3 Things You Need to Know About Recessed Lighting

Recessed lights can radically change the way your home looks and feels. Done right, they can bathe your space in soft light, highlight special features, and help you set the right mood. Done wrong, they turn your ceiling into a polka-dotted nightmare of harsh spotlights and awkward shadows. So, how do you get it right? 

We’ve put together three of our top expert recessed lighting tips based on our years of experience in the lighting industry to help you get it just right! 

Installation Know-How

If you’re building or remodeling, now’s the best time to be thinking about recessed lights. Recessed lights are easiest to install during construction. With the walls opened up, it’s not a big deal for an electrician to run the necessary wires and mount the lights. 

If your home is already finished and you’re really not ready to tear out the ceiling, don’t despair! The recessed lighting industry makes a whole line of specialty lights designed for non-intrusive updates. Look for lights that say retro-fit in the product description – this means they can be more easily installed in an existing ceiling. Canless recessed lights are ultra-thin (the same thickness as your ceiling’s drywall), which makes installing them the most DIY-friendly option for homeowners.

Placement is Paramount

One of the most common mistakes homeowners make when installing recessed lights is poor placement. Your recessed lights should wash your walls, not just the floor, with light. If your walls aren’t properly lit, your room will feel dim and dull no matter how your lights are installed. 


Wall washing spreads soft light evenly across a wall, and it will make your room feel bigger and more open. For example: the recessed lights in the image below (see upper left) cast soft light across the entire wall, which makes the room feel larger and brighter.

A close cousin, wall grazing (as seen below), occurs when recessed lights are placed close to the wall and the cone of light casts harsh lines of light and shadow. This is typically done to accent a design feature, not to provide ambient lighting for a room.

Wall washing is usually the goal in residential applications – it’s a good idea to talk to a lighting expert before you get ready to install to make sure you get them at the right distance from the wall.

A grid of soft white lights will give off a comfortable, all-over light, which is perfect for large rooms, but it’s not one-size-fits-all for every space in your home. Areas where you work, like your kitchen, should have more focused task lighting over countertops and work surfaces. 

Quick Tip: Space recessed lights away from ceiling fan blades or you’ll end up with a subtle strobing effect when both are on. Also, avoid placing bright lights directly over a seating area so that your guests won’t feel like they’re under a spotlight.


Zones and Dimmer Switches

Your lighting plan will be most effective if you can create zones based on how you use your space. Large spaces and multi-purpose rooms have different lighting needs throughout the space. If you strategically wire these areas independently, they can work together to give you more control over the way your room works for you. 

For example, a living room may have a row of wall-washing lights around the perimeter, a central grid of ambient lights, and a couple of spotlight lights to highlight a feature fireplace or some artwork. If each of these zones can be adjusted independently, you can transition a bright morning workspace to a cozy evening entertaining space with ease. 

Wherever possible, install each zone with a dimmer switch. Being able to adjust the intensity of light in your space is an essential part of creating the right mood. An added benefit of dimmable lights is that they last longer when not used at full power, so you can extend the life of your bulbs and entertain houseguests at the same time!

Installing recessed lighting is no small task, but it doesn’t have to be a big pain in the neck. Whether you’re a D.I.Y.er needing a few pointers, or if M.O.D.I.F.Y. is more your speed (Make Others Do It For You), we can help you find exactly what you need to get it done. Give us a call or stop by our showroom today!