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How to choose your family downlight

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Recessed downlights, often called can lights, serve as the backbone of many good lighting designs. When well-chosen and well-placed, these fixtures can all but disappear into the ceiling while providing exactly the right amount of light, right where you want it. When the wrong downlight fixtures are installed, however, the result can be a ceiling that looks like a block of Swiss cheese with glare-inducing spots. Before this happens to you, answer the following five questions to make a more informed choice with your pro.


1. How High Is Your Ceiling?

Let’s start with an easy decision based on ceiling height. As a general rule, the higher the ceiling is the larger the diameter of the downlight opening should be. A larger opening will allow more light to “push” down to the room below. Downlights with built-in LEDs come in smaller-size openings than ever, but avoid going too small. While 1-inch-diameter fixtures look streamlined and discrete, they should probably be reserved for built-in niches and cabinetry.

For a standard 8- to 10-foot ceiling, stick to fixtures with 2- to 3-inch openings. For 12-foot ceilings and higher, you may want to move up to fixtures with 3- to 4-inch openings. In most cases, due to stronger LED lights, 5- to 8-inch openings are no longer necessary. They make bigger holes in your ceiling and can create more glare.


2. What Color Is Your Ceiling?

If your ceiling is white, this is a pretty easy question, since most downlights have a white flange, or flat ring on the ceiling that covers the rough edge of the ceiling cutout. However, if your ceiling features colorful paint, wood planking or metal panels, you’re going to want to switch up your downlight trim. A standard white downlight will look terrible on a beautiful blue ceiling like this one, so choose the color and finish based on your ceiling material.


For wood ceilings, a bronze metal-flanged recessed fixture can look superb. For colorful painted ceilings, an easy and cost-effective way to minimize the look of the downlight is to buy a standard white trim and paint the flange to match. Trims are often available in metal finishes, which may coordinate nicely with metal ceiling panels in contemporary homes.


And of course, if your ceiling is white, the normal white flange will look best. Just remember, you may need to paint them with the exact white of your ceiling or the difference could be distracting.

You can also avoid this decision altogether by using new trimless recessed downlights. These require a special flange that is mudded into the ceiling, or a precision cut into wooden and metal ceilings. The higher installation cost of these can be a deal-breaker, but the finished look is as minimal as you can get.


3. What Color Do You Want Inside the Fixture?

The next step is to choose the inside of the trim that best suits your needs. From nickel reflectors to white baffles to frosted lenses, each choice will have an impact on how your ceiling looks during the night and during the day.

White. White stepped baffles catch some of the light and reflect it to make the fixture look brighter. They also look great during the day when they are off, as long as your ceiling is white. 

Black. On the opposite end of the spectrum are black stepped baffles that disguise the light source. These can be great in a home theater or a dark ceiling but will leave you with black spots across your ceiling during the daytime. 

Nickel. In the happy middle are nickel reflectors that work great in most projects. They give off soft light at night while avoiding the dark spots of black baffles.

Frosted: Low-profile frosted downlights may appear the brightest, but that does not translate necessarily to good light where you need it. Frosted lights can often produce a lot of glare. Reserve these for closets and utility spaces.


4. What Are You Lighting?

The most important question is always this one: What are you trying to light? 

Adjustable fixtures. Fixed (or non-adjustable) downlights are great for providing general illumination in a space. But for illuminating cabinets, counters, tables and reading areas, consider recessed adjustable downlights that allow you to focus the light where it’s most needed, such as on the decorative plate in this photo.

Wall wash trim. To illuminate art on walls, or in floor-to-ceiling built-ins, choose a downlight fixture with a wall wash trim that delivers smooth light up and down the wall.


5. What Temperature Light Do You Want?

If you are buying recessed downlights with built-in LEDs or buying LED bulbs, you will want to pay attention to the color temperature of the bulb. In general, traditional homes with lots of wood and classic details look best with bulbs that give off a warm light, such as 2700K LED bulbs.

Contemporary homes with crisp white walls, grey-washed wood and sleek lines may look better with cooler 3000K or even 3500K LED bulbs.


Author From houzz


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