Bedroom Recessed Lighting

Recessed light fixtures can bathe your bedroom in ambient light or accent special features.


A variety of lighting warms up this bedroom. A hanging lantern adds a vintage feel to the seating area, while can lights illuminate the space. Photography by Julie Holloway

Recessed ceiling lights have become a popular way to add lighting to bedrooms. Recessed lights are perfect for providing ambient or general lighting, giving your bedroom the feel of being bathed in sunlight. They can also be strategically placed to accent specific areas or features of your bedroom. The lights can be controlled by dimmer switches, giving you control over how bright or soft you wish the light to be.

Light It Up: 12 Illuminating Ideas for the Bedroom

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Space-Saving Sconces

Wall sconces, whether modern or antique-inspired, are a gorgeous way to frame a bed. The designers at Rethink Design Studio wanted to enhance the contemporary yet romantic feel of this master bedroom by focusing on the light sources. The mirrored sconces provide a sleek and simple decorative element and allow the nightstand to display fresh flowers and decorative accents instead of a bulky light fixture.

Balanced Design

To create a clean, balanced look with a touch of eclectic flair, symmetry is key. Jamie Laubhan-Oliver of D Home suggests buying bedside lamps, nightstands and coordinating accessories in pairs. "Since I tend to decorate in a very eclectic style, duplicates of items help to keep it from looking chaotic," she says regarding her master bedroom style. In her antique-inspired retreat, Jamie uses a matching pair of metallic table lamps and an elegant crystal chandelier as the room's primary light sources. "Chandeliers are the jewelry of your home; whether small or large, they add drama to any room." Photography by Manny Rodriguez

Convenient Elegance

The regal purple headboard and bedding are certainly gorgeous, but the most eye-catching and dramatic elements of this master bedroom are the gold-accented pendant lights suspended above the nightstands. "They are functional, dramatic and keep the top of the nightstand free for other items," designer Peg Berens says. "For ease of use, the fixtures can be turned on and off by a small remote control kept in each nightstand drawer." The fixtures are convenient but can also be dimmed to instantly alter the mood of the room. Design by Peg Berens of Peg Berens Interior Design LLC. Photography by Robert Naik Photography

Light Complements

When choosing lighting for your bedroom, remember that beyond serving an obvious function, it can also provide a stunning accent within the space. Designer Pierre Jean-Baptiste suggests choosing one primary source of lighting and then choosing smaller fixtures for soft additional lighting. "Each light can be used for a specific task or in conjunction to set the mood of the room," he says. Plus, you can easily alter the tone of the room by using a dimmer on the main source of lighting. "This gives you flexibility on those early mornings when the full light may be too bright, but if dimmers aren't an option, try a three-way bulb — the varied wattages will allow you to create the mood you want without changing out your switch." Design by Pierre Jean-Baptiste of Pierre Jean-Baptiste Interiors

Limited Lighting

For those who prefer to read and work in bed, task lighting is for you. This type of lighting includes any fixtures, such as table lamps and swing-arm lamps, that are primarily used to illuminate a specific area or task. This sleek, arched floor lamp provides a high light level perfect for nighttime reading. And when you're not working, you can use a dimmer to control its brightness. Photo courtesy of Selva

Mix It Up

In a large bedroom with a lot of decorative eye candy, coordinating different types of lighting can enhance certain areas of the room without washing it out. To really illuminate this exotic master bedroom, designer Christopher Grubb installed various light fixtures with different tasks in mind. The recessed accent lights bring the focus to the tapestries and wall art, while recessed can lights around the room provide the most lighting possible while also opening up the space. Although there are lights placed directly above the bed for reading, the matching table lamps can also be used as task lighting when the can lights feel too harsh.

Contemporary Alternative

To create a modern look in your bedroom that also saves space, hang low-watt pendant light fixtures from the ceiling right above your nightstands. To add even more interest to the space, hang the fixtures at different heights. The pendants offer a soft, soothing source of light and provide a contemporary decorative element. Since these won't completely light up the room on their own, add complementary light sources, like a table lamp across the room. Photo courtesy of Lexington Home Brands

Bright Whites

A separate seating area is the perfect place for an illuminating light fixture of its own. Despite the dark navy draperies and walls, this elegant lounging spot has plenty of light for reading. When natural light isn't an option, the swing-arm floor lamp provides the perfect amount of light. To ensure this dark room doesn't feel cold and dark, designer Jennifer Duneier used white accents to brighten up the space, as well as a crisp, white lampshade to guarantee the fixture emits as much light as possible.

Serene Atmosphere

To provide a sense of ambiance and sensuality, various types of lighting were used throughout this guest bedroom and bathroom suite. Designer Amélie de Gaulle placed accent lights above the bed to enhance the Bhutanese fabric artwork and also to provide the best light source for reading. Three pendant lights in the bathroom provide a form of task lighting while also illuminating the adjacent bedroom area. And an unexpected form of lighting comes from the antique Chinese silk screen lit from behind with a hidden fluorescent fixture. Design by Amélie de Gaulle of Amélie de Gaulle Interiors

At-Home Getaway

Evenly spaced recessed can lights truly enhance the gold and metallic hues of this luxurious master bedroom. For additional lighting, four table lamps deliver focused task lighting around the bed and dressers. Plus, dark floor-to-ceiling draperies make it easy to shield the natural light from the window and quickly set the mood. "Think boutique hotel rooms with blackout curtains; augment with a myriad of light sources on dimmers, of course. It'll always feel like you're on vacation at home," says Jamie Laubhan-Oliver.

Modern Charm

There's no better way to spice up an elevated floor — and remind yourself and guests that it's there — quite like the addition of rope lighting. Tucked under the underside of the raised floor, the rope stretches all the way across the room, creating a unique glow. The details and creative elements of the space are enhanced with the use of several different light sources: framing wall sconces, hanging pendants, recessed can lights, table lamps and a hidden fixture within the headboard.

Enhanced Ambiance

An advantage of installing recessed "eyeball" lights is the ease with which they can be focused on any part of the room you're trying to draw attention. In this rich bedroom retreat, smaller recessed lights are used around the entire room, along with hidden accent lights above the headboard and antique bedside sconces to create a soft, ambient feel.

When choosing your recessed lighting fixtures and determining placement, it's important to keep balance in mind. You don't want to overdo it, ending up with rows of recessed lights that make your ceiling took like an airport runway. A few well-placed cans, layered with task and accent lighting as needed, will do the trick. You can layer recessed lights with floor lamps, table lamps, pendant light fixtures and flush-mounted ceiling lights. Install two small (three-inch or four-inch) recessed can lights on either side of a ceiling mounted light over the bed for a nice touch. If you are displaying a piece of art in your bedroom, install a recessed light above it to create a focal point.

Recessed lights don't work everywhere. Avoid installing them overhead in your master bathroom, as this type of light is unflattering. Instead, flank your vanity mirror with wall-mounted lights. Don't install recessed lights in nurseries, where high-wattage lights can be uncomfortable for baby's eyes.

Here are some useful concepts to know as you plan your recessed lights:

Halogen bulbs typically provide high-quality, low-voltage white light. While more expensive initially, these bulbs are more economical in the long-term. Low-voltage halogen bulbs will still maintain their "white" cast, even when dimmed.

Incandescent lights are the type of lighting most often found in homes. Incandescent bulbs usually have a yellow cast.

The light housing is the metal box that holds the light bulb and is hidden from inside the room. Housings are available in a range of sizes. For a remodel project, you'll want to get "remodel" or "old work" housing for your fixtures. These housings are made without a frame and are installed through a hole cut into the ceiling; they're held in place by mounting clips.

An aperture, or trim kit, is sold separately from the recessed lighting fixture. Apertures come in many types and styles.

If you are installing recessed fixtures in a room on the top level of your home, you'll want to get air-tight fixtures. These will prevent cooled and heated air in your home from escaping through the fixture into your attic. If your recessed lights are being installed in a lower-level room, you don't need air-tight fixtures.

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