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Design Scout: Space-Saving Light Fixtures

Low condo ceilings got you down? A quick swap of an overhead light might make all the difference.

Do you have an eight- or nine-foot ceilings that come with an overhead light fixture or a narrow hallway where a hanging fixture would be an awkward fit? If so, then you’ve probably encountered the challenge of finding a ceiling fixture that was both attractive and the correct depth for the limitations of the space. When a ceiling is only eight feet–like so many are here in Washington–and you need to pass underneath the fixture, you typically don’t want to take up any more of those precious 96 inches than necessary.

Enter the flush-mount light. Unlike semi-flush-mount lights that extend down slightly from the ceiling, true flush-mount fixtures are mounted right up against the ceiling. One key factor for finding the right fixture is to clearly identify the ideal depth. All flush mounts are not created equal–the depth might vary from a trim 3 inches all the way to 11-plus inches. Test out how the depth will feel in the space by creating a cardboard mock-up. After you establish the range for the ideal depth, you can decide on the minimum and maximum width for the fixture to create the appropriate scale for the space.

When choosing a new overhead light fixture, keep these tips in mind:

  • Identify whether you want the fixture to fade into the background or whether you want it to be a strong design feature. That decision will drive your selection of style and finish.
  • Check how many lightbulbs and the maximum wattage the fixture accepts to determine if it will adequately light the room it will be installed in. Keep in mind that rooms benefit from multiple sources of light, not just overhead lighting.
  • If there isn’t already one, consider installing a dimmer switch to regulate the intensity of light. Remember not all energy-saving CFL and LED bulbs are dimmable.

Until the past few years, a search for stylish and beautiful and flush-mount fixtures was often frustrating. The good news is that the selection has greatly improved. Here are a few of our top picks for your inspiration.