I can safely say that every day of this home build journey I am learning something new. From small things like discovering new products (who knew door handles could be so exciting?!) to the bigger picture of understanding the building process.
The decisions we make now will have an impact on how we live in and enjoy our home so I’m taking them pretty seriously… That’s why it took three hours of careful deliberation before finalising our electrical and lighting plan! Thankfully our electrician and lighting expert were incredibly patient and helpful!
Here are my top 10 electrical and lighting things to consider when building and I hope they help you with your build.
1. Do not over-light your interiors. The other week we published ‘How to design a lighting plan for your home‘ and in that post, lighting expert James talks about understanding the function of each room before deciding how much and what type of light to fill it with. As we went room by room through our house, James would constantly ask me ‘What will you do in this room?’ and ‘How will you configure your furniture?’ before suggesting any lighting options. Start with function and adapt your lighting depending on the needs in the space to avoid over lighting your home — and put a dimmer on every interior light!
2. Consider mixing lighting solutions. James is a big believer in using as little ceiling light as possible so he suggested all sorts of other lighting solutions — wall washes, low hallway wall lights, floor lamps, pendants, step lights — and when we did talk about ceiling lights he suggested some new products, like ‘extrusion’ lighting which is a more sleek and commercial looking product. If you won’t have an expert to help you plan your lighting, I suggest taking the time to research all the lighting options out there before meeting with your electrician so you can develop a plan that works and will add interest to your home.
3. Be careful not to date your house with lighting that’s so 2015! As you all know, I’m a massive Block fan. So when I asked whether or not strip lighting along the kick of the kitchen was a good idea, or if we should put some under the island bench and I got a strained look from James… it was pretty clear the answer was no, he he. He said we could do whatever we wanted — it’s our house after all — but that he wouldn’t recommend putting lighting in these places where it serves no real purpose as he thinks this lighting trend will date quickly. In a few years time you don’t want people to say ‘That’s so 2015!’.
4. Automate lighting. Our lighting expert also suggested adding some automatic lights — having a sensor when you open the butler’s pantry and in the garage — so you don’t need to fumble in the dark. Small thoughtful details like this can make living in your home more comfortable.
5. Power point placement matters. We often see The Block judges giving the contestants flak for positioning power points in sight but truth is, sometimes they need to be. For example, in the dining area I asked for a power point behind where the sideboard will be (out of sight and perfect for a table lamp) but our electrician was thinking practically ‘What if you want to work on a laptop or charge a phone?’ — so we added some additional power points that were close to the dining table and wouldn’t be a trip hazard. In the bathroom we could put the power points inside the face cabinets but that would mean that if I want to straighten my hair, I would need the cabinet door to be open and I wouldn’t be able to use the mirror. My advice is to place the power points where it’s most practical and to make them discrete by choosing nice covers which takes me to the next tip…
6. Consider the switches. Lighting switches have come a long way and there are some truly stylish options on the market now. Our electrician said his new favourite is the Saturn Zen range which comes in matt black and white, and you can even replace the buttons with personalised images like a laundry, garage etc so you won’t be flicking every switch on until you find the right one!
7. In-wall vacuum systems need to be planned early. Arnie is my beautiful fur baby but he sheds a lot of hair (understatement of the century!) so we need a powerful vacuum cleaner. Getting a Dyson changed my life but I hear what’s even more powerful are those in-wall systems. These systems need to be put in before the walls are plastered so if you’re thinking about one, plan early. Our electrician helped us decide where to put the outlets, measuring the distance from each outlet to ensure the vacuum hose would reach every room, in and around the furniture that would be placed there.
8. Decide where to place control panels. There are all sorts of control panels that you may need in your home — heating and cooling, lighting, home security etc. It’s a good idea to decide early what kind of technology you intend to use in your home so you know exactly what control panels you will have, and can decide on the most practical and least obtrusive place to position them — last thing you want is a panel right next gorgeous artwork!
9. Make provisions if you’re unsure or budget restricts. Building is so darn expensive and unfortunately by the time it comes to lighting and electrical, the budget can be blown and those ideas of an integrated sound system, theatre room or statement pendant light might be in the air. My advice is to make provision for these things by running the cabling you need to those areas — that way you can add them when the timing is right.
10. Walk through your decisions if you can. It may have taken a few hours but I’m so glad we decided on our electrical and lighting once the house was framed rather than at the planning stage. It meant we could walk through the house room by room and see exactly where light switches, power points and lights would be positioned and spot any potential issues. For example, there is a beam running straight down the centre of the ceiling at our entry so if we would have locked in downlights at the planning stage, we would have had to position them off centre, making them too close to the wall which would have created shadows. To avoid this issue so we decided to go with low wall lights instead. Walking through your decisions can help you spot and overcome issues early and see new opportunities that you just can’t visualise from a plan.
Do you have other top electrical or lighting tips when building? Share them in the comments below!