From 2017-2018, we renovated our home.

A friend introduced me to SketchUp, and helped with some initial models of the space. Using these files as a starting point, I spent several months iterating on the design with increasing fidelity, repeating the process again as constraints emerged through demolition. Our house is close to 100 years old, and any renovation—especially in an old house⁠—is bound for surprises.

SketchUp model and finished space

Working in 3D allowed me to more carefully consider the spaces and sightlines than a typical plan or one-off render. Using a friend’s VR rig, I could walk through the models to better understand flow and utility. Many of the fixtures and appliances we considered had 3D models available, so I was able to audition them in the space before making a commitment. When options were presented during the construction, I was able to model each permutation to better understand its context and outcome, rather than rush a decision or leave it solely to the contractor.

Before/after from mid-demoliton to final

The design attempts to blend old with new, by mixing modern lines with natural materials. I’ve never designed a space or physical thing like this before, but found the principals familiar to what I knew in software, and learned a lot about the process along the way.

Transition from dining room to kitchen
Transition from dining room to kitchen

Lighting

In continuing the mix of old and new, I integrated Danish lighting from the 1950s in the dining room, and modern linear lighting in the kitchen that I designed and built.

The linear lights consist of flush-mount aluminum channels with diffusers, five-channel LED strips colour-matched to Philips Hue, dual PWM amplifiers (RGB and tunable white), Philips Hue LS+ controllers, and commercial power supplies.

In order to achieve perfectly linear light, I ran two light strips along the side walls of the aluminium channels, and created an offset for consistent spacing between CW•RGB•WW diode clusters. In testing several methods of mounting and diffusion, I found this approach to be best balance of heat dissipation and output.

Test assembly and dry fitting placement

For each fixture, I had an electrician run a standard line-voltage light switch to a junction box near the electrical panel in the basement, and low voltage wire from there back up to its respective installation location. Downstairs, I connected each switched line to a 24V power supply that feeds a Philips Hue LS+ controller and two PWM amplifiers that power the fixture.

Installation and initial power-up

In total I built five discrete lights; each addressable individually or by group from the Philips Hue app or any voice assistant. They work seamlessly with standard in-wall switches to match the rest of the house.

In terms of brightness, at peak output the three fixtures in the kitchen are capable of around 23,400 lm at 4200k, with a CRI of 95+. This equates to approximately 29 standard 60W light bulbs or 78 Philips Hue GU10s.

Corner detail and ZigBee controller prototype

Hide and Seek

Towards the back of the house, there is a bank of three full-height cabinets on the one wall. Behind the first door is a pantry, framed in baltic birch with adjustable shelves. The third door is more storage, mostly for cleaning and dog supplies. The centre door opens to a T-shaped powder room hidden behind the other cabinets.

Second handle on the left is the powder room. The lower level was previously an attached garage
Second handle on the left is the powder room. The lower level was previously an attached garage

The powder room is painted a deep navy, in contrast to the otherwise bright house. A feature wall has floor-to-ceiling period appropriate wallpaper by William Morris, in a pattern called Golden Lily.

I had a friend sandblast the chrome bathroom fixtures to reveal the raw brass underneath, and treated them with an acid mixture to accelerate patina into cohesion with original fixtures in the house.

Main floor powder room
Main floor powder room

When the powder room door opens, a ZigBee-enabled reed switch communicates with Home Assistant running on a Raspberry Pi to turn the lights on. If we’re entertaining, the linear fixture outside the door can turn into an airplane-style occupancy indicator, turning red when occupied and green when available.

Big stretch