Remember the days when we all used incandescent light bulbs in everything? Things were so easy then. We could pick up light bulbs at the grocery store, the home improvement store, the corner convenience store. They were pretty much all 2700K (did we even know about that color temperature scale back then?), so the only real decision we had to make was how bright we wanted the bulb to be. Easy peasy.
Now there are so many decisions. Halogen? Fluorescent? LED? How bright do you need it? 60 watt equivalent? 150 watt equivalent? And what color temperature do you want? 2500K? 2700K? 5000K? ? Y’all, life is complicated enough. Did we really have to go muck it up even more with the additional stress of making all of these light bulb decisions? 😀
Over the last five years, any time I needed new light bulbs, I’d purchase GE Reveal bulbs, which are LED bulbs rated at 2850K. I’ll admit that I chose Reveal bulbs because I was swayed by another blogger who was paid to use and promote that product and convince her readers how wonderful they are. Her paid promotion clearly worked on me, because I’ve been replacing old bulbs that go out with GE Reveal ever since.
But I’ve never been thrilled with them. As a person who absolutely loves color, I’d notice when I turned on a light, especially at night, all of my beautiful colors in my home would look dull, lifeless, and yellow. It really became noticeable when I got the new settee in the music room. During the day with just natural light — even the relatively little natural light the music room gets compared to the living room — it was a beautiful, vibrant color. At night when the lights were turned on, it looked dull and way too orange.
The whole lighting issue really got to me the other day when I was trying to take pictures of the finished living room. I took those pictures in the mid-morning (probably around 10:00am) on Wednesday. And while it has been rainy and cloudy here lately, the living room was still filled with beautiful natural light. It was diffused light because of the cloudy weather, but it was still so pretty, so I took all of those pictures using only natural light.
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But there were a couple of angles I wanted to photograph that included rooms that didn’t get as much (or any) natural light, like the kitchen and the hallway. Our hallway has absolutely no direct natural light, and the kitchen gets indirect natural light through the breakfast room windows. That means that on cloudy days, those rooms can still look pretty dark. So I wanted to turn on the lights in those areas so they would show up nicely where they were included in those angles.
Here’s what I ended up with…
You can see how beautiful the natural light looks in the living room, where all of the colors are bright, true, and not yellowed at all. And then there’s the kitchen, where everything has a yellow/amber look and the colors are dull. That’s with GE Reveal bulbs in the main center light fixture, and recessed lighting (the kind with the trim kit and bulb all one piece) in a different brand, but all of those were around 2850K.
So I ended up turning off the kitchen lights altogether, which looked like this…
It’s not horrible, but I sure did want my kitchen to show up more in the photo. But with only natural light, even though it’s dark in there, you can see that my cabinets have absolutely none of that yellow/amber hue to them. They’re a pretty clear mid-range teal color.
The same thing happened when I tried to take a picture from an angle that showed the hallway. The hallway had GE Reveal bulbs in the ceiling fixture. I ended up deleting that picture and avoiding that angle, but you can imagine my bright living room with the clear colors with a glowing yellow/amber hallway in the background. It was awful.
So yesterday, I decided that it was time to find a solution. After doing some reading online, I came to the conclusion that my only option was to use daylight bulbs.
Ugh. Daylight bulbs. The rooms I’ve been in where daylight bulbs are used feel so sterile and lifeless, and they generally have a very fluorescent lighting feel to them. The light is so harsh and bright that it’s almost blue. The idea of putting that throughout my house didn’t sit well with me at all.
Another consideration was that I wanted to use the same brand and same color temperature throughout the main areas of the house, which limited my options. I wanted the same brand of bulbs in my lamps and ceiling fixtures, as well as the recessed lighting. And since I really didn’t want to buy separate bulbs and trim kits, I needed that brand to have the trim kit/bulb combo.
Well, that led me right back to GE. Their Reveal bulbs are what I had been using, but they had a daylight bulb called Refresh that came in all of the options I needed. (The recessed bulb/trim kit combo is actually Relax/Refresh, which means it can be set to 2700K, which is a warm light, or to 5000K, which is daylight.) I decided to go for it, and I have to say that not only am I pleased with the light (it doesn’t feel too harsh or sterile or blue at al to me), but I can’t believe the difference they have made in the colors in my rooms! The colors under these lights look so true, and they look just like they do with natural sunlight.
Let me show you what I’m talking about. And to be very clear, I edit all of the photos that go on my blog for overall brightness and fill light (i.e., adding light to shadows). So all of the pictures below have been edited for those two things. But 99.999% of the time, I also have to edit pictures for color and white balance (i.e., correcting for the yellow/amber lighting so that colors will show true).
I did not edit the pictures of my finished living room for white balance in yesterday’s post, and I did not edit any of the photos in this post for color or white balance. Every one of these will show the colors that came right out of my camera. So let’s look at some comparisons.
First up, let’s go back to that living room picture with the kitchen in the background. This is with natural light in the living room, GE Reveal bulbs in the ceiling fixture in the kitchen, and about 2850K lighting (same as the GE Reveal) in the kitchen recessed lights. (Please excuse my messy kitchen counters. 🙂 )
The recessed lights above the peninsula are on a different switch, and I didn’t have them on for the picture above, but since they’re the same color temperature as the rest, having those lights would have increased the brightness, but the colors with the dullness and that yellow/amber would have been the same.
And below is a picture I took just this morning with the new GE Refresh daylight bulbs in the kitchen. Look at the huge difference in the cabinet color!
This is the first time I’ve EVER taken a picture of my kitchen cabinets and had them show up true to color without editing the picture for color and white balance.
Again, not a single one of these have been edited for color or white balance. Edited for overall brightness and fill light? Yes and yes. Edited for color and white balance? No and no. Isn’t that amazing?!
I have an advantage in the kitchen because those lights are on dimmers. That means that I can dim the lights (which are very bright on full strength) to match the natural sunlight coming through the windows in the living room and breakfast room on a cloudy day like today. None of my other lights are on dimmers, but that will soon change.
Next up, here’s the hallway, music room, and kitchen with the old lighting. This is with GE Reveal in the hallway, music room, and kitchen light fixtures, and a different brand recessed lights with very similar color temperature in the kitchen.
This next picture is with new lighting (GE Refresh) in the music room and the old lighting (GE Reveal) still in the hallway. This was taken last night around 10:00pm. Keep in mind that the walls in both rooms (the stripes in the hallway and the trellis stencil in the music room) are painted with the same colors — Behr Polar Bear and Benjamin Moore Classic Gray. But they sure don’t look the same at all!
And finally, here are all three areas — hallway, music room and kitchen — with all new GE Refresh. I can’t believe how true these colors are right out of my camera with absolutely no editing for color or white balance! Look at how clear the colors are on my kitchen cabinets. And that gorgeous color on the settee!
I definitely want to add a dimmer to that music room chandelier. Light that bright is a bit jarring at night, but I’m loving the color temperature and the fact that the colors in these rooms are so clear and true.
This is another “before” picture of the same area. I used the native wide angle setting, which is why things look a little distorted, but that’s not important. Take a look at the lighting colors from one side to the other. The living room is natural light only, while the music room and the kitchen are mostly GE Reveal (with recessed lights in the kitchen the same color temperature as the GE Reveal). Both rooms do get some indirect natural light from the living room and the breakfast room, but you can see from the right to the left, the rooms get progressively more yellow/amber. You can also see that the floor also goes from a true medium brown on the right to orange on the left.
Next let me show you the kitchen. Here’s the back wall of the kitchen with the old lighting. Pay attention to the upper cabinet color. You can see here that it looks pretty dull. The recessed lights aren’t GE Reveal, but they are a similar color temperature (around 2800K), and the main light fixture has GE Reveal bulbs in it. So this is the original.
Here’s a comparison of the old and new. The recessed light on the far left has the new GE Refresh (daylight 5000K) bulb with trim kit, which is a 65 watt equivalent. And the left sconce has a new daylight bulb as well. The other two recessed lights and the right sconce are the original lighting. See the difference in the cabinet color? I wish I had turned off the undercabinet lights, because that’s a warm white as well. But if you just look at the upper cabinets, you can see a huge difference.
And here it is with all new lights. I also put the new daylight bulbs in the sconces. Again, that warm white undercabinet lighting is throwing off the color of the tile and the lower cabinets, and it looks even yellower with the new daylight bulbs above. But you can still see a huge difference on those upper cabinets.
And next, I’ll show you the peninsula lighting. This is the original lighting, and while my camera didn’t pick up a whole lot of the yellow/amber color, pay attention to the color of the whites (tile and trim) in the kitchen compared to the living room. This was taken about 11:00pm last night. See how the whites look the same in both rooms?
And this is with the new lighting in the kitchen and the old lighting in the living room. Check out the difference in the whites from the kitchen to the living room. The whole living room now looks aged and dull.
I think that’s amazing!
And finally, I haven’t switched out the living room lights just yet, but I can show you the natural light compared to the warm white bulbs. Here’s the room with the natural light. Pay attention to the rug colors and purple chairs. See how bright and true those colors are?
And here they are at night under warm white (not GE Reveal) recessed lights. Ugh…so dull. Except notice the curtain panel by the lamp on the side table. See how true that pink is? It looks almost identical to some of the pictures in the living room before and after post that were taken in all natural light. That’s because that lamp has a new (although too bright, which is why it’s glowing 😀 ) GE Refresh bulb in it.
But these colors just look dull and depressing.
So anyway, I feel so much better about the lighting in my house now, and I love that I can flip on a light without the colors getting all dull and lifeless. Now I flip on a light, and the colors stay vibrant and true. And I LOVE that I have an actual plan now, and that I can go buy new bulbs with confidence.
My plan from now on will be this: Only GE Refresh daylight bulbs in all main areas of the house. (I’ll probably stick with GE Reveal for bedrooms, though.) For recessed lighting, the only option is 65 watt equivalent, which is plenty bright. For ceiling light fixtures, I’ll use 60 watt equivalent, but ALL of them will need to be on dimmers so that I can match the brightness of the natural light coming into the rooms that get a lot of natural light. I really think that’s key in not having a room feel cold and sterile, although as I said earlier, I don’t feel like the GE Refresh is as harsh as other daylight bulbs I’ve seen, and I don’t see any of that cool blue light that some have. Anyway, and then for table lamps and wall sconces, I’ll use 40 watt equivalent unless those are on dimmers, or unless the table lamp has a three-way switch.
I have a plan now. I like the feeling of not being lost or intimidated on the light bulb aisle anymore. 😀
Addicted 2 Decorating is where I share my DIY and decorating journey as I remodel and decorate the 1948 fixer upper that my husband, Matt, and I bought in 2013. Matt has M.S. and is unable to do physical work, so I do the majority of the work on the house by myself. You can learn more about me here.
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