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  • Recessed Lighting

    (4 replies)

    Hello BPN! We’re thinking about installing recessed lighting in our living room, which true to the Craftsman style does not have enough lighting. Anyone recently completed a recessed lighting project and have an electrician to recommend? Thank you! 

    I had some installed last year by Russell Flood rflood722 [at], 925.752.3702. They weren't cheap but he did a good job, has all the right insurance, etc, and did a good job cleaning up afterwards. I believe everyone doing this kind of work is backed up with work since the pandemic so it may take a little bit to get in the queue.

    My electrician recommended reflective LED strip lighting around the periphery of the ceiling, on top of the crown moulding. I can't find pictures that look exactly like what he's recommending, but it's something like this:

    As a retired architect, I'm going to encourage you to not add recessed lighting to your living room, unless you are using recessed lighting designed as wall washers and locate them carefully to do just that for light colored walls. Recessed lighting is best for task lighting and generally lights the surface below it. Fine in a kitchen, etc., not so good if that is a living room floor or the furniture. The light will get absorbed by the surfaces and the room will feel dark. Consider fixtures that add ambient light to the room such as carefully chosen wall mounted sconces that illuminate the ceiling. The more light you get on the wall and ceiling surfaces, the brighter the space will read. Supplement with carefully placed floor and table lamps.

    We added recessed lighting to our (small) Craftsman living room and it was the best thing we did. The room gets great natural light during the day, but at night it the room felt a little oppressive. The lights don’t feel at all harsh; the room now just feels evenly-lit. We used Jose Trinidad at Megaton Electric (I think that’s what his business is now called - when we used him he was with Tri Valley Electric). He’s meticulous and has fair prices.

  • Light Bulbs Too Dim

    (8 replies)

    The great thing about Berkeley is that someone here will know the answer to this question.  Lightbulbs have changed to a new energy efficient format.   A 100 watt bulb now uses 72 watts of power.  Unfortunately, I feel like they are 72% as bright as what I saw before.  This is driving me out of my mind....and they cost four times as much.  What bulb should I buy so that I can see?  Thanks in advance. 

    If you have an old one that gave you good lighting, check what the LUMENS are and try to get as close to that number as possible within the wattage ratings of your fixtures.  You might also test whether you prefer Soft White, Bright White/Cool White, or Daylight -- which can appear "brighter" going from left to right but will have the same "true" brightness for a given lumens number. 

    Actually, 75 watt bulbs now use 72 watts of power. 60 watt bulbs now use 57 watts.

    You can still purchase 100 watt bulbs online, but why don't you go for LED bulbs. The 100w equivalent burns just 15w of power. They are more expensive, but they last many times longer, use very little energy, and put out great light.

    Hi, I went to Batteries + Bulbs on San Pablo in El Cerrito (near Schmidt) where they have a display with several different bulbs in it so you can compare the light quality of different bulbs. It was much more effective than just reading the brightness level on the box.   

    I don't know what kind of bulbs you might be using. We have been intentionally switching our standard bulbs to fluorescent and LED bulbs, either of which might be the "new format" you are referring to.  In both cases (particularly with LEDs) I find the bulbs are if anything TOO bright, even when the wattage is FAR lower.  Perhaps you can clarify?

    I agree with you.  A light bulb which use to cost $0.25 is now $10 and not as bright.  It's all about energy savings, traditional incandescent lights are highly inefficient.  (I think they are about 1% efficient.)  Forget the compact florescent lights (CFL) and just buy LEDs.  They are far more efficient, prices have dropped and they finally go the color "right".  I just saw LEDs at  HomeDepot and Costco for about $2.00.

    ​I would suggest replacing all of the lights in your home with LEDs.  I did and my electric bill dropped by over one third.  Well worth the investment.

    My sister-in-law had all LEDs installed in her new house. She said that dimmers don't work well with LEDs. (So I was blinded when I turned on the bathroom light in the morning.) Can anyone who has switched to LEDs attest to this? Perhaps they require a 'special' dimmer?

    Some LEDs can be dimmed, some can't (we have almost all dim-able LEDs in our house). You'll need to check the description on the box. Price varies, but you get what you pay for.  Generally name brands are more reliable in how they dim.  (Advice from my husband, my "in house" handyman.)

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Questions Related Pages

Outdoor lighting

April 2013

Looking for an electrical contractor who can install backyard lighting -- someone professional, reasonably priced and good with recommendations for both functional (paths and steps) and aesthetic (trees) lighting. We are in Orinda. Light Me Up

Garden Lights is based in Orinda and is highly reputable (multiple awards). If you are handy, you can buy a kit at home depot, or investigate what the kit has and build your own (comprised of a transformer with a timer/sensor that is plugged into an exterior outlet, an electric cable that simply screws into the transformer, and lights of your choice that click into the wire). I got my driveway done in less than an hour - 150' cable with 10 projectors pointing to the pavement and up to the trees. Cost: $500. Of course I had to make two trips to figure out what I want and one to return unused items...). Good luck! Like trying it out myself
For Outdoor lighting, check out the Urban Farmer store, right off of I-80 at Central (El Cerrito/Richmond border) They have a good selection of lights, but best of all, they will let you check out a kit for free, which allows you to see how the transformer works and run a number of different lights to see how they look in your garden. Free! Great service they provide. There are different options for the transformers depending on how many lights and zones you want to install. I ended up getting a transformer off of Amazon, but bought lights from them. Bryan in Oakland

Need to replace plastic cover on fluorescent light

Nov 2007

I'm in need of replacing the plastic sheeting on an inset fluorescent light. I'd like to do something other than the ugly 'corregated' look. Has anyone gotten creative and replaced these hideous 36''x48'' sheets with something else? Trish

Go to TAP plastics in El Cerrito on San Pablo Avenue. They have all kinds of plexiglas that they could cut to size to replace what you have. for a very clean, modern look go with what looks like sandblasted glass.

You might also consider using a new piece of clear plexiglas with a beautiful sheet or sheets of handmade paper behind it. Just be sure that paper is far enough away from lamp - although fluorescents don't get very hot. Papers can be gotten at an art store or the Japanese textile store on 4th Street in Berkeley. Local architect

Complying with 50% fluorescent lighting code in kitchen?

Feb 2006

Has anyone had any recent experience attempting to comply with the new (Oct. 2005) lighting requirements of Sec.6 of California's Title 24 Energy Code? We are doing a kitchen remodel with permits in Albany and have been told that half the lights in the kitchen must be fluorescent and that the new Sec. 6 amendments have effectively precluded any way for a contractor to get around this requirement (i.e., by using ''temporary'' fluorescent lighting and then replacing them after the inspection). We want to save energy and are installing fluorescent lights in other rooms, but we don't want a fluorescent kitchen. Thanks. Matt

We installed all of the fluorescent lights under the cabinet. This seemed to work for us. Good Luck! Kathryn
Matt: We recently finished remodeling our kitchen--this is how we handeled flourescent lighting--we/the electrician installed the newer flourescent lights on the top of the cabinets (these send light upwards to the ceiling) and under the cabinets (to light the counter tops)then we were allowed/able to install incandescent recessed can fixtures in the main part of the ceiling (to light the room). The newer flourscent fixtures are much softer than they used to be--and the combination of the two works well.......... Cookie
I'm not an expert, but my understanding is that fluorscent has to make up half the WATTAGE of lighting in the kitchen - noth the number of lights! I don't know how they decide what wattage to assume for the non-fluorsecet fixtures, though. That essentially means very few non-fluorescent lights since fluor. gives out so much more light per watt. First, I'd encourage you to re-consider your idea of fluorescent in the kitchen. There are so many (and ever more) options in terms of light color, and instant-on fixtures (must be electronic ballast), that they might not be what you think. The instant-on are a little more expensive, but I think well worth it (and will pay for itself in electricity savings!) In our current kitchen renovation, we are using electronic-ballasted warm fluorescents for under-cabinet lighting, three recessed can fixtures, and two ceiling lights. The only non-fluorescent is a dimmable fixture over the sink. That's about 600watts of fluorscent (! the equivalent of about 2400 W of incandescent!) and 150 of non-fl. if everything is on at once (that would be rare!). I guess if you really want lots of non-fl. options, you'll have to include lots of fl. too, to make up for it, and just use the ones you prefer. You can also find good info and discussion of this at the GardenWeb wesite's kitchen and remodeling forums You can email me if you want more details about our light choices. R.K.
Our architect had a brilliant suggestion (I think she's all around brilliant and can't say enough good stuff about her and her wonderful work -- Hiromi Ogawa,, which was to put in fluorescent *under cabinet* lighting. It's discreet and functional and while it's there to satisfy the code, it isn't the *main* light fixture for the room (which is much more attractive). Isabel
Our architect designed recessed halogen lighting for the ceiling, and also installed two large schoolhouse hanging globes that use compact fluorescent bulbs, with separate switches. We also have fluorescent lights under the cabinets. This satisfied the code. The pendant lamps look great and go with the style of our Craftsman house, and we have the option of using them or not (we use them for quick walks in and out of the kitchen but for cooking, the halogens give us the lighting we need.)

Where to buy lighting fixtures

May 2005

We are working on a major remodel of our home, gutting the kitchen and adding another bedroom and bathroom on the back of the house. We are looking for some interesting lighting for our project- pendants and sconces mostly. We have found recessed and under cabinet lighting, but are looking for something special for the decorative lighting. It seems that everyone's got the same old stuff. We live in Orinda. Any suggestions? Looking for lighting in all the wrong places

If you're looking for sconces, I'd highly recommend Metro Lighting in Berkeley. You'll pay more than you would for something from Expo or Ikea but the service was great and I'm pretty sure that they actually make the lights themselves as they saif they do a lot of custom work. I really love their fixtures and shades and it seems like they have a widew variety of styles that can be interchanged. Good luck! C
You must check out Metro lighting! They are a refreshing change from most lighting stores, they design and make their own line of fixtures. They have a selection of more traditional fixtures,along the lines of Arts and Crafts, fitting with bungalow style architecture. But they also have a large selection of fun and funky things that include beautiful art glass. Cool stuff we couldn't find anywhere else... It's not the cheapest store around, but a great value and worth every penny.... Check them out... a well lit household
To the Orinda remodeler: Have you tried:
  • Omega 2 on S. Pablo near Dwight (2204 s. Pablo) (a lot of restored pieces)
  • Berkeley Lighting (1623 S. Pablo)?

    Lighting consultant/ designer

    Dec 2006

    I'm in need of an excellent lighting consultant for my modern home. I appreciate any recommendations. Thank you!

    I can highly recommend Marcie Shefren for a lighting consultant. She worked with us on our kitchen lighting design; and I know her personally. Marcie has a high degree of integrity, she is very knowledgeable and a joy to be around. She designs lights for both residential and commercial, indoor and out. She loves light. Contact info: 510-528-1417; mshefren [at]; Good Luck! susan
    I think Make My Day, on Piedmont Ave in north Oakland, would be perfect for your needs. The owner, Rita Lee---experience architect and AIA. She provides design services/hourly. Her husband---Brian Liebel-- handles the lighting end of things. He's a lighting design and controls specialist. He knows more than the manufacturers, having worked as an electrical engineer designing many well-known projects in the Bay Area in the past 20 years. Indoor as well as outdoor lighting, too. He's very modest and doesn't tell you, but he's the designer of the lighting for the Sony Playstation store in the Sony Metreon bldg in SF, plus the lighting for the energy conservation education on lighting interactive displays (he did all the controls, too) at P G and E's Energy Center in SF several years back. They're at 3850 Piedmont Ave in Oakland, phone (510) 601-0608. Closed Mondays. Happy Lighting Customer
    April 2005

    I am looking for recommendations for a lighting designer, ideally someone who would spend a bit of time walking rhrough my house with me to discuss opportunities to improve lighting in the kitchen, family room, hallway and living room, and then give me a recommended plan. Our budget is modest (we are a DIY-family), but I need some imput on location, type and design. Thanks. Karen

    Jeff Nichols of Ideal Lighting & Fan Co. is EXCELLENT! He recently installed track lighting in my living room. He did a consultation first and went over things such as: what type of lighting to install, how much lighting is needed, etc. His telephone number is:(925)513-4704. Joy
    Feb 2005

    Could anyone recommend a lighting consultant (if there is such a thing?) or lighting contractor? There are several rooms in our house that desperately need more light, even in the daytime, and rather than just buying more lamps (that our kids would knock over), we were hoping to get someone to recommend what kind of other lights (overhead, track, hanging etc.) should be installed. Thank you so much for your advice! In the Dark

    We had exactly the same needs in kitchen, living room, and home office. Tom Johnson is a licensed electrical contractor and one of the nicest people you'll ever meet. He's done small and medium sized work for us for a decade. He looked at our situation, made recommendations, told us where to get the fixtures if we wanted to do it ourselves (No!), the bought and installed them, came back and tweaked things a bit when one area was still too dark, and all is now well. And a couple of months later, knowing my wife was recuperating from surgery, he came by with a roast chicken. Tom is in Richmond (510) 234-4055) and works all over the East Bay. John
    August 2004

    Con someone recommend a good residential lighting designer for the Berkeley Area? I am not looking for full plans and specs, but more an idea person/sounding board. Liz

    To the person who wanted a lighting designer/consultant - Call Scott at SCOUT. I just used him to ''stage'' my house - which included consulting/upgrading lighting fixtures. He is wonderful to work with - and talented! his number is (510) 547-2688 or (415) 823-0346. Tell him betty sent you. good luck