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All About Ceiling Lighting: 7 Types You Can Install in Your Home

An illuminating guide to get you started.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that lighting can make or break the look of your home. No matter how brilliant the renovation, it’s lighting that helps to set the mood and really enhances the spaces so you can show them off.

We know it can be confusing, especially if it’s your first home makeover, so we’re diving into different types of ceiling lights to help you make an informed decision when you’re working on your lighting plan.

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But first…

Here’s a quick overview of the three basic types of lighting:

  • Ambient/mood lighting: Sets the ‘tone’ of the room as it’s the primary source of light – think of it as general lighting.
  • Task lighting: Provides a focused light for different tasks like reading and cooking, so you can get them done comfortably and fast.
  • Accent lighting: Perfect for emphasising/drawing attention to objects or special features.

The ceiling lights we’re exploring usually function as one of these three types, but as you’ll see below, they could double up as a different type, depending on how you use them.

Now that you have a better idea, it’s time to read on!

1. Flush mount lights

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Most HDB flats come outfitted with flush mount lights, and these lights sit directly against the ceiling. Since there’s no gap between the light shade and the ceiling, they occupy a minimal amount of space.

The light fixture protrudes slightly from the centre of the ceiling and casts ambient light over a wide area for general illumination.

  • Suits small rooms and low (~2.4m) ceiling heights
  • Since flush mount lights are the most common type, you have a lot of options for both designs and prices
  • Easy to maintain
  • You would likely need more than one flush mount light in a big room to get sufficient light
  • Depending on the design, you might have to fiddle with screws holding the fixture in place when replacing the bulb
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With their non-intrusive and simple designs, flush mount lights are versatile and work well with any interior style and in any room.

2. Semi-flush mount lights

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As you might gather from the name, semi-flush mount lights are similar to flush mount lights, except they hang down from the ceiling with about a 10-20cm gap.

If you love how chandeliers or pendant lights look, but don’t have sufficient clearance space for them, this is just what you need – since these types of lights don’t hang too low, they’re suitable even if you don’t have a high ceiling.

Thanks to the small gap from the ceiling, semi-flush mount lights also reflect light up onto the ceiling, adding to the brightness of the room.

  • Suits low to medium ceiling heights (~2.6m)
  • Has a wider variety of decorative styles than flush mount lights
  • Easier to replace the bulb
  • Accumulates more dust due to the gap, requiring regular cleaning
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With the sheer number of designs available, you’ll definitely find one that fits in your home, whether as a sleek and understated fixture or as a glamorous and eye-catching piece.

3. Recessed lights/downlights

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Recessed lights, also known as downlights, are fixed into an opening in the ceiling. Since the various components are hidden, it appears as if there is a light from the opening shining downwards.

  • Have a flat profile, so they do not protrude from the ceiling
  • Can be arranged across the ceiling to evenly distribute light; good to have if your ceiling fan takes up the central mount and doesn’t come with a light
  • Requires installing a false ceiling – could make the room look cramped if it’s small
  • While you can take advantage of multiple bulbs to illuminate only a specific part of the room, you’d have to install many to cover the entirety of a big room

If you do use recessed lights around your ceiling fan, make sure to have an appropriate distance between them to avoid flickering shadows caused by the fan.

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You don’t have to limit yourself to using recessed lights only as ambient lighting: since each bulb focuses on a specific area, they’re handy as task lights in areas like the bathroom for your make-up or shaving routine, or for finishing up work in the study.

4. Cove lights

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These lights are installed into a ledge/recess along a false ceiling, so the light fixture is ‘hidden’. Unlike recessed lights, cove lights direct light up towards the ceiling.

These warm and welcoming light fixtures will fit well in modern and contemporary interiors.

  • Great for soft and diffused lighting in your space
  • You can adjust the brightness if you’re using LED lights
  • Insufficient on its own as task lighting
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After a long day, you can unwind with the tranquil and cosy vibe that cove lights provide. They essentially function as mood lighting, but layer well with stronger and more directed lighting like recessed lights for tasks that require more illumination.

5. Chandeliers

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Is there any lighting fixture that makes a statement more grand than a chandelier?

Besides adding warmth to a room, this sophisticated fixture injects personality and lots of visual interest.

  • Suits medium ceiling heights and above
  • Can be the centrepiece of the room it’s installed in
  • Available in a variety of shapes and designs to suit different interior styles
  • Not suitable for low ceilings as they make the room smaller and put you at risk of knocking into them
  • Require regular and delicate maintenance as the branches/curves collect dust
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If the classic chandeliers with clusters of crystal prisms are not what you’re looking for, don’t turn away just yet!

Like in the living room above, you can choose from a large variety of modern chandeliers that still leave your visitors in awe.

6. Pendant lights

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If you’re looking for aesthetically pleasing task lighting, try out pendant lights!

Like a chandelier, a pendant light is suspended from the ceiling and can be used to concentrate light on a spot, like the dining area.

The main difference is that chandeliers have multiple bulbs along many branches while a pendant light only has a single bulb hanging from a cord, chain or rod.

If you want to create even more impact, you can cluster pendant lights together.

  • Available in a large variety of designs to suit any interior, including types of shades – you can even choose not to have shades
  • Easy to install
  • May not be sufficient as the primary light source in a room
  • While they can be used for low ceilings, options may be more limited
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With the right placement, your pendant lights will create a cosy ambience while providing task lighting for different areas, like your dining area or kitchen island.

7. Track lights

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You’ve probably seen track lights in places like art galleries – this type of lighting makes use of a track/rail mounted on the ceiling, with multiple light fixtures arranged continuously along this track.

Track lights are a great option for accent lighting, since each of the lights on the track can be swivelled or pivoted in different directions to illuminate different areas, like artwork or your gallery wall.

Given this versatility, they can function as task lighting as well!

  • Easy to install as they can be mounted on the ceiling
  • Multi-directional lighting
  • Available in a variety of styles
  • Not suitable as the primary source of light in a room as it will result in uneven lighting
  • Protruding hardware may look clunky
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Your imagination (and budget, of course) is the only limit for where you can install track lights – you can use them to light up your hallway, or even as task lighting in your kitchen for smooth and efficient food prep.

Do think about whether track lights will work with your interior, though; while they look good in minimalist and contemporary homes, they might look out of place in a more traditional-style interior.

Make your interior pop with lighting

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While we’ve recommended areas where you can use these different types of ceiling lighting, don’t limit yourself to them! Depending on how adventurous you get, they can function as ambient, task or accent lighting in any room.

Be sure to discuss what you have in mind with your ID so that they can advise you on how you can elevate your interior with lighting.

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