Guest post: Amy’s kitchen ceiling light fixture

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Despite this technically being a “guest post,” it’s not actually written by a guest. So you’re stuck with me, your host, Mrs. Fickbonne, as we explore the exciting and mysterious uncharted territory of my sister-in-law’s kitchen ceiling! Try to contain your disappointment.

Amy is the kind of bad-ass home-improver I aspire to be. In the three years she’s lived there, she has taken her wildly unimpressive little condo in San Diego and turned it into an HGTV centerfold. I kid you not, her home is frighteningly immaculate, perfectly decorated, and floor-to-ceiling remodeled. Among the many projects they’ve done, Amy and her husband Adam have…

  1. Installed new floors throughout the house.
  2. Painted every wall ever.
  3. Installed crown molding.
  4. Installed new baseboards.
  5. Painted the kitchen cabinets and countertops.
  6. Installed new windows.
  7. Painted the back patio and landscaped.
  8. Replaced an ugly shower door with a tasteful shower curtain rod.
  9. Made Hercules re-routing a river to clean some stables look like a chump.

So it was with no small sense of honor and excitement that I accepted Amy’s offer of helping on a house project when we visited this spring. She was all “Do you want to make my kitchen look better? You can maybe blog about it if you want…” And I was all “I THOUGHT YOU’D NEVER ASK.”

The task before us: removing the crappy overhead fluorescent panel lighting in her kitchen ceiling, patching the hole, and replacing it with something better, faster, and stronger (but mostly prettier). Here’s what it looked like just as work began:

The offending fluorescent panel light.

The offending fluorescent panel light.

Hideous, right? Here’s how we fixed it:

1. DEMOLITION

This was accomplished in under five minutes, the construction of the offending light was so flimsy. This made me a little concerned about safety. If we hadn’t pulled that sucker down, it would’ve come down on its own eventually!

BEN AND ADAM SMASH.

BEN AND ADAM SMASH.

2. Installing the drywall

Believe it or not, this was my first experience actually measuring, cutting, and mounting drywall. I don’t know how I’ve escaped such a basic skill of home improvement before now (especially given how much of it Ben has done), but there it is. Anyway, ripping out the light fixture left us with a big gaping hole in the ceiling. Our goal was to even this hole out by tacking up some new drywall around the sides, then place the light fixture in the center, giving the kitchen a vaulted ceiling and a generally less-claustrophobic feel all around.

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Amy measures the drywall… LIKE A BOSS.

3. Patching, spackling, sanding, growing millennia older…

To make the hole look nice, we used some handy wood putty to fill in the cracks around the edges and the new drywall. We also spackled the corners. And then we repeated this process for endless iterations, a kind of madness settling in on all of us. We took turns on the ladder, muttering feverishly to ourselves as we tried in vain to get it juuuuuuuust right. Then we had to wait for all the goop to dry before we could sand the everloving shit out of it. This was my least favorite part of the process. But when we were done, the hole that had previously housed an office-style panel light looked like a design feature of the house!

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4. Painting

This is why Amy is a more bad-ass home improver than I am: her ceiling and her trim are different colors of white, both of which she recognizes on sight and both of which are very important not to confuse. We painted the trim and the new drywall their respective shades of white and then waited for them to dry.

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5. Installing the trim

Adam and Ben very carefully measured the trim before cutting it on the table saw and then tacking it up around the hole to cover the edges of the drywall. And then they carefully measured and cut again because they got it wrong the first time. Then we all pondered the futility of human existence together.

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6. Last but not least: installing the light fixture

Adam is an electrical engineer, which is why I felt perfectly safe during my first-ever experience installing an electrical fixture! Turns out I had no reason to be worried, as dealing with electricity is shockingly simple, to the point that I became progressively less and less impressed with Adam’s fancy electrical engineering degree.

After turning off the electricity to the kitchen, we installed the new light, matching the white and black wires and connecting the copper grounding wire. I’d explain this in more detail, except that I’m sure some handy Youtuber already has. Once the wires were all connected, we mounted the light into the bracket in the ceiling, and then screwed in the fancy specialized LED bulbs with a little suction cup tool. Turns out I’m the only one who could figure out how to actually use the suction cup tool, so Amy has informed me that if any of her lightbulbs ever burns out I’m required to immediately fly to San Diego to put in a new one.

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7. Finishing touches

I would’ve posted this back in February when all the work was actually done, but Amy forbade me from taking any “after” pictures of the finished ceiling until she had touched up the paint. So my hands were tied, dear readers! Those touch-ups are now complete, so I can finally show you what we labored so hard on:

Amy's awesome kitchen and the new light!

Amy’s awesome kitchen and the new light!

Isn’t it lovely? I almost wish I had a terrible panel light in my house so I could do it all over again! But not really. Overall, the project was relatively inexpensive, relatively fast (we were only impeded by the speed at which paint and spackle dry, and the rate at which we consumed delicious local microbrews), and relatively low-skilled (literal electrical engineer not required). Here’s Maya, supervising our work and judging silently:

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