Give Your Space a Modern, Minimalist Look With Recessed Lighting

Julissa Arangure
Written by Julissa Arangure
Updated December 8, 2021
A living room with a white cozy sofa and recessed lighting on the ceiling
Photo: Susan / Adobe Stock


  • Recessed lighting is installed directly inside the ceiling or wall.

  • You can choose from a variety of trims such as decorative, adjustable, and reflector.

  • Consider the style of your home while choosing the right recessed lights.

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If you’ve ever been to a lighting store, you know that choosing the right lights for your home can be a bit overwhelming. There are chandeliers, lamps, wall sconces, and so many others to pick from. But if you’re a “less is more” kind of person, recessed lighting might be your go-to.

What Is Recessed Lighting?

Recessed lighting is a great way to discreetly brighten up any room. The lights are installed directly inside the ceiling, surface, or wall and are made up of three components: the housing, the trim, and the bulb style. The housing is the light fixture itself and is kept hidden, while the trim is the decorative, visible part of the fixture. The final part is the bulb, which is what produces the light.

What to Consider Before Buying Recessed Lights

While recessed lighting is a great solution for homes with smaller ceilings, there are many other things to consider if you’re thinking about installing them. After all, lights greatly affect the mood and style of your space. 

  • Room layout: Take into account the size of the space, the amount of lighting you’ll need, and whether the ceiling will be the only source of light in the room.  

  • Ceiling height: The higher the ceiling, the more lights you need. If your ceiling is low, you’ll need to space your lights closer together.

  • Total cost: Recessed lighting costs between $100 and $480 per light fixture, and $360 on average. This depends on the number of lights, installation cost, and energy usage.

  • Style and mood: Is your home a modern, traditional, minimalistic, or industrial space? That will determine what kind of recessed lighting works best for your aesthetic.

  • Structure: Before you start any lighting project, check the area for any obstructions such as air ducts or pipes.

Are Recessed Lights Right for My Home?

Before hiring your local electrician, figure out if recessed lighting is right for you. Here are some specific advantages and disadvantages of recessed lighting: 

Pros of Recessed Lighting

  • The light is not visible, creating a beautiful, minimalistic, and sleek look

  • They can make a room look bigger because there are no fixtures hanging from the ceiling

  • It’s the only type of light that can be placed in water-focused environments, like bathrooms

  • They can spotlight art pieces or reading nooks

  • They have the ability to light up an entire room no matter how big or small it is

  • Perfect for hallways, kitchens, bathrooms, shower stalls, theaters, and basements 

Cons of Recessed Lighting

  • While they do light up an entire room, you’ll need more of them

  • They are more difficult to install 

  • They can create moisture and mold problems if water gets into the ceiling spaces

  • They are not usually adjustable; while there are adjustable options, those can get pricey

  • Not suitable for larger rooms or spaces with vaulted ceilings

Types of Recessed Lighting 

A kitchen with wooden cabinets and recessed lighting
Photo: pics721 / Adobe Stock

A can, also known as the recessed housing, contains the fixture’s socket, a protective shell, electrical hardware, and brackets or clamps. It’s important to know which type of housing you’ll want to use to ensure proper lighting and to avoid any electrical issues that may arise from improper installation. 

Remodel vs. New Construction Fixtures

New construction fixtures go directly into the structural supports, making them ideal for unfinished walls or ceilings. Remodel housings, however, have more of a secure fit since they slip into a small opening and have adjustable arms.

IC vs. Non-IC Fixtures

An insulated ceiling (IC) fixture reduces the risk of overheating where insulation is present. For non-insulated areas, non-IC housing is recommended and higher wattage bulbs work well with these. 

Line vs. Low Voltage Fixtures

Low voltage systems typically run on 12-volt power. Low voltage is most useful when lighting a difficult-to-access area, such as a staircase. Line voltage is the more standard type, running on 120 volts. It’s also typically more expensive, yet easier to install, and best for areas that require ambient light. 

Types of Recessed Lighting Trims

The visible part of the recessed lights is the trim. This is where you can get creative and choose those that complement your decor. 

You can select trims that blend into the ceilings or go for a bolder approach. You can also decide on whether you want your recessed lights to be stationary or adjustable. Here are some of the common trims that can make a huge difference in your room:

  • Baffle trims: The most common trims used in residential homes. They have a grooved texture that creates a softer and more diffused light, making them ideal for bedrooms or living rooms.

  • Decorative trims: Add a lot of personality to your room. They come in a variety of colors, sizes, and shapes that allow for more creativity in your design.

  • Surface adjustable trims: These give you the option of pointing the lights where you need them and focus on a specific section of the room. These are perfect for highlighting your favorite piece of art!

  • Reflector trims: Smooth and polished. They provide the maximum amount of lighting and are best for high ceilings or commercial properties.

  • Wall wash trims: Great for smooth surfaces and provides uniform brightness. They’re ideal for hallways or narrow rooms, as they create the illusion of a bigger space.

  • Lensed trims (or shower trims): Ideal for bathrooms because they contain a plastic or glass cover that protects them from water.

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