With our framing process up and running, we started to turn our attention to our outlet and lighting plans. These would help firm up the bid for rough electrical work, so we wanted to get them done before any of the mechanical work started on the house. While this would have been Shaun’s job (our architect and builder), it was a task we put on Ellen’s plate (our interior designer). Shaun would provide input along the way, like correcting course when we tried to put an outlet in the middle of a structural steel beam.
A snippet of the first outlet plan looked a little something like this:
A key explained what symbols meant what: “$” denotes a light switch, the triangle represented data hookups, the vertical lines near a circle were outlets.
Likewise, the lighting plan; this section is from the dining room, master closet, and master bath:
Again, a key described what symbols meant what. But for the most part, each light fixture was included, along with each light switch, and dotted lines that denoted what switches were tied to which lights.
We made a lot of tweaks. Most were pretty minor, like moving a switch from one end of a room to another. Some more significant edits:
- Dimmers on nearly all of the lights in the house.
- 220v outlet in the garage for electric car charging.
- Outlets for downlights on bookshelves and in the master closet.
- Provisions for a networking hub in a central closet.
- Cat6 and coax cables to our main media areas.
- Task lighting in the garage.
- Track lighting for the downstairs hallway and for an upstairs gallery wall.
- Provisions for a couple of custom chandeliers, one over the kitchen island and one in the entryway.
- Dimmable smart switches in the master bedroom and most main living areas. After digging around some, it looked like a z-wave system was the way to go. like this or this. Z-wave systems create “mesh” networks, so they don’t depend on the strength of your wifi network, and they also don’t clog your wifi signal channels. They can also work with other smart home stuff, like doorbells or locks or motion sensors. They also work with smart assistants like Google Home or Alexa. Adding smart switches would push up the cost of the electrical work, but it seemed like money well-spent.
Outlets and Lights Generally
Overall, it seemed like outlets and lights were a good place to spend money. A wall outlet isn’t very expensive. It’s also not very hard to install when you’re building a house. But it’s a lot harder to install once your house is built. And it can be really convenient to have enough outlets in enough places.
Same goes for lighting. Good lighting can have a big impact on how a house lives. And like outlets, a 6″ can light isn’t real expensive on its own. But it’s hard to install once the house is finished, and it’s lame to be sitting in the dark or squinting at a piece of work because you don’t have enough light.
The same approach goes for home networking. Yeah, wifi has gotten a lot better, but wired connections are still more reliable. And they’re easy to run before you have drywall up. Better to run too much than not enough, especially when it doesn’t have much of an impact on the total budget.
Apartment Therapy: Complete and Happy Home included a lot of little quick-hit pieces of advice, along with some case studies of spaces that “work.” It’s a good “early” interior design book, but after reading some of the other books on our Resources page, a lot of the information felt familiar. The examples were good though, so it’s worth a read.