20+ Types of Ceiling Lights [for Living Room, Kitchen, Office]
The type of ceiling light that you choose can really make or break a space. Each fixture is unique and determines how lighting will impact the room. However, with so many options to choose from, it can be challenging to narrow it down to the ceiling light (or lights) that will work best for your individual lighting needs.
Some of the most common types of ceiling lights include chandeliers, flush and semi-flush mount fixtures, pendants, recessed lighting, track lighting, and more. Aside from the design of a particular fixture, you also must also consider room size, style, and overall atmosphere when deciding on the right ceiling light for your space.
If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by your options, continue reading for our comprehensive guide on the different types of ceiling lights available to you. We’ll outline all of the characteristics of some of the most common fixtures, as well as provide you with general buying tips, to help you figure out which ceiling light is right for your home.
Initial Considerations – Layering Lighting
The best way to achieve a sufficient balance of lighting in any space is by combining ambient, task, and accent lighting. Whether it’s ceiling lights or any other type of fixture, you’ve probably heard about the concept of layering the lighting in your house. Doing this will create ambient lighting, which results in the general lighting of a space.
Using ceiling fans with lights, flush mount fixtures, recessed lights, and chandeliers are some of the simplest ways to produce ambient lighting, as these types of lights tend to illuminate a broader area than other alternatives.
Once you’ve achieved adequate general lighting in your space using a combination of the aforementioned ceiling lights, you can start implementing task lighting to draw attention to specific spots where you want to have more of a concentrated light.
This can be done with ceiling lights like track lighting, pendant lighting, and even some kinds of recessed lighting. Task lighting can also be done with non-ceiling lights like cabinet lighting and desk lamps.
The final layer to achieve well-balanced light in a room is accent lighting. Accent lighting is somewhat similar to task lighting; however, it is far more concentrated and focuses on a specific spot, like a mantel or painting on the wall. Track lights are an excellent way to highlight artwork or anything else you want on display.
Quick Tip: Consider fixtures that are dimmable. This will allow you to personalize the atmosphere of your home and allow you to adjust the space depending on the circumstance.
Types of Ceiling Lights
When it comes to selecting ceiling lights, you want to choose a combination of them that will work well in your room based on the type of light you need, the size of the space, and your individual style. With that said, let’s take a look at the various types of ceiling lights that fall into the three main lighting categories: ambient lighting, task lighting, and accent lighting.
Ambient lighting is, arguably, the most common type of lighting. Put simply, ambient light refers to the type of light that gives off a very soft glow, blanketing the space. It’s just enough light to provide a general cast, without creating any harsh glares. In cinematography and photography, ambient light is referred to as the “natural light” in a space.
When it comes to home décor, this type of lighting is relatively similar. Though, in order to achieve ambient lighting in your home, the goal is to make the lighting as flat and natural as possible. The main purpose of ambient lighting is to allow you to safely move about the space, but it’s not ideal for highlighting specific features or doing meticulous work that requires more light.
When ambient lighting is used properly, it can result in an excellent atmosphere for relaxing after a long day of work. Sometimes referred to as “mood lighting,” you’ll often find this type of lighting in yoga studios, personal libraries, and spas, sometimes alongside other types of lighting for that layering effect. To accomplish ambient lighting using ceiling lights, the following types of lights are great choices:
As I’m sure you already know, chandeliers serve as focal points in a room and are very decorative light fixtures. Their design consists of multiple light sources that are either hung or surround a central piece that is attached to the ceiling. There are typically two main types of chandeliers: the conventional chain-hung variety and the chandelier that is suspended from a distance near the ceiling.
Chandeliers are an excellent choice for creating ambient light in a space by brightening up the room and also delivering a lavish touch. Since a chandelier is going to serve as a central focal point in a bedroom, foyer, dining room, or even master bathroom, it’s important that you select the model carefully.
In addition to style, you also want to consider the hanging length. Generally speaking, you want to allow for no more than 30 inches between the base of the chandelier and the top of your dining table. Positioning it too high will make the fixture appear smaller and too low and it’ll look too big in the space.
As far as ideal sizing goes, the diameter of the chandelier should be about half the width of the table in a dining room. For other rooms, calculate the diameter of the room by adding up the width and length. This number will help you determine the diameter of the chandelier should be to suit the space. When shopping for a chandelier, consider the following:
- You’ll find both uplight and downlight chandelier styles. Opt for an uplight model to help make the room appear larger than it is.
- Chandeliers with more branches will offer more lighting. For small rooms, you can find chandeliers with only two or three branches, as opposed to several.
- Hiring a professional to install your chandelier and handle all the wiring will usually cost between $100 and $400. You can expect to pay much less if you’re just simply replacing an old chandelier.
Flush Mount Fixtures
If you’re looking for a more minimalistic way to achieve ambient lighting, flush mount fixtures may be the way to go. These types of lights rest flush against your ceiling – hence the name. Flush mount fixtures are often the ideal choice for rooms that have ceilings lower than eight feet high. If you choose to install a flush mount fixture in a space with higher ceilings, too much empty space is often what results.
These lights are common in hallways, bathrooms, closets, and other rooms where space is generally pretty limited. Or, you can use larger flush fixtures as a safe lighting option in a child’s bedroom, as you likely don’t want anything hanging from the ceiling.
In addition to rooms with low ceilings, you can also use flush mount fixtures in spaces where movement could be impacted by using a low-hanging light. They help avoid accidents, whether it’s with children jumping on the bed or especially tall individuals.
Flush mount fixtures are one of the most popular choices to provide optimal lighting, in a discreet manner. They are also an incredibly versatile option, offering fixtures in sizes ranging from 12 inches to 24 inches wide to fit the size of the room you are designing for. Constructed to direct light down, these lights provide sufficient lighting without creating a central focal point in the room.
Semi-Flush Mount Fixtures
Another versatile ceiling light, semi-flush mount fixtures are exactly as the name indicates. They consist of a short rod that extends down from the ceiling, as opposed to being entirely flush against the ceiling surface. Semi-flush mounts are an excellent way to achieve ambient lighting with a decorative touch, but without being too distracting in a room.
These types of ceiling lights are often used to replace chandeliers in rooms that have too-low ceilings (less than 8 feet). However, they can also work in rooms with ceilings that are between eight and ten feet high, so long as the fixture only hangs between four and eight inches below the ceiling.
Semi-flush mount fixtures essentially appear like a cross between a traditional flush mount and a chandelier. They emit both upward and downward light at the same time, which can increase the appearance of the width and length of a space. Since they have about a one-foot clearance from the ceiling, they make changing lightbulbs a much easier process than their flush counterparts.
These fixtures are ideal for rooms such as foyers, kitchens, low-ceiling dining rooms, and bedrooms. You’ll often find semi-flush mount fixtures in diameters that range between 7 and 23 inches.
Recessed lights, also referred to as pot or can lights, are another great way to provide ambient lighting in a room. They are often installed on the ceiling in groups of lights. In addition to ambient lighting, recessed lights can also provide task, and accent lighting depending on their orientation. These lights are generally the best choice if you have a room with an especially low ceiling, like a basement. They also come in handy in small rooms with sloped ceilings.
To install recessed lighting, you must have at least six inches of clearance above your ceiling. You can have them installed in either a linear or square manner. You also want to make sure that the area where you install recessed lights has good insulation. This will help to prevent moisture from getting inside of the fixture.
To avoid any potential issues, consider having them installed professionally. This will run you between $20 and $200.
The fixture itself rests inside of the ceiling, while a glass panel on the outside diffuses the light throughout the space. The glass panel is surrounded by a trim, which results in a very discreet and inconspicuous lighting choice. Simply put, trims fit into the ceiling to create an outer, visible ring.
Eyeball trims can be challenging to install but are helpful to achieve all three lighting layers. You can direct the light towards the wall to put a spotlight on a painting, create task lighting over a workspace, or use them to bounce light off of the wall, opening up the room and providing a nice blanket of light.
Some other types of recessed lighting trims include:
- Adjustable Trim: This type of recessed lighting trim is very thin and will blend into your ceiling effortlessly. As the name suggests, the light fixture inside of the trim is adjustable. This allows you to customize the lighting in your room and control where you want it to shine. While these types of recessed lights can be used for ambient lighting, they are more often best used for accent lighting.
- Open Trim: An open trim light is relatively similar to baffle trims, without the ribbed interior. Although these lights won’t reduce glare, they do offer bright lighting, which is ideal for large spaces.
- Baffle Trim: Baffle trim lights are most known for their ribbed interior. The purpose of this feature is to reduce the glare that the light bulb produces. You can prevent the glare even further by opting for a light with a dark-colored interior.
- Shower Trim: As the name suggests, shower trim lights are the ideal choice for bathrooms or any other space that experiences high humidity levels. Their tempered glass coating helps to keep the light bulb safe from moisture and also reduces dew buildup on the surface.
- Reflector Trim: Reflector trim lights are designed with a mirrored interior that uses reflection to enhance the lighting. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the interior of these trims is visible. Therefore, you may want to consider opting for a tinted-mirror interior to prevent it from being too distracting.
- Pinhole Trim: Pinhole fixtures are characterized by their thick trim, which creates a narrow beam of concentrated light. These lights are best for spotlighting an architectural element or decorative piece, and less beneficial for ambient lighting purposes.
- Wall-Washer Trim: This type of fixture has the same exterior trim as the adjustable and baffle varieties. However, there is a “half shield” on the inside that helps to focus the light onto certain areas. The wall-washer trim is ideal for accent lighting and doesn’t always work well for ambient lighting.
- Slotted Trim: If you’re looking for the most inconspicuous trim for a recessed light, the slotted trim is it. In this design, the lamp is almost entirely concealed with a flat trim. As a result, the light is a very narrow and tight beam. These types of lights are most known for their 35-degree tilt with a rotation that is adjustable.
- Decorative Trim: For an ornate touch, choose a recessed light with a decorative trim. They come in a wide array of styles and designs to fit the design of your home.
Ceiling fans with built-in lighting can serve a dual purpose in your home. They are an excellent way to circulate air in the space while also providing a source of light. In some cases, you can purchase a ceiling fan kit that can be installed to modify your existing ceiling light. This option is great if you simply want to upgrade your ceiling light or if you have your mind set on a specific fixture.
When shopping for a ceiling fan, here are some things you’ll want to consider:
- How energy efficient is the ceiling fan?
- Does the fan allow you to change speeds?
- Does the number of blades and fan size fit the size of the room?
- How low is the fan going to hang from the ceiling?
- Does your current lighting fixture allow you to install a ceiling fan kit?
Generally speaking, you’ll be able to choose from an angled mount, flush-mount, and downrod mount for your ceiling fan. Angled mounts are meant to be used on sloped ceilings. Downrod mounts are best for high ceilings, whereas, flush mounts are ideal for lower ceilings.
When installing your ceiling fan, you want to make sure that it is mounted at least seven feet above the floor. You also want to allow for between eight and ten inches from the ceiling to the top of the blades on the fan. The tips of the blades must be at least 30 inches from your walls or any other possible obstructions.
The second layer that you must include in a room to achieve sufficient lighting is task lighting. Task lighting refers to a much smaller, more concentrated beam of light. Generally speaking, you want this type of lighting around anywhere where you’ll be working, or performing “tasks.” In fact, many people call task lighting “office lighting.”
Using task lighting will help to stimulate the brain naturally. It works best as a contrasting light, which allows you to be more concentrated and focused while working. Task lighting also helps with viewing the details of your work, yielding better results. This reason is why many offices and businesses use task lighting. The best example of ceiling lights that serve as great task lighting are pendants.
The low-hanging nature of pendant lights makes them relatively similar to chandeliers. However, pendants only offer one source of light, as opposed to general lighting that blankets an area. The one source of light is achieved using one or more bulbs. Pendant lights are also much more functional than they are decorative, but you can still find some ornamental designs and finishes.
Therefore, if you want to accomplish visual appeal with your ceiling lights, make sure that you choose pendants that match the overall theme and décor in the room. Since they are much smaller, pendants tend to be bought in multiples and are used in areas that serve a specific purpose – such as dining or preparing food in a kitchen.
You’ll often find pendants over kitchen islands, but you can also mount them over your kitchen sink, in your entryway, or even over a dining room table (in place of a chandelier). Mini pendants are an excellent choice for small rooms or any area that is limited on space. When shopping for pendants, make sure that you pay close attention to their size and how long it’s going to hang. This is especially important since pendants tend to be rather noticeable.
Quick Tip: If you want your pendant lights to be used for ambient lighting instead of task lighting, opt for a model that has an upward-facing shade. These are often referred to as inverted pendants. You can also create ambient lighting by hanging multiple pendants in one room.
Inverted pendant lights do the opposite that traditional pendants do; they create a more subdued light for a space. It is an ideal option for achieving ambient lighting. Inverted pendants are often very popular above kitchen islands, but can also work well in a bedroom or living room. They will also help to make a small room appear larger by directing much of the light upwards.
These types of pendants are often referred to as “bowl pendants.” However, you can find them in many different shapes, depending on the look you’re going for. One popular design choice is to install crown molding in the center of a room, which an inverted pendant can draw attention to and also create a unique lighting effect.
The final layer that you should incorporate to achieve well-balanced lighting in a space is accent lighting. Accent lighting is a type of light that is very concentrated with the goal of drawing the eye to a single focal point. It can help to add both spectacle and style to your home.
Accent lighting will illuminate any pieces that you want to be put on display while shadowing areas you want to stay concealed. This type of lighting is often used for bookcase displays, artwork, wall washing, architectural details in the home, or anything that provides visual interest. Outdoor accent lighting is also used to highlight particular areas of your yard or house and is especially popular during the holidays.
Using accent lighting is a great way to create a sophisticated ambiance in your home. It helps to add meaning and importance to the items it spotlights. This type of light is very common in museums, art displays, and historical buildings across the world. Although various types of recessed lights can be used to create accent lighting, track lighting is often the best choice to achieve this look.
Track Lights or Rail Lights
Track lighting is an excellent way to highlight a specific feature in your home, like artwork or a mantel. It can provide both accent lighting or task lighting, depending on how it’s oriented. The fixtures included several individual lights, hanging off of a track. The track can either be mounted directly to the ceiling or it can be suspended. Some models allow you to adjust the direction of each light, making it very easy to customize the lighting.
Rail lights, on the other hand, are similar to track lights since you can create your own layout. However, this option allows you to make adjustments to the position and shape of the rail. Oftentimes, you can also adjust the light fixture itself. These types of lights are great for illuminating corners or if you want your track lighting to have more of a curved setup.
Since track lights are more functional than they are decorative, they don’t come in many colors. How they are used depends entirely on which lighting layer you’re trying to achieve. Track lighting is commonly used in bathrooms and kitchens, but can also be used as an alternative to semi-flush mounts in modern spaces. To have track lighting installed professionally, you can expect to spend roughly $500.
Track lights can be broken down into four different varieties:
- Standard Track Lights: Also referred to as a linear track light, standard track lights are the most common and also the most practical version. They come in a variety of lengths, which provides plenty of space for many lights. This allows you to move them along the track to your liking. Standard track lights are also the easiest type to install.
- Fixed Track Lights: Fixed track lights are similar to the standard variety in that they have a very basic linear design. However, as the name suggests, you cannot move the bulbs on a fixed track. This choice is great for use over a dining table, island, or anywhere where you won’t need to move the lights to adapt to the space.
- Swing Arm Track Lights: Swing arm track lights offer more layout options than other alternatives. With this type, you can pivot the ends of the track to conform to the arrangement of the space.
- Monorail Track Lights: Monorail track lights are an excellent choice since they can be altered to create more rounded shapes. They are perfect for tables or islands that are unusually shaped.
If you plan on buying the track and track heads separately, you must know that there are two main rail types to choose from: H, J, and L. These types are categorized based on their measurements. As long as you choose a track and track heads that are the same type, they’ll be compatible.
Other Ceiling Light Options
Aside from the above ceiling light types, there are other options to choose from. These include:
If you’re looking for a lighting fixture that is purely about function for your basement, laundry room, or garage, utility lights may be the best option. They are very simple fixtures that provide both bright and energy-efficient lighting. Utility lights may be may be mounted flush to the ceiling or basic casings for placing LED bulbs.
Island lights are relatively similar to track lighting, though, they are specifically designed for use over kitchen islands. They are often best used in modern kitchens for task lighting purposes and hang much lower than traditional track lighting. These lights consist of a single light source at the base of the stem which directs light downward, resulting in a single focal point.
You can hang multiple island lights to increase the brightness in the space or add visual appeal. These types of lights can be found in an array of designs, including squares and circles to shed task lighting on a much more extensive area.
LED Indirect Lighting
LED indirect lighting is a very unique type of ceiling light. Instead of installing a fixture onto your ceiling, this type of lighting uses light strips that are mounted around your ceiling’s perimeter. By positioning these lights toward your ceiling, they reflect to create a much larger and more illuminated space.
If you purchase color-changing LED strips, you can even adjust the color of the lights to your liking to add visual appeal to the space. This type of ceiling light often works best with a more modern décor style. LEDs are known for being very energy efficient, and LED indirect lighting is an affordable type of ceiling light.
To conceal the lights, you can install crown molding along the top of your ceiling. The molding will hide the LED light strips while directing the light toward the ceiling to cast a visually intriguing glow.
When shopping for your ceiling lights, here are some other features and factors you’ll want to consider in your decision:
Before you purchase a light fixture, make sure that you verify the location rating. This is especially important if you’re looking for a ceiling light that will be going in your bathroom, as it must be either damp- or wet-rated. You can often find the classification under the products’ Specifications tab. Here’s what the various terms mean:
- Dry-Location: Means the fixture is designed to be used in areas that experience little to no moisture. Therefore, these lights should only be placed on the interior of your home.
- Damp-Location: Means that the light fixture is designed for moist environments. This also indicates that it can be used in outdoor areas that are protected such as patios and porches. However, you’ll want to avoid letting these fixtures be directly exposed to water.
- Wet-Location: Means that the light fixture is designed for direct exposure to water. These types of lights can also be used indoors.
Underwriters Laboratories, or UL, is a company that does testing on the safety and security of various consumer products. When a light fixture carries a UL certification, this indicates that it has undergone rigorous tests to determine that it is both safe and consumer-friendly. When shopping for ceiling lights, you want to double-check that the fixture you choose is UL listed.
Some additional features you may want in your ceiling light include:
- Bulb included: This offers convenience in that you won’t have to purchase a bulb separately. It also means you don’t have to worry about figuring out the proper wattage.
- Dimmable: The ability to dim your lights gives you more control over the lighting in your space. With the simple slide of a switch you can create the desired ambiance in a space, whether it’s for a cozy evening in or a party. Plus, when you don’t use the brightest setting, you’ll save bulb life, reduce energy usage, and save money in the long run.
- Swag lights: This type of light is draped from your ceiling using a chain, that is dangled off of a hanging hook. Swag lights create a very sophisticated, sweeping look.
- Sloped ceiling adaptable: These fixtures are uniquely designed to work with sloped ceilings. They feature a special housing that allows the beam of light to shine straight down from the fixture.
Ceiling Light Materials
Another way to categorize ceiling lights is based on the material they are constructed out of. The material of a specific light fixture will have a major influence on whether or not the design fits in with the overall atmosphere of a space. That said, let’s take a look at some of the most popular materials used in ceiling light fixtures.
Fabric Ceiling Lights
You will commonly see fabric light fixtures attached to semi-flush lights or pendant lights. One of the major advantages to this material is the price. Oftentimes, you can get a small fabric light fixture just a couple dollars, while higher quality variations will rarely cost you more than fifty dollars. Therefore, fabric ceiling lights are an excellent choice for those on a budget.
Fabric does a great job at making a space feel warmer, cozier, and more relaxed. They help create mood lighting, as the fabric disperses and also dilutes the light from the bulb. What results is a more ambient, softer light. As such, fabric shades are a popular choice for bedrooms, but can also work well in the right dining room or living room.
Both the density and color of the fabric used in the shade will determine the type of light the fixture gives off. So, pay close attention to the fabric you select. Cotton or linen shades lend a cool, natural, airy feel, while silky shades are more romantic. Additionally, darker fabrics will absorb the most light and result in a more very dimly lit space than lighter color fabrics.
Glass Ceiling Lights
Glass is another popular choice for ceiling lights as the material diffuses light well. In fact, most semi-flush and flush fixtures are made out of class. The glass is typically obscured to yield a less harsh, more ambient light. Though, you can also find stained glass and color glass lights to add a unique look to your décor. Glass is also an excellent choice for those who don’t want to draw attention to their lighting, as it pairs well with a wide variety of decors.
Though, the main drawback to glass light fixtures is that they show dust and dirt very easily and will need to be cleaned more often. Also, glass is obviously less durable and can shatter easily if bumped into. So, you likely want to avoid glass pendant lights in your child’s bedroom. Instead, opt for flush glass lighting since they won’t be able to reach it.
Metal Ceiling Lights
Since metal is so durable and relatively affordable, it is commonly used on a wide variety of light fixtures. The material has become increasingly popular for lights in recent years – particularly copper-colored or black metal. These metals have a very industrial look that pairs well with a range of modern décor styles. In fact, if you choose rail or track lighting, most are made of metal and are available in numerous finishes.
Stainless steel, painted white, painted black, and satin steel, are the most common metal finishes for ceiling lights. These types of ceiling lights are considerably easier to clean than both glass or fabric lights, as they can be easily cleaned with a duster or wet cloth.
Plastic Ceiling Lights
Although not as common as the other materials on this list, plastic ceiling lights are available. The material is usually used on pendant lights and are often sprayed to make them look like they’re metal. Since plastic is usually the most inexpensive material, plastic ceiling lights can be a great choice for those looking to save money. They are also much more lightweight than metal or glass.
Crystal Ceiling Lights
Crystal is often the go-to material for chandeliers, though you’ll also find it used in semi-flush lighting fixtures as well. The material offers a very formal, chic look to a space. As such, crystal ceiling lights generally come at a pretty hefty price tag. The intricate facets of crystal disperses light in a very visually appealing way, with light bouncing off the crystals and small pockets of light all over the walls.
Jessica considers herself a home improvement and design enthusiast. She grew up surrounded by constant home improvement projects and owes most of what she knows to helping her dad renovate her childhood home. Being a Los Angeles resident, Jessica spends a lot of her time looking for her next DIY project and sharing her love for home design.
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