You’re looking to update your home with new lighting, and you want something that is both modern and attractive? One of the best ways to achieve this look is by installing recessed downlights. They are not only functional but used wisely and they also can make a space feel more open as well as create an inviting cosy interior.
However, the problem with using such an effective source of light is they can be over relied upon and be too bright, robbing the space if it’s full potential. So to help you maximize their effectiveness in your home, we have put together some tips on how to use these fixtures effectively!
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If you ask a lighting designer on how to use recessed downlights, they very often have a different opinion to an electrician or installer. The problem is the ceiling downlighter is such a powerful medium that so effectively creates light that they are commonly used everywhere as an efficient source but unwittingly interiors can be robbed of their full potential.
Successful lighting design will consider the layering of light, the building up of levels of light from different sources in different positions throughout the room for a variety of reasons. It can be described as painting with light by considering these key types of lighting.
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Downlights are useful to help increase the overall level of lighting in a room when all the other layers have been created and some areas of the room just have no other way to be lit. Consider where the light needs to be though and only use the downlight to deliver it and not be tempted to create grids to make uniform patterns in the ceiling.
Specific features such as artwork, architectural features, pieces of furniture, even an arrangement of flowers can be highlighted efficiently with a concentration of light over them from a downlight. Use a tighter beam width to isolate the light over the object and create contrasting low levels of light around them to help make them the brightest parts of the room and be seen first.
Delivering light onto work orientated spaces can be done very effectively from downlighters. Medium to wide beams of light directly onto a work surface such as kitchen counter tops and kitchen islands create effective task lighting levels.
Using downlighting to create an accent layer of light by illuminating parts of the room that deserve to be lit as they contribute some interest, but are not the feature that needs to stand out first. This can be done by washing light onto furniture fabrics, across curtains or washed down walls.
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To avoid the downlight ceiling grid, also refer to these downlighting techniques:
Consider using wider beam angles on downlights that are on the general lighting circuit and near the edges of a room, to help spread the light onto furniture and walls to assist in the ambient lighting level without being too direct and highlighting objects you do not intend on drawing attention to.
Use tighter beam widths towards the centre of the room to highlight objects or the centre of a table to create a strong visual contrast against lesser lit general surfaces. These lit targets can act as task lights but are predominantly a lighting technique to create an emotive atmosphere.
When learning how to light artwork & pictures in your home you will quickly discover that downlighting is a most useful method to light wall art. Placed 2ft (600mm) from the wall and adjusted back towards the artwork with a soft lens, with good colour rendering and a beam width appropriate to the size of the picture draw, a strong illumination will bring out the colours of the artwork and become a strong accent light.
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The advice on how to position downlights will need to adapt to the requirements of where the light needs to be. However, there are particular positionings to avoid:
Downlighting is predominantly a downwards vertical illumination, and that light can be unflattering when overhead as it casts heavy shadows under the eyes and nose of the person below.
Preferably a downlight should not be positioned over seated people. The exception to this is if the downlight is being dimmed well and other accent lighting from table lights for example can counterbalance the light horizontally and reduce the contrast. Always locate the source of light slightly behind the seated person’s head so when unoccupied the furniture is lit and when someone is sitting down the light isn’t uncomfortably shining into their eyes.
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A mirror is often in a washroom or over a bathroom sink where downlighting is required to light this task orientated area. Sinks will always benefit from being lit, but the downlight position will be over the head of the person using the mirror. Counterbalance the downlighting with horizontal lighting from wall lighting placed around the mirror, negating the shadowing over the face. In other words illuminate someone standing at a mirror from above and the side.
The shower is one place that shadowing is less important and the direct light overhead is useful for carrying out another task activity, washing your own body. However, large walk in showers and wet rooms can look better with the downlight positioned closer to the tiles to reflect the light into the space.
Where the downlighter is really the only option to create a uniformly lit environment, then the spacing between them should be calculated. Typical examples are task orientated spaces like laundry rooms & indoor gym lighting – where the light is being created more for functionality than to bring drama and beauty.
A general rule of thumb for residential downlight spacing in rooms with an average ceiling height is approx 3ft-4ft (1m-1.2m) apart and no closer than 600mm to a wall.
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Before you finalise positionings and quantities, you need to understand the important differences there are between the many models available and which one is most suitable for your needs to achieve the level of detail you hoped for.
We’ve put together our buying guide for anyone to understand so you can discover the best downlights for your property and budget to create a lit environment that you will be delighted in and live with successfully for many years to come!
, 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.
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Learn how task lighting creates specific well lit areas of activity in the home, how to create it, where to place it, how to choose it with examples and tips.
Learn how accent lighting creates small areas of lit interest that when combined & balanced with other lighting layers will create a relaxing & inviting space.
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