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Recessed Downlights - Top Tips For The Perfect Layout

Author: Sarah Wigmore
Published: March 17, 2017

Recessed Downlights are a modern and unobtrusive way to illuminate your home. If you are a fan of clean lines and a simple lighting scheme, this fuss-free, space saving option is a great choice. Well-placed recessed downlights are excellent for general ambient lighting as well as for more focused task lighting.

Looking to buy recessed downlights?

Some things to consider...

A few 'prep' Questions:

Before you tackle the question of the number of downlights and their positioning ask yourself the following:

  • How large is the room?
  • How high is the ceiling?
  • Is it one room or an open plan space?
  • How will you use the room?
  • Are there any areas within the room which require special focus?

Armed with this information you can then follow some simple steps:

How many downlights do I require?

The general consensus for selecting the number of downlights required is as follows:

  • Step 1 – Measure the square footage of the room by multiplying its width by its depth.
  • Step 2 – Multiply this square footage by 1.5. This will give you a guideline for the total wattage required to light the space. By way of an example, if your kitchen is 16ft x 17 ft, the total square footage is 272. Multiply this figure by 1.5 and the total wattage to light your room will be 408 .
  • Step 3 – Select the bulb and wattage you want to use. Divide the total wattage figure previously calculated, 408 in our example, by the bulb wattage you intend to use and this will give you the number of fixtures required.

Please note that this is a rough guide and an experienced electrician should be able to give you further guidelines when completing the installation. The layout of your lighting may also vary in relation to your personal preference and the tone you want to create in the room.

If your room is open plan, divide each area up into ‘separate’ spaces to make your calculations. If you choose LED downlights check on the packaging for their equivalent wattage.
Recessed lighting Layout

Ceiling Height

Light from your recessed fitting is thrown in a downward direction in the shape of a cone. The cones of light normally cross at least 30 inches from the floor. From a taller ceiling, the light will intersect at a higher level so you won’t require more downlights, just a brighter wattage.

Spacing

Position your recessed downlights approximately 2 feet away from the edge of your walls onto your ceilings as a starting point. Try to avoid creating any shadows. Then space your downlights evenly across the room for a balanced look. As a rule of thumb, we suggest you divide your ceiling height by 2 to give you the space required between each downlight. For example if your ceiling is 8 foot high, then position your lights 4 feet apart. Again, this is only a guideline and you will get a feel for what works best in your individual space.

Dimming

Choosing downlights that can be dimmed is always a smart move. You can then play with the light to set the mood. If you have an open-plan space, use dimmer switches to control the different zones to give additional flexibility.

Task Lighting

For focused task lighting, for example above a kitchen work surface where food preparation takes place, use a downlight with a narrower beam angle. You can mix and match your beam angles for ambient and task lighting.

If you are using downlights in an area in which they could come in contact with water, don’t forget to choose an IP rated option.

We hope this article will give you a few handy tips for positioning your downlights. Room shape, style and finish and whether you want a cool white or a warm white light will also need to be factored in when making your choice. Why not have a look at our full range of recessed downlights, including fire-rated options.

For more useful information check out our Lighting Ideas section.