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Recessed Lighting

Recessed Lighting


Recessed lighting exists outside the realm of trendiness.  It’s not a statement piece but rather hides in the ceiling, so it doesn’t have the same life expectancy as the track lighting with chunky heads or the brass chandelier with flower emblazoned milk glass.  Although recessed lighting is often used with modern styles, it can be used in traditional spaces, such as old farmhouses, if it’s strategically placed. Because of its timelessness and diversity, it’s no wonder it’s the go-to choice in lighting.  Here are a few things to keep in mind when selecting the right recessed lights for you.

Knowing when and when not to use them

Recessed lights are ideal for low ceilings as they give rooms a clean open look, also making them well-suited for when you want something else in the room to grab attention, not the lights.  They can be used in every room and closet in the house, including wet areas – wet-rated recessed lights with sealed lenses are perfect over bathtubs and showers as they don’t obscure headroom.

But there are places they don’t belong.  First of all, unless you want that dance-club-strobe-light-feel they can’t be placed too close to ceiling fans.  They also aren’t the best choice over vanities (unless you want to see how much thinner your hair is becoming instead of your face).  And, if you need extra light over a specific area, such as a table, a light that hangs from the ceiling is going to better illuminate that surface than a scattering of cans in the ceiling.

Diversity in use

Recessed lights can be great wall washers.  Placed in a row, 18 to 24 inches from the wall, recessed fixtures with wall washing trims will wash the wall with light – brightening the room and making it feel larger.

Recessed lights work great as spotlights.  Recessed lights with narrow beams can draw your attention to artwork, or make a ceramic tub glisten and pop when placed over top.

Even though they are ideal for low ceilings, they brighten high shadowy ceilings, transforming a dark cavern-ish room into a beautiful space.  On high ceilings and in large rooms you must be generous with their numbers and thoughtful with the type of trim.  If the ceiling is vaulted, recessed lights need adjustable trims so they can be positioned towards the floor. 


The right bulb is everything in lighting.  Aside from the typical wattage and kelvin ratings, recessed bulbs have additional letters on their packaging - BR, PAR, and MR are the most common.  The main difference between the three – beam width.

For general lighting BR bulbs are ideal – they are bright and have a wide beam.  BR bulbs are the best option over a kitchen counter, in a hallway, or in rooms with high ceilings as their wide beam creates better coverage.  One downside of the BR bulb is that it tends to protrude slightly from the bottom of the fixture as it’s a bit longer than the PAR and MR bulbs.

PAR bulbs are best for task lighting and security lighting as their beam is narrower.  If it’s brightness you want, the PAR bulb is the choice for you.

MR bulbs are narrower yet.  For artwork, or for any kind of spotlighting, choose a MR16 bulb as it has great color rendering and beam control.  Not only that, but it filters the small amount of ultraviolet light it emits and therefore doesn’t damage art. 

The devil is in the details…

It’s the details of recessed lights that often make or break the choice.  The recessed lighting trim – the part of the fixture you can see – comes in a myriad of choices.  Metal trims look great against a wood ceiling, while a trim that matches the paint color almost fades away.  For an upscale look that’s entirely seamless, opt for a flangeless fixture with no trim piece at all.

Most lighting experts recommend every light in your home is on a dimmer rather than a switch, but this is especially true for recessed lighting.  Not only does a dimmer allow you control over the light released – turn up the light for food prep, lower it for relaxing after dinner – but it also extends the life of your bulbs.  Therefore, dimming not only sets the mood, but saves money and a death-defying trip up a ladder.


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