Types of Lighting Fixtures

Whether you choose a valance or pendant, there's a fixture for every need in your home
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By: Jill Connors
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Many options exist for providing light in a home, from integrated architectural solutions that require contractors and tradesmen, to decorative lamps that need only be placed on a table and plugged in to the nearest outlet. Although some types of fixtures are more commonly associated with a particular layer of lighting—ambient, task or accent—most fixtures are versatile enough to be used in a number of ways.

Architectural. The three most common forms of architectural lighting are cove, soffit and valance; all three are integrated into the room's structure. Cove lighting is located in a ledge, shelf or recess high up on a wall, and the light is bounced toward the ceiling or upper wall. Soffit lighting is located in a soffit or cornice near the ceiling, and the light radiates downward, washing the wall with light. Valance lighting is located in a wood, metal or glass valance (horizontal shield) mounted above a window or high on the wall, and the light bounces both upward and downward. The technique of bouncing light off walls and ceilings is known as indirect lighting, which is favored by many lighting professionals because indirect lighting minimizes shadows and glare. Architectural lighting is most often used as ambient lighting.

Recessed. Installed above the ceiling, this type of lighting has an opening that is flush with the ceiling. A recessed light requires at least 6 inches of clearance above the ceiling, and insulation is essential to ensure that condensation does not drip into the fixture. Recessed lighting sends a relatively narrow band of light in one direction; it can be used to provide ambient, task or accent lighting.

Track. Mounted or suspended from the ceiling, track lighting consists of a linear housing containing several heads that can be positioned anywhere along a track; the direction of the heads is adjustable also. Track lighting is often used for task or accent lighting.

Undercabinet. Mounted under kitchen cabinets, this type of lighting can be linear or a single puck-shaped fixture. Undercabinet lighting is extremely popular as task lighting in a kitchen.

Pendants. Suspended from the ceiling, a pendant light directs its light down, typically over a table or kitchen island. A pendant can enhance the decorative style of a room. Pendants can provide ambient or task lighting.

Types of Light Fixtures

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Track Lighting

Track lighting is mounted or suspended from the ceiling on a linear unit that contains several light heads, which can be positioned anywhere along the track. The direction of the heads can also be adjusted. In this room, the track lighting is used to highlight the artwork and wall and provide overall light for the space.

Recessed Lighting

This light fixture is installed above the ceiling and has an opening that is flush with the ceiling. Recessed lighting sends a relatively narrow band of light in one direction, so it can be used to provide ambient, task or accent lighting. The recessed lighting in this kitchen adds sufficient light without overwhelming the space. Design by Andreas Charalambous.

Photo By: Geoffrey Hodgdon

Under-Cabinet Lighting

Mounted underneath kitchen cabinets, this type of lighting is extremely popular as task lighting in a kitchen. The under-cabinet lights in this kitchen brighten up the room and enhance the contemporary, clean feel of the space.

Photo By: Designer, Andreea Avram Rusu

Floor Lamp

A versatile and portable light source, lamps come in a wide range of sizes and styles. This floor lamp complements the room's design scheme and provides task lighting for the bordering chairs. Design by Shelley Riehl David in Wayzata, Minn.

From: Shelly Riehl David

Table Lamp

A stylish table lamp can add character to a room while providing task light. This sophisticated lamp could easily be used for reading. Design by David Scott.

Photo By: marili forastieri, Capture One PRO

Desk Lamp

Desk lamps provide task lighting, directing light downward on a work space. Design by Luis Caicedo.

From: Luis Caicedo

Chandelier

Suspended from the ceiling, chandeliers direct light upward. They are typically installed over a table or in a main entry foyer, but they are not strangers to bedrooms and bathrooms. Chandeliers enhance the decorative style of a room and provide ambient lighting. Design by Dina Manzo.

Wall Sconces

Wall sconces are very versatile. Surface-mounted to a wall, they can direct light upward or downward. Wall sconces can add a stylistic touch to a room and can also provide ambient or task lighting. The sconces in this bathroom provide flattering lighting while not subtracting from the impact of the tiled wall.

Ceiling Lights

Ceiling lights are mounted directly to the ceiling, with a glass or plastic shade concealing the light bulb. Ceiling fixtures have been common in homes for nearly 100 years. The ceiling lights in this hallway complement the chandelier that is suspended from the ceiling. Design by Vanessa DeLeon in Edgewater, NJ.

Pendant Lighting

Suspended from the ceiling, a pendant light directs light down. It can easily enhance the decorative style of a room and add character. In this space, the pendants are positioned to hang low over the bed-side tables. Photo courtesy of Lexington Home Brands.

Cove Lighting

There are three common forms of architectural lighting, and cove lighting is a popular form. Cove lighting is placed in a ledge, shelf or recess high up on a wall, and the light is bounced toward the ceiling or upper wall. In this bedroom, the cove lighting illuminates the ceiling above the bed, adding a romantic feel. Design by Jennifer Charleston.

From: Jennifer Charleston

Soffit Lighting

Soffit lighting, another type of architectural lighting, radiates downward, washing the wall with light. In this bedroom, soffit lighting adds interesting dimension behind the bed. Design by Jennifer Duneier in New York City.

Chandeliers. Suspended from the ceiling, chandeliers direct their light upward, typically over a table. They can enhance the decorative style of a room. Chandeliers provide ambient lighting.

Ceiling. This type of fixture is mounted directly to the ceiling and has a glass or plastic shade concealing the light bulb. Ceiling fixtures have been common in homes for nearly a hundred years, often providing all the ambient light in a room.

Wall Sconces. Surface-mounted to the wall, sconces can direct light upwards or downwards, and their covers or shades can add a stylistic touch to a room. Wall sconces provide ambient or task lighting.

Desk, Floor & Table Lamps. Made in a wide range of sizes and styles, lamps are extremely versatile and portable sources of light in a room. Most lamps direct light downward, with the exception of a torchiere, which is a floor lamp that directs its light upward. Lamps are often used as task lights, particularly for reading, but can also provide ambient light.

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