Everything You Need to Know About Recessed Lights

shiplap in master bathroom with recessed lights

Are recessed lights a fad?  Are you considering recessed lights for your new home or remodel?  Where do you put recessed lights?  What’s the difference between canned lights and recessed lights?  These are all excellent questions, and we’re glad you asked.

What are Recessed Lights?

Recessed lights, simply put, are lights that are installed directly in the ceiling, and that are nearly flush with the ceiling.  Recessed lights can serve different purposes, depending on their location.  Recessed lighting made its debut in the 1970’s.  Eyeball fixtures were especially popular for focusing light on a specific area, such as a fireplace mantle.

loft ceiling with wooden beams

Why Are Recessed Lights Better?

Are they better?  Well, yes, and no.  Done haphazardly or without thought, recessed lights can look…bad.  Done well, recessed lights should not be all that noticeable, and they should do a specific job, such as provide task lighting, create a direct path of light in an area that is not well-lit, or light high or hard-to-reach areas.

Canned Lights vs LED Recessed Lights…What’s the Difference?

Canned lights are just that, a “can” that houses the light bulb and is installed inside the ceiling.  An LED recessed light (“canless”), on the other hand, does not have the can around the lightbulb.  It is instead wired directly into the ceiling.  For a very detailed technical explanation, check out Home Decor Bliss’s blog. Canned lights tend to be bulkier and more noticeable than the smaller, more streamlined LED ceiling lights.  We will focus on those.

screened in porch with white ceiling fan and recessed lights

Where to Put Recessed Lights

Recessed lighting, whether you choose the canned or LED variety, should be used sparingly, in our opinion.  If you do some research in this area you will find a wide range of opinions from “never use them at all”, to “use them every four feet”.  After reading Maria Killam’s opinion on recessed lighting, we can never “unsee” her visual, which is a ceiling made of swiss cheese.  Maria says that a ceiling with too many holes in it looks like swiss cheese, and we absolutely agree!  We do, however, see the need for a few strategically placed small LED recessed lights.

Tips for Recessed Light Settings

  • Recessed lights should be on dimmers.  Harsh overhead lighting is not only irritating, but also casts unnatural shadows.
  • LED recessed lights have different settings, allowing you to adjust the brightness as well as the warmth (daylight to warm white).  If you want your room to look like a doctor’s office, turn up the brightness to ten and select the cool white setting.  This actually can be practical in an underground basement without windows.

Where Should You Have Recessed Lights?

  • Recessed lights should be placed in a work area that needs to be well-lit, such as in a kitchen.
  • Place a single recessed light in a stairwell with a tall ceiling.  You will have a nicely lit area in the evening without having to worry about cleaning a fixture you can’t reach.
  • Put a recessed light on a slanted ceiling to highlight a dark corner, such as in a bathroom with knee walls.
  • Place a single recessed light over your sink in the laundry room or over a washer and dryer.  These are excellent ways to save space.
  • Place a few recessed lights in a game or rec room.  Having overhead lights in a game room is beneficial when playing board games or pool.
  • Use a recessed light or two in a small area where you need to save space and don’t have enough head room for a hanging fixture.
  • Consider recessed lighting on your porches, to go along with your wall sconces or hanging fixtures.  Be sure to put them on dimmer switches.
  • Have a small home office but not a lot of room for lamps?  Install one or two recessed lights over your work space, again, making sure they are on dimmers.
  • Recessed lights are great in spacious walk-in closets!

What Rooms Should not Have Recessed Lights?  

In our opinion, bedrooms do not need recessed lights.  Your bedroom is meant to be your cozy, unwinding place where you spend as much time in the dark as possible! 

Avoid placing recessed lights in your living or family room; choose table and/or floor lamps instead.  Lampshades filter the light for a softer glow that is easier on the eyes. In a large open room, if you must use recessed lights, use them sparingly, and in combination with lamps or other fixtures.  Too many recessed lights detract from the beauty of your room.  You do want people to notice your pretty table lamps; you do not want people to notice the discs in your ceiling.  The smaller LED lights we have been discussing look more like flat discs than big holes.  They are considerably less noticeable.

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Contact us for Your Lighting Consultation

We hope you found this post informative.  If you need more design advice or assistance in choosing lighting fixtures for your home, feel free to contact us for a consultation.  

Until next time…

From the HartLand with Love,

Monica, Cheyenne & Brittany

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