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Adding Recessed Lighting to Our Studio (+ How Much Does It Cost?)

how we added recessed lighting to our home office | via Yellow Brick Home

sectional | desk | desk chairs | navy rug | light | plant pocket

Time zones are a funny thing. (This is relevant, I swear!) Kim and I both grew up in Ohio near the western end of the Eastern time zone, which extended bright skies decently into the evening all throughout the winter months. Now that we’re in Chicago, which is near the eastern end of the Central time zone, the exact opposite is true; throughout December and January in Chicago, the sun sets around 4:30pm give or take a few minutes. If you’ve not experienced it yourself, looking out the window to darkening skies at 3:30pm and knowing that it’ll be pitch black in an hour can be a bit… demotivating.

Although the second story of our home receives natural light on all four sides, we needed more light! Couple that with a ceiling fan whose bulb had died and that hadn’t been used as an actual fan since we installed central AC last spring (as it turns out, a fan above a desk = paper everwhere). We knew it was time to brighten up our workspace with some recessed lighting and a different central light fixture. As a reminder, this is how our studio looked after its makeover two years ago:

how we added recessed lighting to our home office | via Yellow Brick Home

Same dogs, slightly different mood. (Yes, they are truly this lazy.)

how we added recessed lighting to our home office | via Yellow Brick Home

Choosing the new central light fixture was an easy decision. We wanted to keep the room symmetrical, so we ordered the same Conifer pendant, same finish, as the opposite end of the studio. Ours is the 24″ shade in oil rubbed bronze, and it casts warm, bright light that is perfectly diffused. The pendants are hunky and substantial. We’re in love all over again!

how we added recessed lighting to our home office | via Yellow Brick Home

When it came time to decide on the can lights themselves, we wanted them to be easy for our contractor to install into the existing ceiling drywall to help cut down on mess and drywall repairs – and, subsequently, cost. The lights also needed to be dimmable LEDs, have a lighting temperature of around 2700k, and disappear into the ceiling as much as possible when not in use. We landed on these slim recessed lights and couldn’t be happier! When not in use, they’re virtually invisible.

We had 8 lights installed over the span of a 30′ room, which is the same number we have and enjoy in our living and dining rooms. According to online calculators, we certainly could have added at least two more, but when paired with our central fixtures, we love how many options are available to us for any mood!

how we added recessed lighting to our home office | via Yellow Brick Home

how we added recessed lighting to our home office | via Yellow Brick Home

While we were at it, we took the opportunity to install smart dimmers on both the recessed lights and pendant, adding further to our home automation setup. Our Wink based system now controls indoor and outdoor lights, window shades, and thermostats all through the Wink app on our phones or through Alexa voice control. We were admittedly skeptical about home automation at first, but now that we’ve been expanding our system for a couple of years, we are huge proponents. There is something oddly satisfying about saying “Alexa, trigger bedtime” and having all of our lights turn off and our shades lower in perfect sequence. Guys, are we in the future?

how we added recessed lighting to our home office | via Yellow Brick Home

desk | chairs | credenza

so how much does a project like this cost?

I’ll begin with a quick reminder that every situation is unique. We had easy attic access directly above the studio space, so the lighting went in smoothly without any demolition. We also have a great, long-standing relationship with our contractor, and we try to pay in cash whenever possible to eliminate fees (for him) which allows him to provide us a lower rate. Labor prices also vary widely based on location.

All of that said, our total cost was around $1500, including the can lights, dimmers, electrical materials, and labor – but not including the cost of the pendant light, since that will vary for everyone based on their tastes.

We’re incredibly happy with the way the recessed lighting and new pendant brighten up the space and every corner of the room, all while keeping us motivated throughout the late afternoon – and into the evening when necessary! The added bonus of wifi control through the new smart dimmers allow us to dial in the perfect amount of light for working or relaxing at the end of the day. Take that, Central time zone!

PS: We continue to receive quite a few questions about the ins and outs of our home automation system and how everything works together. Is this something you’d like to read (or watch?) more about? Let us know and we’ll consider it for upcoming posts and/or videos! As always, we love your feedback. Thank you! 

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  • MB2.11.19 - 8:59 AM

    Grew up in Chicago, lived in Cincinnati for 13 years, and now back to Chicago. The timezone thing is SO TRUE. CST is better for network TV viewing (does anyone even do that anymore?), but Ohio is better for the daylight for sure. I’m a huge proponent of turning all the lights on during the winter months. There’s no other way to survive and stay motivated until bedtime! Great decision for your home and work space.ReplyCancel

    • Kim2.11.19 - 9:05 AM

      YES! So funny. After we moved to Chicago from Cincinnati (13 years ago!), I remember we had to adjust to watching The Office at 7pm. We were like, HOW DO PEOPLE DO THIS? We were so used to being able to have dinner and then settle into the couch at 8pm! Now with things like Hulu and Netflix, it’s not such a big deal, but man, that felt like the biggest adjustment back in the day. Haha!ReplyCancel

  • Heather O2.11.19 - 9:09 AM

    Love those pendants! And would love to read more about your home automation! My husband and I are slowlllyyyy starting to automate our home.ReplyCancel

  • Cici Haus2.11.19 - 10:58 AM

    I would love to hear more about your automation systems!ReplyCancel

  • Stacy2.11.19 - 11:28 AM

    I would love more info on the home automation! I just have a few lights at the moment and I’d like to add window treatments soon so it would be so helpful to hear more about your setup.

    Unrelated, but I really like that Scott has been taking the lead on more blog posts! He’s got a great voice and the ocassional change in perspective has been fun to read :)ReplyCancel

    • Scott2.11.19 - 7:42 PM

      Awww. Thanks Stacy! I’ve got some pretty big shoes to fill, but I’m working on it!ReplyCancel

  • Jo2.11.19 - 12:35 PM

    Looks great! I always thought pendants AND can lights seemed like overkill but now I see, it’s pretty perfect. Definitely interested in hearing more about home automation, we truly are in the future!ReplyCancel

    • Scott2.11.19 - 7:40 PM

      Thanks Jo! We’re veeeery particular about lighting around here and the new can lights have given us so many new options!ReplyCancel

  • Marita2.11.19 - 1:53 PM

    Please do share more about your home automation. I would also like to hear about whether you considered basic trim for your fans with a lightbulb instead of the trim kits. When I spoke with my electrician, he advocated for the separate option. On another note, I admire your credenza every time I see a photo. Do you still love it? It looks like the closest store location is three hours away. :(ReplyCancel

    • Scott2.11.19 - 7:46 PM

      Hi Marita! The option we used is actually an all-in-one LED unit for remodel or new construction. We very much prefer the look of this style as opposed to the can + bulb option, but from a practical perspective, (and all of the electricians we work with are VERY practical) we would likely have to replace an entire fixture if the LED panel ever failed, as opposed to just swapping out a bulb. It was a risk we were willing to take for the seamless look though!

      In other news, we still LOVE our credenza (and the similar, smaller version in our office!). Our store was 45 minutes away, but we called ahead and they were able to confirm that they had one left!ReplyCancel

  • Miranda2.11.19 - 1:57 PM

    Could you shed a little light (ha! no pun intended) on the actual process of doing this work? This is something that I’m considering for our house, a 1932 Dutch colonial with original plaster walls, but I’m not even sure what to expect as far as holes in the walls/ceilings. I realize it’ll be a bit different for us, but even a little bit of an insight to how this process went for you guys would be appreciated!ReplyCancel

    • Scott2.11.19 - 7:51 PM

      Hi Miranda! I think your process would be drastically different than ours given your plaster ceilings, which in my experience, tend to crack and crumble a bit. If you live in an area where plaster is still common, you may have luck finding an electrician or contractor that is experienced in installing cans into your ceilings? Our experience was quick at about a day and a half, but work involving drywall is always dusty. Our contractors hung plaster and laid down drop cloths over the entire floor, so cleanup was pretty minimal. Hope this helps!ReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth2.11.19 - 3:11 PM

    Can I get the details for that fur throw on your office chair? I don’t see a link.
    The lights look lovely!ReplyCancel

  • Lori2.12.19 - 1:53 PM

    Love the seamless look of the fan lights! So handy but sleek. Can you tell us more about that pup fireplace? (Okay, maybe it was originally for feet, but …)ReplyCancel

  • Trish2.12.19 - 3:11 PM

    I also love that little fireplace…….and am a bit obsessed. But, I’m also a Chicagoan and I get how depressing it can be to have nighttime start at 4:30pm! Starting a lighting project myself…..have an electrician you might recommend?ReplyCancel

    • Kim2.12.19 - 5:31 PM

      We do have one! Feel free to email us using the contact form and we’d gladly pass along his info.ReplyCancel

    • Francisco Rosales11.24.20 - 7:49 AM

      I’m an electricianReplyCancel

  • KC2.14.19 - 1:24 PM

    I’ve lived in the central timezone (raised in EST) for almost 10 years and still can’t get used to things being on an hour+ earlier!

    I routinely try to watch things at the wrong time.ReplyCancel

  • Tyler2.22.19 - 12:01 AM

    Very nice!ReplyCancel

  • Steph4.28.19 - 3:20 PM

    Could you please share your online calculator website used to determine the number of pot lights for the space???  
    I love this look, thanks for all the tips: wattage, one piece, dimmable.  I’m hoping to do the same.  I like how it doesn’t look like an airport runway in your home.  The placement of them is great. Any tips on that?
    Thanks in advance!ReplyCancel

    • Kim4.29.19 - 8:32 AM

      Hi Steph! We personally like the look of one in each corner, spaced a little more evenly. Our contractor helped us determine the exact proper placement. We found that online calculators always wanted us to have at least 1 or 2 more than we felt comfortable with, but we honestly just googled ‘how to determine space between recessed lighting’ and a whole bunch of calculators and articles popped up!ReplyCancel

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We’re Kim + Scott, Chicago based content creators behind the Home + Lifestyle brand Yellow Brick Home.

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