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How to Layout Your Recessed Lighting Properly

How to Layout Your Recessed Lighting Properly

While recessed lighting is all the rage nowadays, choosing the right recessed lighting layout for your purposes requires attention and careful planning. Your final results should cater to the needs of your unique space, whether it’s task-oriented, a relaxed zone, or an area with multiple uses. 

Step 1: Determine the Purpose of Your Lighting

As always, the first step in planning your recessed lighting layout is to identify the purpose of your lighting. The four main purposes for lighting include:

  • General lighting: a bright, even illumination pattern that covers an entire room.
  • Task or accent lighting: bright lighting focused on one small area.
  • Wall wash: lighting which highlights a wide surface, such as an entire wall.
  • Specialty lighting: lighting with specialized trimming, usually for wet zones like for bathrooms.

As far as your recessed lighting housing goes, the exact type you need will depend on several factors. If your ceiling is accessible, new construction housing should be used. If it’s not, you might use remodel housing. If the housing will be in contact with insulation, IC-rated housing is recommended. Size-wise, the most common housing size used is 6-inch, although 5-inches may fit more snugly around the bulb, and 3-inch/4-inch housing is used mainly for small areas. Beyond these considerations, your recessed lighting housing style is largely a matter of preference. 

Step 2: Draw up a room plan

One way to draw up a plan for your recessed lighting layout is to measure your room and sketch its dimensions onto graph paper. Indicate the placement of workspaces, counters, shelves, furniture, artwork, or any other items that apply. 

It’s helpful to begin your layout plan from the room's focal point and work outward from there. In the absence of a focal point, start your lighting plan in the center of the room.

Step 3: Measure and Calculate Your Lighting Placement

A good rule of thumb for the amount of space to leave between each light is to divide the height of the ceiling by two, and space your lights according to that. For instance, general lighting in a room with an 8-foot-high ceiling should be spaced 4 feet apart. Of course, ideal light placement can still differ widely from room to room, depending on what the room is used for. For instance, in a kitchen, where ample light is needed in specific areas, leaving roughly 14 to 18 inches of space between the light canisters and the cabinets can help avoid lost light. 

Recessed lighting layout for basements

Recessed lights can really transform the feel of a basement, easily brightening an entire area and making it a more pleasant place to be! The number of recessed lights you’ll use depends heavily on the size and height of your space and the lumen output of your fixture. If your basement is 100 square meters (or 1076 square feet), and you’re using LED recessed lights, you’ll likely require about 15 lights (100 square meters x 150 lux =15,000 lumens). To avoid casting shadows, place your recessed lights at least 3 feet from your basement walls.

Recessed lighting layout for kitchens

Any kitchen lighting layout plan worth its salt should include a variety of lighting sources. For example, tasks such as cooking require focused lighting, while areas where people socialize and share meals require more inviting ambient lighting. Using one recessed light for every 4-6 square feet of ceiling space is a common way of providing quality lighting overall. Another common strategy is to place your recessed lights around the perimeter of your room, aiming them at countertop edges, in order to illuminate work areas and avoid casting shadows. 

Recessed lighting layout for living rooms

The lighting in your living room will depend on its uses and layout. Resist the inclination to base your lights’ placement solely on the placement of objects or furniture. Suppose your recessed lighting layout lands you with a light directly above your TV, rather than eliminate the light, simply separate your layout into two control zones. In that case, this will allow you to control one or more lights separately from the rest, giving you greater flexibility. For example, with two zones, you could dim or turn off the lights in front of the TV, while still having some light over the sofa.

Recessed lighting layout for bedrooms

Recessed lighting is perfect for low ceiling bedrooms. Since bedrooms do not have highly specific lighting requirements, you might use dimmer switches to adjust your lighting levels more easily. Recessed lighting in your bedroom can also be used to highlight specific features or areas of your bedroom, such as artwork or a relaxed reading space. A strong recessed lighting plan for your bedroom will likely pair accent lighting with general and task lighting as needed!


Looking to install recessed lighting in your home? Browse our smart recessed lighting fixtures, or contact us today–we’d be delighted to help!

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