5 Best Hidden Light Fixtures for Your Home

You want your lighting fixture to cast light. But what if you don't want to see the lighting fixture so much? Pendant lights and track lights are attention-mongers and pure show-offs. However, there are other fixtures that quietly accomplish the job of lighting up the room

Here are five options for hidden lighting in your space.

  • 01 of 05

    Recessed/Can Lights Are Inexpensive and Easy

    Recessed ceiling lights in a blue living room with mounted television and white chairs and couch

    Tulcarion/Getty Images

    Recessed lights (also called can lights) push up into the ceiling, with only the lens and trim ring exposed. From a ceiling-level room view, recessed lights completely melt away. Recessed lights recess, in the verb sense, and are invaluable in low-ceiling environments such as basements.

    Whereas side and floor lights are for the elite, can lights are hidden lights for the masses. Anyone can hop down to a home improvement store, buy a few, and DIY install them.

    How Hidden Is It? 90 percent. Fixture body is not visible, but bulb, lens, and trim are.

    Good Thing: Easy to install

    Bad Thing: Hard to direct, as they cast a harsh circle of light directly below. Adjustable gimbal lights do allow for some flexibility, and dimmer switches tone down the harshness.

  • 02 of 05

    Sidelights for a Lightwash Effect

    Sidelights casting light into a living room with floor-to-ceiling windows, white couches, and brown ottoman.


    Sidelights are notches in the wall that project light downward, washing the floor with light that further reflects into the rest of the room. You'll notice the sidelights in the far right-hand side of the image.

    For true lighting-addict tingles, think of what you can do with it besides sticking it in a wall. You can:

    • Install it sideways in a ceiling as a "wallwasher."
    • Install it in a wall but point it upwards to "wallwash the ceiling" for incredible indirect ambient light.

    High-end light maker Kreon has a simple name for this product: Side.

    How Hidden Is It? 95 percent. Bulb, lens, and body are hidden, but the trim is visible.

    Good Thing: So amazingly flexible

    Bad Thing: Eats up valuable wall space

  • 03 of 05

    Tray Ceiling—Sexy and Seductive

    Single coiffured ceiling in golden bedroom with bed, side tables, lamps, and foot bed.

    Ke Yu/Getty Images

    Ceiling tray-based lighting is ambient lighting at its best. No doubt you have seen tray lighting but not even noticed it. That's how good it is.

    Open air soffits are built at the top of the walls. A small gap allows for light to pass through. Inside, there are no expensive, complicated lights—just rope lighting. You can even use Christmas string lights.

    How Hidden Is It? 100 percent. The fixture itself is invisible. Only the light comes through.

    Good Thing: Soft, unobtrusive lighting

    Bad Thing: Before you can install lights, you must build the trays—a costly proposition if you wish to hire a carpenter for the job.

  • 04 of 05

    Recessed Floor Lights—Novel and Contemporary

    Recessed floor lights down a hallway.


    You've experienced recessed floor lights before, but unless you hang with movie producers and industrial magnates, probably not in a residence. You find floor lighting frequently in museums, galleries, and premium retailers. Kreon has a very simple name for this high-pressure diecast aluminum fixture: Up.

    How Hidden Is It? 90 percent. Fixture body is not visible, but bulb, trim, and lens are.

    Good Thing: So unique it's guaranteed that you'll be the only kid on the block with recessed floor lights

    Bad Thing: Hard to retrofit; best for new-construction or major remodels

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Drop Ceiling Soffit Lights—Architecturally Unique

    Drop-ceiling soffit lights in a kitchen.


    Drop soffit ceilings are rarely found in residences; you need an adequate ceiling height to accommodate the dropped portion. If you do find them, they usually house recessed lights.

    Yet soffits don't need exposed lights. Shown here is a dropped soffit that has hidden lighting as the "meat" within the ceiling "sandwich."

    How Hidden Is It? 100 percent

    Good Thing: Soft ambient lighting

    Bad Thing: Drop ceiling can be difficult to build