≡ Menu

Illuminating Life- 5 Steps to the Right Recessed

Ready to start the New Year all aglow?  Confused about how to create the best recessed lighting layout for your space?  Let us help you conquer your next recessed lighting project with our simple 5-STEP GUIDE to lighting success!



First things first- What is recessed lighting?  Recessed lighting refers to an electrical housing unit that is set into a ceiling or wall structure, and finished with a trim piece to create a lighting source with little or no visual profile.  Commonly referred to as “can lighting” due to their shape, recessed lighting fixtures are an effective way to achieve ambient and accent illumination in both residential and commercial applications.


In order to choose the right type of recessed product for your space, we first need to determine what you are trying to light, and how much light your space will require.  Are you needing overall general illumination?  Or, are you trying to highlight an architectural element, or simply graze some beautiful artwork?  Your lighting goals and needs will dictate the type of recessed product to consider.  For example: to achieve even, general lighting for your space we would typically recommend recessed lighting trims that are 4″ or GREATER in aperture, and spaced in an even and uniform pattern on your ceiling.  It is common to choose trims that are smooth and reflective for this type of lighting need- such as smooth white or clear specular interiors.  For more specific applications where task or accent lighting is needed, we recommend trims that are 4″ or LESS in aperture, and spaced more strategically near the area needing to be highlighted.  The types of recessed trims typically used for these more detailed applications would be directional, such as adjustable gimble ring trims, or pinhole or slotted style trims.  There are also different types of housings (the portion that will be hidden behind ceiling or wall) available per your space requirements.  These include remodel housings and new construction housings as well as housings that are IC-Rated and Non-IC Rated.  We are able to help you determine what type of housings your recessed lighting will require based upon the details of your ceiling construction and type of ceiling insulation being used in your space.


There are many variables to consider when determining the proper layout for your recessed lighting plan.  Your ceiling height, the amount of natural lighting available, and your subjective lighting preferences can all play a part in achieving the right lighting layout for you.  However, there are some good rules of thumb to consider when starting your plan:


  • Take the height of your ceiling and divide it in half.  This figure will serve as a guideline on how far apart each of your recessed fixtures should be spaced.  For instance:  9′ ceilings in your living room would dictate a 4.5′ spacing between each recessed lighting fixture.  The goal here is to have the lighting footprints intersect each-other upon hitting the floor surface area.  This provides even and uniform illumination throughout the room, with minimal shadowing.  There is another detail to keep in mind here, however.  The distance between your light fixtures should also be twice the distance that is between the wall(s) and the nearest recessed light fixture.  So, if we have 4.5′ between each of our recessed lights, in a room with a 9′ ceiling, the space from the wall to the first recessed fixture should be 2′ 3″ (27″).  Make sense?  This piece of the puzzle helps to avoid shadowing near the edges of a room, and will ensure equal and even distribution of light within your space.  Again, these formulas serve only as a guideline when starting your planning, and will require adjustments and tweaks as you address the more specific lighting needs and details of your space.


  • Spot and task-style recessed fixtures will produce narrow and more specific beams of light used to accent architecture, built-in furniture or artwork.  These are typically smaller in aperture then recessed product used for general illumination, and often have an adjustable type of trim kit or a pin-hole or slotted style trim kit to achieve their purpose.  This type of lighting can also be used to accomplish specific tasks over kitchen islands or other work areas, and to draw attention to vertical surfaces.  The base formula for task illumination is similar to the one used for general illumination:  If the task area needing to be highlighted is on a horizontal surface- such as the floor, or a counter or desktop- then we first need to determine the distance between the ceiling and that surface area.  Divide this distance by 4 and this will be the recommended spacing between the wall and your first recessed light fixture.  If your goal is to create a wall wash effect or highlight a piece of artwork on a vertical surface, we recommend keeping your recessed fixtures between 1.5′ and 3′ away from the wall surface, as well as placing these smaller-sized fixtures equidistant from each other.



Possibly the most common question we receive in regards to recessed lighting strategy is, “How do I determine how much light my room needs, or how many recessed fixtures it will take?”   It is important to know how many lumens your recessed lighting product or lamp choice is providing you with in order to properly determine how many recessed fixtures your space will require.  (Click here  for more details regarding watts vs. lumens)  The lumen rating on your LED recessed lighting product should be clearly listed on the product specifications from the manufacturer.  In some cases, this info can be found directly on the outside of the box.  If you are using an incandescent model recessed product, the lamp or “light bulb” you select to use with it will be imperative in determining how much light each fixture will actually provide.  Lumen ratings are clearly printed on all light bulb packaging- so a simple sum calculation based on the square footage of your room using the guidelines below should help you find success!

GENERAL FLOOR SPACE= 20 Lumens per square foot

DINING AREAS= 30 Lumens per square foot

HIGH TASK AND WORK AREAS= 50 Lumens per square foot


Once you have identified the type of product you want, the placement and layout you need, and the amount of lumens your space requires, the next step is to consider the right color of lighting for your environment and how you wish to control your recessed fixtures.  Most recessed lighting product available is now equipped with LED technology.  Why does this matter?  LED lighting has several variables to be considered, and will range from manufacturer to manufacturer.  The Color Rendering Index (CRI) is a measure of how accurately an artificial light source displays colors. The higher the CRI (80 and above), the better the artificial light source is at rendering colors accurately.  Color rendering and appearance are critical considerations in light source selections.  Correlated Color Temperature (CCT) relates to the color of light produced by a light source, and uses the Kelvin temperature measurement scale.  Color temperatures over 5000 degrees Kelvin are considered “cool” colors (blue-ish white), while lower color temperatures of 2700–3000 derees Kelvin are referred to as “warm” colors (yellowish-white through red).  Here is an example of a typical lighting facts label, and where to find all of the information listed above:



Even the best lighting applications can seem insufficient without the right level of control.  Technology is continually evolving in this industry, and most LED product is fully dimmable, with a manufacturer approved compatible system.  This is great news, considering how high the lumen ratings are on the latest LED products on the market.  If you are investing in a new recessed lighting application, one of the best recommendations we can make is to make sure you invest in a good dimmer.  Being able to raise and lower the level of light in your space will not only allow you to enjoy your recessed lighting at any time of day or night, but it will prove all of your efforts in planning your application completely worthwhile, and provide you with maximum versatility and flexibility with your illumination.

For more information on any of the above categories, or to get started on your recessed lighting plan, visit our showroom or schedule an appointment with one of our trained lighting consultants.  We’ll work together to make sure that you end up with the right application for your lighting needs.


PHOTO CRED: Tech Lighting



0 comments… add one

Leave a Comment

Next post:

Previous post: