting was actually a bigger problem. We inherited two fans that held MR16 bulbs… only three of which worked. You can imagine that three bulbs that produced maybe 50 watts of light each weren’t enough for a nearly enough for a 338-square-feet room. Well, hopefully you can imagine it because I was remiss in taking pictures that demonstrated that. The corner by the pole closet was basically a black hole.

Let’s dive right into some before/after shots.



SOOOO much better!

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We needed a lot of light in this space, especially with the dark walls, and we had a lot of space to cover. We decided to create another DIY light fixture. This one is reminiscent of the fixture Aaron built for me in the kitchen when we moved in: black cord twisted around pipe and free hanging bulbs. It also ties in nicely with the living room lights. Our dimmer of choice, Lutron’s Maestro IR (which really deserves it’s own post) would allow for 10 ¬†40-watt bulbs.

Aaron created this diagram to figure out the the best layout. We were aiming for even light throughout the space and we didn’t want to change the placement of the HVAC (denoted by the thick black lines.) The bed is the rectangle this is just off center. The pole closet is in the upper left. We’re hoping to find a chair to put next to it, so we ran a piece of pipe out there to add some extra light to that corner.


For the installation, first he painted all of the pipe components and the electrical boxes black. He removed the fans and installed electrical boxes in their place.


Then he screwed floor flanges into the ceiling and started assembling the grid by screwing the pipe pieces together.

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He used the same process as in the living room to wire the sockets.


For the HVAC, we painted about 12 inches of the existing tube in the green wall color, which gave Aaron some space to cut it off. He removed the offending orange pipes and installed plain silver ones with new (and proper) vents.



The only thing that didn’t go to plan in this space is this random metal panel. Eventually we want to remove one to see what the heck is up there. We assume it’s some sort of old roof vent. If would be awesome if it could be turned into a skylight. But for now we just wanted it to disappear. For some reason, they chose not to cover it with the texture that was applied to the rest of the ceiling. Except they didn’t mask it off, so it had some obvious over spray.


Aaron grabbed a can of “ceiling texture” that looked like it would match at Home Depot. Before applying, we spread out some kraft paper, which was good because this stuff made a HUGE mess. It claims to clean up with water, but this seemed easier.


Apparently he should have grabbed two or three cans because the nozzle was clogged and basically unusable with minutes. He tried to clear it several times and it worked with less success each time. We gave up when the can was spraying more texture onto Aaron than the ceiling. We decided it didn’t look any worse… even though it doesn’t actually look better. Two out of three successful projects isn’t bad.


The panel tends to fade anyways thanks to the other upgrades.


At this point we were both ready to get all the furniture back into this room (and out of our living room.) But we let the project spiral a bit further with the purchase of a new rug and new duvet cover. More details on that search in the next post.

How to: Make an organic, industrial light fixture

The lighting in the living room was seriously depressing. Some holes in the ceiling¬† and a defunct fluorescent fixture led us to believe that this space was primarily lit by fluorescents at one point. When we moved in, we inherited a sad bunch of single bulb sockets. Even with high-watt incandescent bulbs, these “fixtures” did little to illuminate the room because they were tucked up among the duct work. I’ve circled them below because they are easy to miss.


Single bulb and an old hole…


As a temporary fix, we added a DIY fixture that used to hang in Aaron’s office at the studio. This gave us a little more light over the couch.


Aforementioned dead fluorescent fixture. Now removed. RIP.


I didn’t have a hand in coming up with this particular fixture, but Aaron has lots of ideas in this realm. (It’s also not the first time he’s made a light fixture for the firehouse.) He has a pretty extensive Pinterest board for lighting inspiration. For the living room. he honed on this gem (originally from Petite Passport):


There wasn’t enough room in the original ceiling boxes for all of the pendant wire and he thought it would look more finished if the wires weren’t coming directly out of the ceiling.


So for each drop (we have 4 total) he spray painted an electrical box, ceiling box plate with center knock out (not pictured) and an electrical conduit coupling. They got a flat black treatment to match the cord.



The new box is screwed right into the existing box.


Next it’s a good idea to lay out your pendants. We just spread the sockets on the floor to give us a good idea how the lights would be spaced. This also helped ensure there wouldn’t be too many wires going into a box. The conduit connector can only hold 4. Once they were laid out, we strung fabric-wrapped cord from the box to the approximate location where a bulb would hang. This allowed us to eyeball the amount of swag each wire would have.


Then we needed something to loop the wire through. In a normal ceiling, you can just screw in a hook or an eye bolt. Because we have old plaster ceilings, Aaron grabbed some toggle bolts to give everything extra staying power.


He removed the screw and replaced it with an eye bolt and washer (both painted white) in the same size as the screw.


Then it’s just a matter of drilling and adding the bolt. The cord is looped through and we decided to hold the two pieces together with some thin metal wire (the same stuff we used for our DIY decanter tags.)


Determine how low you want the bulb to sit. We opted for varying lengths, which adds to the organic feel.

Then it’s time to attach the socket. This seems like a good time to mention that we are not certified electricians. This is relatively easy, but if you have any doubts, please consult a professional.



Here’s what you need – a socket, a standard cable grip (also called a strain relief) and the end of your fabric wrapped cord.


Slide the standard cable grip and top of the socket over the end of the wire.


Push them up a few inches to give yourself some room to work.


Cut the cord wrap to expose the wires and remove the excess insulation.



Strip the wires.



Take the inner part of the socket and loosen the screws on each side.


Make a hook in each strand of wire and wrap one around each screw.


Tighten the screws


Pull the top of the socket down.


Screw on the bottom of the socket.



Push the standard cable grip into the top of the socket. This will lock the wires in place.



Repeat for each pendant and wire the other ends into the box. Then add a bulb. We opted for 40W incandescent bulbs. This gives us a ton of light in the space, and the whole system is on a dimmer so we can set the mood for movie watching.



Viola! This is a really adaptable project. If you don’t have this many boxes on your ceiling (most residential spaces don’t), you could simply hang the ceiling box and wire a cord to a plug. Swag the cord to the wall and down to an outlet for an even more draped effect. You could also wire each pendant cord to a plug and plug them into a 4-gang outlet in the ceiling box (a la the inspiration photo).


This simple fixture has made a huge impact in the space. We love that it adds some interest and softness to the ceiling. But most importantly it gave us much needed LIGHT!

Has anyone else created a custom light fixture? We have several more brewing for other areas of the firehouse. Oh, what about lamps? Let’s not talk about the number of things we’re hoarding to be turned into awesome lamps.