Building a house is in some ways like giving birth. It's painful. In the heat of the moment you swear you're not going to do it again. But when its all over, the end result is worth it. So much of the building process is like that and buying lights was no exception. It actually might have been one of the worst parts. Like, really bad. Sounds amazing right?! Well come on, I'll tell you all about it!
Let's start with the budget–as in, we did not have much of one. And I know what you're thinking, How is that possible?? It's possible when you and your builder are not on the same page as far as the level of finish you are expecting (oh man... communication is so important!). In other words, I was thinking Pinterest Farmhousey Chic and he was thinking Contractor Builder Basic. The lighting budget was established almost a year prior when we got the quote for the construction. It was a small line item in a huge list of line items that was around a couple thousand dollars. It seemed unimportant and tiny in comparison to say the line item for lumber, or the roof. And when you're just trying to get approved for a crazy building loan, design a house, and deal with clearing land all at the same time, the lighting budget doesn't get much attention. Turns out, a couple thousand dollars is WAY low when buying dozens of lights, fans, and fixtures for a 4 bedroom home.
Electricians wrapping up the kitchen under-cabinet lights (September 2015).
Obviously, I know that now. Older = Wiser, right? And had I taken the time to price out the fans I wanted and chandeliers I was eyeing last year, I would have realized that we probably needed to double the lighting budget (triple?). But, it got over-looked and I thought, yeah, that sounds good. Let's go with it.
So armed with only about $2,000 I went to work figuring out first off, what I needed to buy. The electricians provided all recessed lighting but any sort of fixture was up to me. All fans, exterior lights, bathroom vanity fixtures, under-cabinet lighting, in-cabinet lighting, chandeliers, closet lights, etc were on me. Armed with my laptop and an Excel spreadsheet, I walked around the house and took inventory of every gaping hole with wires protruding. I listed all rooms and then fixtures required for each room. I ended up with 55 total fixtures! FIFTY. FIVE. *dies*
Butler's Pantry with in-cabinet and under-cabinet lighting.
So if you do some quick math, that averages out to about $36 per fixture. Have you ever tried to buy a new chandelier or ceiling fan??? Let's just say that generally the under $36 club isn't a pretty club. So I decided to prioritize, giving the prominent fixtures more of the loot .
The kitchen hanging fixtures, dining room chandelier, and living room ceiling fan became Tier 1. Meaning I was willing to spend the most on those (in my head... up to $300ish?). Then the bathrooms became Tier 2, then the hallways, then bedroom fans, then closets, garage, and exterior lights. It was basically like... what lights can we spend the absolute least on (outdoor motion lights, fluorescent fixtures for the garage, closets, etc.) and what should we put a few more dollars into? Then I got to shopping.
Five fluorescent fixtures in the garage... bargain basement pricing here :).
I got 90% of our lighting at either HomeDepot.com or Lowes.com keeping in mind budget and convenience (free and fast shipping). And funny side note. After I entered the worlds longest Home Depot order online–checking and rechecking my Excel sheet–and hit the final "Order" button (over $1,000 and dozens of lights), my credit card denied the charge because they thought it was fraud. I then spent the next hour on the phone with Chase and Home Depot customer service making sure I wouldn't be charged twice and then while they manually reentered my entire order since everything got deleted when the card was denied! Ugh. So so not fun.
View of kitchen pendants and "School House" fixtures down the hall.
The main focal point in our kitchen is the island which has two pendants hanging over it. I knew they needed to be special to really get the look I've been planning since 2007 when we bought this piece of dirt and a dream. Even if the rest of the house was mostly basic and maybe I'll replace later when we have more money, the island was going to be amazing. So I did a ton of research and Pinterest browsing and finally decided that Lamps Plus had what I needed. They actually had EVERYTHING I
And, since it's been over a year (yikes!) since they've been up, I can tell you that they clean up beautifully with the same stainless cleaner I use on the fridge.
Island lights to distract you from the amount of junk on the back counter.
So the take away from this enthralling tale of lighting woes, is to really check that the budget the builder gives you is actually going to cover more than light bulbs. Know the ballpark prices of what you want and the number of fixtures you need from day 1. You'll be so much happier in the end shopping for what you actually love instead of what you "can live with for now".
And now, I leave you with a variety of shots of my lights in action. Enjoy.
The hubs assembling the dining room chandelier... and the kids whacking each other with styrofoam.
All of the kitchen fixtures in all of their glory.
You can see the garage lights from this angle. 4 total + 3 porch lights + 2 motion lights = 9 just on the front of the house.
Our living room ceiling fan. Simple but LOVE it. Seriously, one of our best buys. It's silent and works amazingly well even on the lowest setting.
You can see the kitchen table fixture and the "desk fixture" by the chalk board wall (one day there might be a desk over there) in this shot.