Introduction: Awesome Mid-Century Modern Cloud LED Lights Project

Inspiration: Kitchen Upgrade

We were updating the kitchen in our really cool looking mid-century modern house. Walls were coming down, and the 1962 kitchen designed for a single cook was being transformed into a space where the whole family could participate in meal preparation. The little eat-in area became part of the new kitchen, and the wall separating the kitchen from the dining room was removed. The original lights were fluorescent fixtures that were over 40 years old, and definitely getting replaced. I knew lighting was going to be important. It needed to be bright, with coverage everywhere. I also wanted it to be all LED and dimmable. I wanted something with a Mid-Century Modern vibe and existing fixtures were expensive. Lots of little LED spotlights just weren't going to be the look I wanted. So I started coming up with some ideas. It had to be easy, doable, and above all, it had to be Awesome.


I used the following tools and parts to create the lights:

Circular saw: to cut out the "clouds". I made 7 in total, 3 at 24”x24” with 8 inch LED lights, 3 at 30”x30” with 11” LED lights, and 1 at 36x36 with a 11” LED.

Jigsaw/Reciprocating saw: to round the corners, and cut the opening for the lights.

Drill and counter sink: for the mounting holes.

Sander: to take out the saw marks and soften the edges of the MDF before and after priming.

Small roller brush to paint the primer and finish coat which was a pure white with a flat/matte finish.

Stud finder: to find the ceiling joists for installation.

Lights i found on Amazon:

11 inch:

8 inch:

Step 1: ...Continue the “Awesome” Projects.

Years ago my daughter and I updated the mailbox and mailbox post to be “Awesome.” Then we updated the lamp post by the driveway to make it “Awesome.”

Step 2: Finding the Right Design

I searched for inspiration online (mostly Pinterest) for iconic MCM designs, and I came up with some designs. The offset rounded corner square within a rounded corner square kept popping up, and I thought it would look right for a light.

Step 3: Finding the Lights

The search for the lights took me to a bunch of different websites, until I found these lights on Amazon. They were square and came in 8” and 12” sizes and were dimmable, so I order 1 each to play with. I also bought a dimmer that is suitable for LEDs, as the 8” lights were rated at 18 watts, and the 12” lights were 24 watts which is pretty bright for LEDs.

Step 4: Trying the Lights and Making a Prototype

When the lights arrived, I wired them to a plug wire, a dimmer, and turned them on. Wow they were bright; I was glad I had the dimmer. So, I made a prototype. I used a piece of 1/2” plywood I had laying around. I cut out a 24” square and rounded the corners. I painted it the same blue as my Awesome mailbox and Awesome lamp post. Then I hung it to see it in action. It was bright. As I was cutting it out, it felt like it was going to be too big, but once I saw it on the ceiling, it looked small. But the style was right. My wife hated the color.

Step 5: The Final Design and Layout

Once the kitchen was going in, I wanted the lights to be over each of the work areas: Sink, Cooktop, Oven, the prep area by the refrigerator, the door and the peninsula. These were kinda random areas in the kitchen, then an idea hit me... make them CLOUDS!!. I can arrange them sort of random on the ceiling, with different sizes, painted white. My wife agreed to paint the ceiling blue like a sky to highlight the “clouds.” The plywood I used for the prototype had a grain that you could see when painted, so I decided to use MDF.

Step 6: Cutting Out the Parts.

I first cut out the main squares from 1/2” MDF. Then rounded the corners, using a peanut butter jar lid to draw the line.

Then I cut the openings for the LED lights.

Then I ripped some strips of 5/8” thick plywood at 3” wide and different lengths for the different sized MDF clouds, that I had to use to mount the lights to the ceiling.

Sand paper: to take out the saw marks on the edges, and soften the edges of the MDF before and after priming.

Step 7: Installation Day.

I located where I wanted each of the lights to be on the ceiling. For the 12” lights over the sink, the stove top, and the prep area, I wanted the lights to be half over the counter edge so there would not be a big shadow as you stood there. For the smaller 8” smaller lights, I wanted one centered on the entry door and one centered on the oven. I measured where the 5/8” plywood mounting strips should be, and found the studs in the ceiling with a stud finder, and screwed the plywood strips to the studs.

Step 8: Wiring Day

Wiring the lights was a long day for me. I had a permit from the city, and I'm up on the current codes. I suggest you get a licensed electrician to do the final wiring if you are not up on the current codes in your city. I have done lots of electrical work in the past, so I was OK with doing this kind of wiring. I did not want to daisy chain the lights, so I ran a separate #14 AWG (14 Gauge copper) to each light, all tied together in junction boxes in the attic off the dimmer switch.

Step 9: The “Awesome” Results Day

OK... this actually turned out EXACTLY as I had hoped: very bright, all the work areas had plenty of light, and the dimmer can make it not so bright when you don't want to be blinded in the dark nights. wife says it looks awesome!

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