Many times when we think about living room design, furniture, rugs, and accessories are top of mind. However, lighting is an extremely integral component of the living room, too. In particular, recessed lighting is quite common in living spaces these days.
If you're wondering just exactly where recessed lighting belongs in your living room and what factors to keep in mind when utilizing it, we're here to share key tips from designers regarding everything from placement to customization options.
Meet the Expert
- Catherine Staples is the principal designer at Aspen & Ivy.
- Beth Dotolo is the co-founder of Pulp Design Studios.
- Rosanna Bassford is the founder and principal of Eggshell Home.
Think About Other Forms of Lighting
You will likely accompany any recessed lighting with other fixtures, so it is important to take such pieces into consideration, too, designer Catherine Staples says. "If you are adding decorative lighting, where will that be located and how much light will they give off?" she says. "This will allow you to best judge how much recessed lighting is needed."
First, you will want to think about how you plan to utilize a given space. Staples suggests considering your main path of travel and ensuring it is well illuminated. But as a whole, don't plan to rely too heavily on recessed lighting, she warms.
"We recommend also putting in dimmer switches to help you control the amount of lighting needed for all the different uses of the space," she explains. "Try not to over-light the space with recessed lighting."
Designer Beth Dotolo echoes this sentiment. "Another important thing to know about recessed lighting is that it doesn’t go a long way in creating ambiance," she comments. 'We always suggest pairing recessed lighting with a decorative pendant or chandelier, for style and variation in the types of lighting in your space."
Be Thoughtful in Terms of Placement
How many recessed lights do you need, and how should they be divided on the ceiling? Staples urges, if possible, to keep consistent spacing and clean lines. "A good rule of thumb is to divide your ceiling height in half, and that gives you the spacing between each recessed light," she explains.
That said, you'll also want to take into account other important factors, like the amount of natural lighting present in a room and what the space will be used for. "Workspaces like a kitchen need more light than a family room where you will be watching TV," Staples adds.
Dotolo stresses the benefits associated with hiring a professional to determine spacing.
"It’s important to create a pattern on your ceiling plane that is evenly spaced and review the 'light spread' of the fixture you are specifying to make sure it has ample coverage, so you aren’t left with lighting gaps," she says. "An entire profession is built around lighting design and the science behind it, so whenever possible. it’s great to engage a professional to protect your investment."
In general, installing recessed lighting around the perimeter of a room is key, designer Rosanna Bassford says. "Avoid placing canned light right above seating," she notes, "It can create an uncomfortable feeling and gives terrible shadows."
Being mindful of the lights' location in relation to the walls is also critical. Murphy suggests focusing on lighting doorways for pathways and walls for art.
"Spacing is very important," designer Kaitlyn Murphy notes. "If the lights are too close to the walls, they will create scalloping or shadows against the walls. Spacing should also be consistent throughout so the lighting is even—you don’t want dark spots and light spots."
When it comes to recessed lighting, there are actually many different types and styles. "Recessed lighting comes in various sizes of round and square shapes, and you can get trim in white, black, or chrome," Staples notes. "You can also get trimless recessed lights, linear recessed lights, and multiple-light housings—there are an endless number of options for all styles and sizes of homes."
You can finish off the look with a wide variety of bulbs, too, designer Alison Knizek explains. "I prefer to use recessed lighting in general in a living room," she says. "Nowadays, canned lights are adjustable LED for color temperature."