Ceiling lights, or fixtures that are mounted flush with the ceiling as opposed to hanging lights like pendants or chandeliers, are the oft unsung heroes of the ambient lighting category. While certain rooms can make use of ambient lighting from other types of fixtures, every home has areas where ceiling lights are the best (and sometimes only) fixture for the job.
The best method for layering light effectively in any room involves mixing and matching different types of lighting fixtures to create a lighting design that fulfills all the needs of that room. Each room needs a thoughtful mix of ambient lighting, task lighting, and accent lighting.
• Task lighting, often fulfilled by pendants or adjustable floor lamps, aims light directly at your workspace.
• Accent lighting, like picture lights, draws attention to the unique decor and architectural features of your room.
• Ambient lighting, including ceiling lights, creates a base layer of light that fills and brightens a room. When a room has the proper general ambient lighting, the other lighting layers become more effective, and the room is much more pleasant to use since harsh shadows and eyestrain are all reduced.
With the tips laid out in this guide, you can face your latest lighting project like a pro and pinpoint exactly what style of ceiling light you’ll need and the best ceiling light placement for every room of your home!
On the surface, ceiling lights present a simple, unfussy solution for ambient lighting needs. But a few common mistakes can leave your room dim and uninspired, and can make your search for a ceiling light unexpectedly difficult. Knowing the differences among types of ceiling lights will help you choose the ceiling light fixture that is best suited to your space.
FLUSH MOUNT LIGHTS VS. SEMI-FLUSH MOUNT LIGHTS
There are two primary types of ceiling lights: flush mount ceiling lights and semi-flush mount ceiling lights. Flush mount ceiling lights are fixtures installed with little or no space between the body of the light and the ceiling— hence the name. Semi-flush mount ceiling lights are mounted with a space between the body of the fixture and the canopy; they are usually suspended from a short chain or down rod and can lend the effect of a chandelier or lantern. Both are types of close-to-ceiling lights that provide ambient lighting to a room, but each type of fixture is best suited to a specific task and type of room.
• When to Use Flush Mounts: There can be significant overlap in the function of these fixtures, but a good rule of thumb is to use flush mount fixtures in rooms that have eight-foot ceilings. Unless the fixture is less than 12” tall, semi-flush mount fixtures can present a safety hazard in rooms with low ceilings, meaning they tend to be best in rooms with nine- and ten-foot ceilings. Because of the way light diffuses throughout a room, mounting a flush mount fixture on a ten-foot ceiling can actually lend a dimming effect to the fixture because the light is positioned too far above the floor. Semi-flush fixtures bring the light lower and have the added benefit of throwing light up onto the ceiling, which can make the whole room feel brighter.
• When to Use Semi-Flush Mounts: Because semi-flush mount lights are mounted using a chain or a rod, there are a number of situations that make them a more useful and efficient choice for your room than flush mount lights. In addition to being perfect for rooms with nine- and ten-foot ceilings, they can also be a good option for sloped ceilings. If your chosen semi-flush light is sloped ceiling compatible, it will come with hardware that allows the fixture to hang straight down. And because sloped ceilings are usually higher than level ceilings, semi-flush fixtures are a better choice for creating the most ambient light.
• When to Choose a Hanging Light Instead: For rooms with ceilings higher than ten feet, hanging fixtures like pendants, chandeliers, and lanterns are better options. These fixtures bring the light lower, allowing it to fill rooms with tall ceilings more effectively.
DRUM SHADE CEILING LIGHTS
Drum shade ceiling lights are a timeless and classic rounded style that brings soft ambient lighting to a room. These fixtures are available in many styles and materials, as well as both flush and semi-flush designs. Glass drum shade ceiling lights allow lots of light out into the room and create a breezy, open aesthetic in your space. Drum ceiling lights with fabric shades are ever-popular choices, in part because certain fabric shades can sometimes be swapped for a new color or print when you update your decor. Metal drum shades can lend a rugged feel to a room while still being chic and modern.
GLOBE CEILING LIGHTS
Glass globe and dome ceiling lights are perfect mid-century and modern ceiling light solutions. These lights make a big statement, and because the shades are glass, these fixtures shine bright. Choose white glass shades for gentle, diffused light, and clear glass shades for brilliant ambience in a clean, modern look.
SQUARE CEILING LIGHTS
Square flush ceiling lights are a bold alternative to round lights; straight lines and right angles create a sleek, clean style that accents a wide range of decor themes. Square LED ceiling lights are slim, streamlined lighting solutions perfect for minimalist rooms. Square fixtures with fabric shades soften the light and style of contemporary rooms.
WIRE CAGE CEILING LIGHTS
For an industrial or rustic ceiling light twist on clear glass ceiling lights, choose a wire cage ceiling light. These fixtures can be just as bright as clear glass fixtures, but the wire cage adds an unexpected style element to complement your decor. As a bonus, wire shades may add stylistic interest by creating unique shadows on the walls or ceiling.
GEOMETRIC CEILING LIGHTS
If round, drum, or square shaped lights don’t speak to you, a geometric ceiling light may be just the thing. Hexagon ceiling lights, star-shaped ceiling lights, and honeycomb ceiling lights are all trendy, stylish shapes that add unique intrigue and style to rooms.
COORDINATING CEILING LIGHTS WITH OTHER TYPES OF LIGHTS
Because ceiling lights function as ambient lighting, it is best to pair them with other types of fixtures to create the most effective light layout in your room. Ceiling lights alone are perfect choices for closets and pantries, but to light bigger rooms properly, a mixture of task lighting and accent lighting should be used as well.
BATHROOM CEILING LIGHTS AND VANITY LIGHTS
A common bathroom lighting mistake comes from thinking your vanity lights will provide enough light for your whole bathroom on their own. Vanity lights are intended to provide task lighting for any task you perform with your bathroom mirror— to properly light a bathroom, use a ceiling light to provide baseline illumination that will increase the effectiveness of your vanity lights. For small bathrooms, powder rooms, and half-baths, flush mount ceiling fixtures illuminate without taking up too much space; they are also ideal options for mounting over showers and bathtubs, provided they are damp or wet rated. For large bathrooms, semi-flush lights that cast light up onto the ceiling usually have a greater light spread and are better suited for filling every corner of the room with light.
Recommended Modern Bathroom Vanity Light & Ceiling Light Pair:
KITCHEN CEILING LIGHTS AND KITCHEN ISLAND LIGHTING
Assuming your kitchen ceilings are not higher than ten feet, ceiling lights are the best choice for adding general ambient lighting to the room. It is common practice to hang chandeliers or pendants over kitchen islands. In some cases, your kitchen island chandelier may double as both task lighting (the light that shines down onto the countertop) and ambient lighting (the light that shines out into the room.) In this case, sconce lighting, and any accent lighting along with the kitchen chandelier may eliminate the need for a ceiling light. If, however, you don’t have a kitchen island, or you don’t have suitable spaces for additional wall lights, choosing a ceiling light for your kitchen is essential. Task lighting without enough ambient lighting makes tasks harder since transitioning between bright and dim areas can cause eyestrain and create an unpleasant atmosphere. Kitchen ceiling lights will fill your space with light, and if you put your light on a dimmer switch, you can have maximum control over the fixture and create the ideal lighting for any use you find for your kitchen.
Recommended Nautical Kitchen Ceiling Light & Kitchen Island Pendant Pair:
HALLWAY CEILING LIGHTS AND WALL SCONCES
Hallways are one of the few rooms that don’t require extra fixtures for room-specific tasks. The goal when lighting a hallway is to ensure the passageway is bright enough to safely move through, so general ambient lighting is exactly what this area needs. For narrow hallways, ceiling lights alone will usually provide enough illumination. For wide hallways, wall sconces and ceiling lights make a stylish match. Put these two types of fixtures on separate switches, and you can leave dim sconces or accent lights on at night to provide gentle light for any midnight snacks or bathroom trips.
Ceiling lights are also perfect for entryways. If your foyer is too small for a chandelier or lantern, a semi-flush ceiling light will illuminate the space and add a touch of chandelier-like glamour.
Recommended Boho Vintage Hallway Ceiling Light &Sconce Pair:
BEDROOM CEILING LIGHTS AND TABLE LAMPS
Table lamps are common staples in bedrooms, where they often function as task lighting or dim ambient lighting. But lamps alone will usually not provide enough light to fill an entire bedroom. Match your lamps with ceiling lights to ensure you have the most control over the level of light in your room. Semi-flush ceiling lights are elegant and graceful fixtures in primary bedrooms where a chandelier might not be ideal. Flush mount ceiling lights are unobtrusive additions to modern and minimalist guest bedrooms. Ceiling lights are also particularly astute choices for kids’ rooms and nurseries— hanging lights could pose a hazard during playtime, and certain fixtures, like fabric drum shade ceiling lights, are easily adapted and updated as children outgrow decor.
Recommended Mid-Century Bedroom Ceiling Light & Bedside Table Lamp Pair:
LIVING ROOM CEILING LIGHTS AND FLOOR LAMPS
Floor lamps are heavy hitters in living room lighting. They often have adjustable arms that can be used as reading task lights, and most also serve some ambient lighting function. But when used on their own, they can cast harsh shadows and leave dim corners untouched by light. Pairing your floor lamps with ceiling lights ensures you create a base layer of light that fills the whole room, and thus makes your floor lamps even more effective since you can adjust their position to areas where you need extra light. Be sure to install dimmers with your living room ceiling lights so you can create the perfect atmosphere and mood lighting in your space.
Recommended Minimalist Living Room Ceiling Light & Floor Lamp Pair:
CEILING FANS WITH LIGHTS
For a truly multi-functional lighting solution, choose a ceiling fan with a light kit for your indoor or outdoor gathering spaces. Choosing a fan with a light kit will effectively light your space and increase airflow. Ceiling fans are highly useful for outdoor spaces since the extra airflow keeps you cool in the summer and can help disperse outdoor pests like gnats and mosquitoes. But be sure to pair your fan with outdoor wall lights if your porch is particularly spacious.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT FIXTURE FOR YOUR CEILING HEIGHT
In most cases, the height of your ceiling will determine exactly what type of light you can mount in that room. The bottom of your lighting fixture should be about seven feet from the floor, meaning flush mount lights are best for rooms with low ceilings and semi-flush fixtures are best in rooms with nine- or ten-foot ceilings (and also work well for sloped ceilings). For high ceilings or vaulted ceilings, consider using hanging fixtures instead, which will create a better light spread and be easier to reach for cleaning and changing bulbs.
FORMULAS FOR DETERMINING CEILING LIGHT SIZE
There are a few different formulas you can use to determine the exact size light that will be best for your room.
1. Remember, the bottom of your fixture should not fall closer than seven feet (or 84”) from the floor, or else the fixture can present a safety hazard.
2. To determine the minimum height of your fixture, multiply the room height in feet by 2.5.a. Ex. 10×2.5=25— a light that is 25” tall is roughly the minimum height needed for a room with 10 foot ceilings.
3. To determine the maximum height of your fixture, multiply the room height in feet by 3.a. Ex. 10×3=30— a light that is 30” tall is roughly the maximum height needed for a room with 10 foot ceilings.
4. If your room is very large, add the length and width of the room together. The answer in inches is the height of an appropriately sized fixture.a. Ex. In a room that is 10 feet long by 10 feet wide, a fixture that is 20” tall will be a pleasing proportion.
Each of these numbers presents a good starting point or general rule to keep in mind when searching for your perfect ceiling light, but don’t be afraid to bend the rules if your dream light doesn’t fall within these exact parameters. When in doubt, choosing a fixture that is slightly larger than recommended will create a better balance in most rooms than a fixture that is too small.
FORMULAS FOR DETERMINING CEILING LIGHT WATTAGE
You can determine the approximate wattage required for your room with a simple formula: multiply the square footage of the room by 1.5 to find this number.
1. To find the square footage of your room, first multiply the length and width of the room together.a. Ex. In a room that is 10 feet long by 10 feet wide, the square footage is 100.
2. Next, multiply the square footage of your room by 1.5.a. Ex. 100×1.5= 150
This means you should choose a fixture that provides 150 watts total of illumination for a room that is 10’x10’. However, it is important to remember that this number only applies to incandescent lighting. LED lights offer the same illumination at lower wattages, meaning if you want to select an LED light for your room, look for one that is equivalent to 150 watts.
You should also consider the color temperature of your bulbs when you are determining proper wattage. Bedrooms, living rooms, and hallways are best served with lights that fall in the ‘warm white’ range, while bathrooms and kitchens are best served with ‘soft white’ or ‘cool white’ bulbs.
MODERN CEILING LIGHTS WILL KEEP YOU ON THE CUTTING EDGE
Stay on the cutting edge of trend and tech with modern and minimalist ceiling lights— sleek finishes, slim silhouettes and efficient LED lamps make these fixtures a must-have for modern decor.
CHOOSE RUSTIC CEILING LIGHTS IF YOU LOVE NATURAL MATERIALS
Create a homey, rustic theme in your room by choosing rustic ceiling lights made from natural materials like wood and rattan and dressed with distressed accents like seedy glass and galvanized metal. This wood and metal semi-flush design maintains a homey rustic feel but adds a touch of elegance with a design reminiscent of a chandelier.
FARMHOUSE AND COTTAGE CEILING LIGHTS EVOKE A SIMPLE NOSTALGIC FEELING
Bucolic charm and nostalgic inspirations come to the forefront with farmhouse style and cottage ceiling lights. Build the cottagecore home of your dreams with whimsical designs and warm, rugged finishes.
CREATE AN ATMOSPHERE OF CLASSIC ELEGANCE WITH CRYSTAL CEILING LIGHTS
Create hints of glamour in traditional decor with crystal flush mount lights, which offer timeless shimmer and eye-catching glimmer. Choose warm finishes in brass ceiling lights and gold fixtures for a classic look, or select frames in black, chrome, and polished nickel for a trendy modern update.
NAUTICAL CEILING LIGHTS WILL TURN YOUR SPACE INTO A BREEZY GETAWAY
Coastal and nautical ceiling lights bring beachy bliss into your home and offer an opportunity for fun and unique shapes when selecting ceiling lights.
SHADES OF LIGHT EXCLUSIVES WILL HELP YOU DISTINGUISH YOUR STYLE
If you’re looking for a ceiling light fixture to match your unique sense of style, check out our exclusive ceiling light designs. There you will find a curated collection of designer fixtures that are not available from any other brands. Want to stay ahead of ceiling light trends? Be the first to adopt a new ceiling light fixture that is on the cutting edge of home design with our new ceiling light arrivals!
CEILING LIGHT INSTALLATION
If performed incorrectly, ceiling light installation can cause damage to the light fixture and the ceiling, and can even pose a fire hazard. That is why it is important to always consult an electrician to wire your ceiling light and complete your ceiling light installation. An electrician can help you pinpoint the best placement for your light so you can enjoy your new decor piece without fear of any mishaps or malfunctions!