If you don't have some good quality recessed light in your spaces I think you're totally doing your interiors a disservice.

Some people think of recessed lighting as ruining the ceilings and making it look like 'Swiss cheese.'  That can actually be true if your thinking of the recessed lighting from a commercial installation or the way builders install them in rows of 8" wide recessed lights every couple of feet as shown below.

What are you doing in this bedroom that needs that much light?

This is just bad.

You really think this room looks warm and cozy? I think you could get a suntan in there with all that light.

I HATE recessed light in rooms other than  kitchens or dressing rooms for 'general illumination' like above!!  Its not a freaking Buick dealership, it's your home - modern or traditional, it should be done properly with thought.

I'm gonna show you how by giving you the tools to do it yourself, properly.


First, If you want a perfect lighting plan you'll need to know what will be going on in the space. Consider the design of your space as far as paintings, furniture and traffic patterns.
If you like to rearrange stuff often and you're not sure 'exactly' what pieces you're going to be using then I'll show you how to light your room beautifully a basic 'lighting' plan.
The Furniture Plan

The BASIC No-Frills Lighting Plan

The Custom Lighting Plan
Designed for our specific furniture layout.


I'm not a fan of 'general' lighting. Rooms do not need to be so bright that you can read the newspaper anywhere in it. Target special features, reading areas or architectural elements. Rooms that are too bright in the evening will always look commercial, like a hotel lobby. Using that metaphor - think about it, the places you are attracted to and want to hang out are the hotels lounges where it's cozier and intimate...yet, someone has designed the lighting in order to read a menu by or see around the room.

A room can have abundant light even if only the perimeter is lit, which is easily done by lighting the paintings and a few specific areas. Task lighting (reading) can be provided by lamp-light. 
1. ARTWORK: Art needs to be lit well.
2. FLOORS: If you have an awkward transition, or step(s).
3. PIANO: Instead of a tacky clip-on light above the bookrest or a floor lamp pointed at the music a single recessed above the keyboard (not bench) is perfect.
4. COCKTAIL TABLE: I always like some dimmable light on the cocktail table. I like the flowers, hors d'oeuvres or accessories to have a slightly higher visibility.   
5. BOOKSHELVES: This is subjective as some people are 'all about their books' and others, myself included, like the look of books in a room as part of the decor making us look all smart an' stuff. A soft wash of low light is often good for both types.
6. BAR, OR SERVING TABLE: Those tired-ass candlestick lamps that came into vogue in the 80's and are still being used on bars and foyer tables are just plain tired... A recessed can above the bar on a dimmer is perfect.
7. DINING ROOM TABLE: The perfect way to light a table... Hang the chandelier in the center of the table (oblong or round) and have it flanked by two small 3"or 4" recessed halogen cans. The recessed lights should be placed far enough outside the chandeliers radius that it doesn't create shadows on the table (30-36" from chandeliers ceiling box) and yet close enough in that it can subliminally light the surface of the table. This makes the table sparkle and the food look delicious. You can keep the chandelier lights dimmed down to be romantic (or use a chandelier with candles) and then the table top is still lit beautifully.
8. HALLWAYS: Typical ceiling mounted fixtures look like shit. A huge glaring hot spot of light. Small recessed cans can be focused on a series of artwork on a sidewall, or they can be spots that light up the floor with an interesting carpet. You don't need to read the newspaper in the hall.
9. KITCHENS: General illumination is fine for the serious cook. However, if you use good quality Xenon dimmable under counter lighting and supplement that with a simpler plan of recessed cans. Highlight the island, sink and breakfast counter, etc.
10. BATHS: Overhead light in a bathroom is unflattering. Lighting that flanks the side of the mirror is best. For general illumination a few 4" halogen low-voltage lights are great.
When laying out recessed fixtures, here's a few guidelines to follow:
  (4" Recessed Halogen fixtures)

8' ceiling - 18" off the wall (not moulding)
9' ceiling - 24" off the wall
10' ceiling - 30" off the wall
8' ceiling - 24" off the wall
9' ceiling - 30" off the wall
10' ceiling - 30" off the wall
8' ceiling - 36" off the wall
9' ceiling - 36" off the wall
10' ceiling - 42" off the wall

 prefer all recessed lighting to be 4" low-voltage halogen; the light remains white when dimmed. They're more expensive to buy but less money to operate. By changing the bulbs you have extraordinary diversity from wattage, beam spread, and the bulbs last approx. 4-5 years! My favorite fixture is HALO 1499 it has many trim options and it's easy to change the bulbs.
These areas dont need dimming capability so use less expensive 4" or 6" incandescent fixtures.


1. Nurseries, you don't want a baby staring up into a 150 watt spotlight. Use sconces in a nursery that are dimmable and can be the nightlight too.
2. Gym's, no one wants to lay on their back doing bench-presses and look into the light. Try using uplight sconces or a suspended dish-type chandelier.
3. In a kitchen bulkhead directly above the upper cabinet doors, they can catch fire if the door is left open and is a few inches from the top of the door.
4. In an office above the task chair, it should be above the desktop, otherwise you'll have shadows of your head on your work surface.
5. In an angled ceiling so the light is angled at an awkward angle. They make adjustable recessed cans for angled ceilings.
6. In a closet with a spotlight bulb in it that is operated on a switch. If the light is left on it could cause a fire if it is too close to the contents.
7. Above a soaking tub; again, no one wants to lay in a warm sudsy bath and stare up into a 100 watt bulb. Wash the walls of the room instead. Think ambience.
8. Above a TV on the same switch as the rest of the lighting. You'll need a light to operate the electronics, but it should be off when the TV is being watched. Media rooms are best with dimmable recessed lighting as it does not reflect in the screen as a lamp or sconce would.
9. Bright bulbs in a reception area where you greet guests, you'll scare them to death as it's very unflattering and you will look ghoulish (it looks like the flashlight under the chin in a dark room).
10. Outside under the eaves of the house for security, it looks hideous and more like an office building.


The best quality 'white' light operating on a low-voltage system.
The kind of lighting that we've known forever; it has a yellow cast.
The actual housing (or metal box) which is the actual light fixture that goes inside the ceiling and is unseen from the room.

The trim-kit which is sold separately from the housing. This is the small ring that is installed to cover the opening. They come in many types for many purposes.

Slot Aperture:
A flat disc which covers most of the hole with a small opening to allow an internal gimbaled bulb to be directed. My FAVORITE of all apertures; great for artwork, highlighting things and is almost undetectable on the ceiling.

Baffle: (white, black, silver)
A slightly stepped cone which surrounds a fixed bulb. The most common of all apertures. Good for kitchens, baths, laundry, etc. White is best on a white ceiling.

An aperture that moves one way to wash a wall, and when rotated exposes a ball shape (very outdated!)
Alzak: (gold, black or silver) 
A metallic cone which is very 80's
Wet Location Cover:
An aperture for use in a shower 
Wall Washer:
An aperture which is half covered (very 70's looking)
"IC" Rated Housings: 
"IC" is short for Insulation Contact. This means that any housing with the "IC" rating can make direct contact with ceiling insulation. Generally these housings can handle up to 100 watts of light output.
NON "IC" Housings:
NON "IC" means that these housings can NOT make direct contact with insulation.

Air Tight AND "IC" Rated Housings:
This means that this housing is "Air Tight" rated AND is also "IC" rated. Therefore this housing is approved and made to be sealed so as not to allow air to escape through it into your ceiling or attic AND can make direct contact with insulation as well.
Airtight NON "IC" Housings:
This means that any housing with the "Airtight" rating is approved and made to be sealed so as not to allow air to escape through it into your ceiling or attic. These housings can NOT make contact with insulation. These housings help compensate for not having insulation in your ceiling and reduce your heating and air conditioning costs and will meet all Airtight Requirements. 

Question: Do I need Air Tight Fixtures?
Airtight fixtures are especially good for top-floor rooms so warm or cool air doesn't escape through the fixture into the attic. They're not necessary for ceilings which have a floor above them.

New Work or New Construction Housings: 
This means light fixtures that are to be installed (usually in a new home or addition) when there is no existing wall board or plaster.
Remodel or Old Work Housings:
This means that any housing with the "Remodel" rating is made without a frame and has mounting clips. Its installed through a hole cut into the sheetrock or plaster.
This means that that housing has a transformer and steps down the voltage from standard (110/120 Volt).
Low Voltage is an energy efficient lighting and allows the use of halogen bulbs which can offer the largest variety of wattages and beam spreads of any bulb on the market. That's why you will find these 12v Low Voltage housings used as task lights to highlight pictures, columns, items, etc. in your home or place of business. They can also be used for general lighting.
Is the same voltage coming in to your home which is called High Voltage. High Voltage lights are still very popular as they are great for general or utilitarian lighting (higher wattages than 50 Watts, some go as far as 150 watts).
3", 4", 5" & 6" Recessed Lighting: 
Very Simple: Diameter Size (in inches) of the housing's opening where the trim/aperture is to be inserted. There is no difference in light output. The only difference is the 3" will just be a smaller looking fixture than the 4", 5" or 6".

The most popular sizes are 4" in 120 Volt or 12 Volt, and 6" in 120 Volt. The 3" housings & trims, which have been on the market since 2000, are popular with designers because the appearance of these 3" trims is slightly smaller than the 4" trims. As for the 5", they are for the people that don't want to be restricted to the 4" housings' bulb limitations but do not want the size of the 6" housings.
Retro-Fit Kits:
6" Definition: 6" Retro-Fit Kits are available for when you have existing 6" 120 Volt Standard Housings, and would like to retro-fit some of them without destroying your ceiling or removing the existing housings to achieve an adjustable trim and/or an energy efficient Halogen 12 Volt System.

4" Definition: 4" Retro-Fit Kits are available for when you have existing 4" 120 Volt Standard Housings, and would like to retro-fit some of them without destroying your ceiling or removing the existing housings to achieve a Much More adjustable trim.
Bulbs or Lamps: 
The actual light bulb itself.
Outdated 1970's technology for a dimmable switch which used as much power on high as it did when dimmed down.
A dimmer switch which lowers the wattage of the light fixture it's operating. When lights are lowered the wattage is also lowered saving electrical costs.

You can do it, I'm here to help!