Kitchen: Replacing the “Korean Restaurant” light.

As part of our “home enlightenment” plan, we wanted to change the light in the kitchen area. Our kitchen area is a bit of a unique one, as it used to be this house’s living room but was changed by the owner at some point in the past (for some reason I can’t fully comprehend). They built the kitchen right in front of where the living room windows facing out to the balcony used to be, and that was that. You gain a (bed-)room, but lose the living room. Hum.

Anywho. Light! This room was lit up by a cross-shaped light that holds four phosphorescent lights (those relatively small ones that plug in only on one side, you know the kind) that looked god-awful. It did its job of brightening up the place alright, of course, perhaps too much so. So that thing had to go.

Unfortunately, in most local light shops here in Seoul you can only choose from two kinds of lights;

  1. Cheap, super bright phosphorescent lights like the one we want to get rid of (20-40.000 Won)
  2. Super expensive, overly kitsch lights made of millions of tiny fake diamond stones and faux golden stuff and things (300-500.000 Won. I’m not even joking)

Needless to say, neither were particularly attractive options. Lucky for us though, a while ago we visited what I dubbed as “Fake Ikea” — somewhere in Incheon is a store that bulk imports real Ikea furniture from China and sells it here at a (sometimes slight, other times more than slight) markup. Great for us who like good furniture at decent prices and enjoy DIYing (that is, until the first real Ikea opens up this very month!). This particular store also had a few other smaller shops inside its building, one of which sells great looking lamps at very affordable prices. So this is where we got a few of our lights, including the one for the kitchen area. Score!

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When removing light fixtures that have been on a wall or ceiling for a longer while, you’re going to run into some typical issues. Discoloration of the wallpaper is one, broken/damaged/undone wallpaper another. We had both, of course. So to fix this without having to redo the entire wallpaper on the ceiling (our house —like so many here— has wallpaper on the ceiling too), Younhee got the idea to use stickers easily found at Daiso (and similar shops) that basically is designed for this very purpose (or to pretty up your kitchen doors, for example). We picked up a few rolls of this stuff and she got to cutting. Because I can’t cut very well. Delegation.

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After cutting it to size, Younhee carefully attached it to the ceiling while I stood by snapping photos, letting her do all the work. After this it was an easy task of attaching the wires using those little push-hold-thingies that were already on there (and I bought a few extra at a local store), and attaching the lamp fixture to the metal bracket I previously screwed in place.

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Normally you’d want to use special plugs for this sort of stuff, but it seems like these are not at all common here in Korea. When we tried to get them at a local “screws and cables and such” store, all we got was weird, confused looks while they kept trying to give us wall plugs instead. Oh well.

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Looks pretty good, right?

Other chapters in this series
  1. Kitchen: Adding some light below the closets.
  2. Kitchen: Replacing the "Korean Restaurant" light.

Kitchen: Adding some light below the closets.

Most Korean houses tend to have rather awful looking lighting. You know the phosphorescence lights that make the place real bright but don’t really make it look good in doing so. Our home is no exception here.

The kitchen is particularly bad. There is a fixture in place in front of the kitchen closets that holds one out of two possible lights, as putting the second one in place would make it impossible to fully open one of the closet doors. Yikes.

To fix this, I wanted to install some lights under the closets, brightening up the kitchen itself without making the entire area an attention-grabbing beacon. We found some decent enough looking LED strips at Homeplus, so brought two back with us for this project. They had two different kinds; one looks rather unfinished and had a simple on/off switch. The other looks finished (frame and all) and has a “touch” button that, as we later found out, has three separate brightness modes.

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We chose the finished looking ones but, to be honest, in retrospect I would’ve gone with the unfinished looking ones, as I prefer to have a simple on/off switch and the lights themselves mostly disappear behind the closet doors anyway. Oh well.

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I used a simple cable strip from Daiso to both keep the cable from sagging and hide it (mostly, anyway). I didn’t finish it completely just yet, as you can see in the photos, but it’s fine for what it is now. You don’t really see anything unless you actively look up under the closets anyway.

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I drilled a small hole on at the end for the power cables to go through. I made the hole big enough so that the small power plugs fit through so I didn’t have to cut and re-attach them. On the other side I plugged in both power adapters into a wall socket I placed there just for this purpose, which sits behind our microwave.

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All in all it was very little effort to get these in place, and the result is definitely a massive improvement over the previous lighting in place. This light is actually still there right now, pending us figuring out what exactly we want to do with it. I’m ok removing it altogether, but we may want to do something else there at some point.

Other chapters in this series
  1. Kitchen: Adding some light below the closets.
  2. Kitchen: Replacing the "Korean Restaurant" light.