Can Light Alternatives – Ideas For Recessed Light Alternatives

If you are in the market for new recessed lights but need can light alternatives, then you will have to find an appropriate substitute. Light is essential to all rooms so this will be something that you need to consider carefully before making a decision on which light fixtures are best suited for lighting your room without relying on pot lights.

Read on for our lighting designer’s collection of ideas for useful can lighting alternatives.

Bedroom lit beautifully without can lights © Chris Orange Photography

Alternatives to Can Lights in a Kitchen

For kitchens, there are a variety of lights available that can be used instead of recessed can lights. Some great choices for your kitchen include: chandeliers; hanging pendant lights; and any unique light fixture that can be used to decorate the room yet also provide light where it’s needed.

Task lighting for working on counter tops can be provided by LED Strip under wall cupboards and pendant lights hung low over an island with LED light sources bright enough to provide at least 500 lumens each.

Ambient lighting from recessed lighting is really useful but so a substitute has to provide a wide spread general light. Try reflecting light into the room off of the ceiling from LED strips on top of kitchen cabinets on their own lighting circuit.

Can Lights Alternatives in a Dining Room

The can light is used for task lighting over tables in dining rooms, so you can use chandeliers, hanging pendant lights as well as cream or colored globe lighting fixtures.

Can Lighting is also generally used in dining rooms to create an ambient light, for a brighter look overall.

As an option use white glass or a lightly colored fabric shaded lighting from walls or the ceiling that spreads light well. These source of light should be positioned between the other lights to fill in any gaps that other light fixtures are not providing for.

Can Light Alternative in a Den

For dens, you can create a great look by using recessed track lighting systems. They are surface mounted or can even be suspended and with the correct spotlight heads attached, the LED light can be the exact alternative to a can light.

Alternative to Can Lighting in a Bathroom

Bathrooms can be lit easily by using two wall lights either side of the mirror over a bathroom-vanity-light/”>vanity and a flush mount ceiling fixture central to provide more general illumination.

Can Lights Alternatives in a Games Room

Games rooms don’t really need recessed lighting as long as there is light provided in each activity area. Desk lights near Gaming Screens angled up the wall to provide reflected light back into the room provide an ambient glow to accompany the light from the screens.

Pendants over a pool table, funky globe pendants swagged into corners for example all create layers of light that help build up illumination as alternatives to pot lights.

Other Recessed Ceiling Light Substitutes For Your Home

You can also use other types of lighting fixtures that will allow you to have can light style lights without using the can lighting itself. Instead of purchasing a ceiling mounted light fixture, you can instead look at installing wall sconces in your home. Another great option is going with decorative table lamp options that are more substantial than typical desk or floor lamps.

Recessed Can Light Alternatives

Recessed can lights are a great way to provide light to a room but if you want something different, then be sure to choose the alternatives that will still give you light without being so harsh on your eyes. Other options may not have the same look as can lights but they can help you create just the right atmosphere for each room.

Tube Lights

Tube lights are surface mounted downlights or pot lights and can be used in place of recessed can lights. They have a similar performance level and add a strong feeling of design intent to the room, especially when used with a complimentary color to the ceiling, eg black tube lights against a white ceiling.

Same as Recessed Lighting, they project their light outward and downward to properly illuminate a room, just like a ceiling mounted pot light does.

Track Lighting

Track lighting systems can also be used in place of recessed pot lights. The track allows you to position and move your lights around as you see fit. You can either use individual LED spotlights or the more traditional incandescent bulbs. Either way, this type of lighting is a great alternative to recessed ceiling lights.

Flush Mount Ceiling Lights

Ceiling mounted lights can also be used a alternatives to recessed lighting. You can choose from a wide variety of space saving options. Whatever ceiling fixture you want, it will likely fit into your room and work as good as or better than a recessed light does.

Drop Pendant Lights

Drop pendant lights are another great way to provide ambient light and can be used as a direct replacement for recessed can lights. Pendants come in all different shapes, sizes and styles so you will be sure to find exactly what you need to create the right atmosphere in your room.

Wall Uplighter

Wall up-lighting is another great alternative to pot lights. They can be installed flush against the wall or even mounted onto a track system high up on a wall which allows you greater flexibility in terms of positioning.

This illumination will be ambient and general, relying on the reflected light off of the ceiling to spread light across the room. This can be a more comfortable form of lighting with less glare to the eye than can lighting directly over surfaces and furniture.

Floor Light

Floor or table lights can be a great alternative to recessed lighting too. They come in all different sizes and shapes, providing an ambient glow that you can place anywhere in the room.

They are placed on the floor or any horizontal surface and provide general lighting for the room instead of specific path lighting like ceiling mounted pot lights do. Less glare, less light going everywhere, just ambient lighting.

Artwork Lights

Artwork lights or wall washers are can light alternatives that use LEDs to create unique lighting effects in a room. They consist of many small, individually controlled LEDs mounted into a housing with a picture light, spreading the light across the wall below and across the art or picture.

Linear Pendants

Another great alternative is a linear pendant – it offers the same benefits as recessed lighting with a more direct task light in a decorative surface-mounted fixture.

Cove Lighting

Cove lighting can also be used in place of a group of standard ceiling pot lights. Cove lights typically are installed around the perimeter of a room in for instance like a crown molding, and use linear LEDs for an ambient glow that is pleasing to the eye.

Coffered Lighting

Coffered lighting can double as an alternative to recessed pot lights. Linear LEDs within a surface mounted light fixture are concealed and hidden around the perimeter of a raised section of ceiling, revealing only the light that is created within. This is a more decorative technique than a standard ceiling pot light but offer the same general ambient glow and spread of light that you get with a pot light.

Recessed Step Lights

Step lights can be used as alternatives to recessed lighting in small rooms where a step light is desired. Can lights are difficult to install over stairs so the light spread across the treads of each step are an effective replacement.

Recessed Marker Lights

In place of the downward-facing fixture, you get an upward illuminating step light mounted at high level and points the light up to the ceiling. This will provide ambient or directional lighting depending on your needs from an unusual method.

Under Cabinet Lighting

A great alternative to can lights are under cabinet fixtures which direct their light downward onto the surfaces below. These can be used to highlight your sink, stove, dining table…whatever you want in your kitchen!

Lighting Bars

They are similar to cove lights except they typically use linear LEDs for an ambient glow that is pleasing to the eye as well. This type of can light alternative offers direct lighting that moves up and down, side to side, or in a rotating motion. So it can be used for task lighting if you install it in an area where light needs to be shined on something specific but also offers ambient lighting when installed above doors or across the ceiling.

Critical Tips to Choosing Pot Light Alternatives

Color of Light

Match the color temperature by making sure the color of light is the same as your choice would have been if you used a pot light. Match the degree of kelvin which would probably have been 3000K or 2700K.


When choosing your new fixture, make sure that its controls are easy-to-use and are located in an area that makes sense and are compatible with your choices if dimming them.

If you have a dimmable circuit that is using a collection of different light fixtures all together, you want to make sure that your new can light replacement can be dimmed too.


Make sure the can light replacement is easy to install. Using a pre-existing hole in the ceiling is most ideal, but if you’re replacing an existing pendant or other fixture, make sure it’s within your skill set to replace it with your new can light alternative.

In general look for features like plugs instead of hardwiring and easy to follow instructions. A good can light alternative will be easy to install, or at least be willing to assist you with it when you encounter difficulties.

You don’t want your new can light replacement to be more of a headache than the original, so make sure that it is compatible with your other fixtures and room structures like walls and ceilings.

Andrew Orange , the owner of Orange Lighting qualified and worked as an interior designer in 1993 before specialising in lighting working on high profile projects based in London. Since starting Orange Lighting Ltd in 2003 he has been sharing his knowledge and unique teaching style mostly to his designer clients, offering practical real life advice born from running a busy consultancy and lighting supply business. Launching in 2020, his blog has evolved into Quick & Easy Lighting, curating some 25 years design experience into making the lighting choice and design process achievable and easy to understand for all.