Our Favorite Recessed Lighting & Some alternatives to can lighting!

September 22, 2021

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Last week Chris and I walked through the house and came up with a lighting plan for the entire house. I have a feeling that once we have the lighting optimized, we’re going to wonder how we’ve made it this long living in the dark. It’s strange because we have plenty of windows in our house, but beyond those windows are thick, tall trees, blocking a lot of the natural light, and a lot of our electricity in the main areas have been cut with the renovations. Consequently we’re tackling this from the inside and installing so many lights. We’re talking flush mounts, semi-flush mounts, chandeliers, pendants, sconces, and of course recessed lighting.

Our Go-to Recessed Lighting

We get asked about our favorite recessed lighting a lot. This is our FAVORITE recessed lighting! We’ve installed the 4″ ones in our last two homes. I’m such a fan of these because they are ultra slim and don’t require any can or light housing. They’re 4″ in diameter and you can even choose the color temperature you want. (I’m 3000K or bust!) Super easy to install and I love that the edging surface is really flat and doesn’t jut out. We’re going to be installing these in multiple places in the house.


Believe it or not, recessed lighting can be a bit controversial. I get it and I don’t get it. I’d say recessed lighting wasn’t so common until about 15 years ago. Before that, rooms typically had just one central light source and maybe some table or floor lamps. Some are saying that recessed lighting is a trend that’s fading and that it’s time to simplify towards more traditional lighting. I say, put me in a box and I’ll find a way out. For instance Anissa added these adorable flush-mounts in her kitchen below. A great alternative to recessed lighting and it adds so much interest to the space!

House Seven Design

Are we installing recessed lighting in our house? Yes and I’m really happy with that. Am I venturing out to lighting alternatives to recessed lighting? Also yes.

Specifically in our home office, we’re actually installing multiple flush mounts to the space. It’s a big room with a blank ceiling, and it’s in serious need of a lighting glow-up. I thought that adding multiple flush mounts would add some interest to the ceiling and it’s a great alternative to recessed if you’re wanting to switch things up.

kitchen lighting

 Jean Stoffer Design

I cannot with this kitchen lighting! Mix and match those metals, and I see 1, 2, 3, 4 (if you look closely) lighting varieties in here! Outstanding.

kitchen lighting

Lauren Liess

Another beautiful example of multiple sources of lighting that doesn’t include recessed cans.

Alternatives to Recessed Lights

In the spirit of the debate, I thought it would be fun to share a round-up some great flush-mount alternatives to recessed lighting. I can see any of these appearing multiple times in a room. Which team are you on?



1. Gwynn Isle Dome Ceiling Light $65
2. Schoolhouse Flush Mount $74
3. Sculptural Glass Cone $89
4. Cadence Flush Mount $138
5. Hannah Bare Bulb $138
6. Metal Bell Flush Mount $169
7. Tapered Metal Hood with Brass $169
8. Nodes 1 $171
9. Cadet Flush Mount $196
10. Vintage Glass $199
11. Curved Metal Bell  $199
12. Pittock Semi-Flush $218
13. Young House Love Cone Pop $239
14. Crawford Flush Mount $249
15. Crawford Flush Mount $249
16. Crawford Glass Flush Mount $269

Lighting is all the rage these days and for good reason. It can truly make or break the look and feel of a room overall, which is why I’m so passionate about everyone knowing the difference between Lumens and Kelvins in any light bulb. Be sure to read this post, and also check out this Instagram Reel for a quick talk through on lighting. A beautiful light fixture isn’t going to solve anything if your light bulbs are too orange, or too florescent, or too dim, or too bright. So I would say if you’re struggling with lighting in your home, maybe start with your light bulbs. It could change everything.

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What do you think?

  1. Kim Meyer says:

    I like the idea of flush mounts, but with only 9ft ceilings in my home, I worry putting too many will make my room feel smaller. Right now the lighting in my home is dismal. At least adding in some canned lights will brighten rooms up a bit. What do you think about solar tubes. The bedroom hallway is extremely dark in the middle of the day with all the bedroom doors closed (for reasons of keeping cats out of my room and our puppy out of everyone’s rooms – she chews EVERYTHING). We live in OK and get pretty good sunlight around the house. I had an idea to install a solar tube to bring in natural light but I don’t know the pros and cons or if there are major drawbacks. Love all your ideas and advice!

  2. Brandie Mitchell says:

    Gosh your posts always seem to arrive right on time for me- thank you! My trouble is deciding! We recently bought a 90s home and there are so.many.light.fixtures. to update.

  3. Carey says:

    Would you suggest using 3000k for a bathroom as well?

  4. Anna says:

    I hate our cans but we have them on vaulted ceilings…any advice?

  5. Jessica says:

    Yes those cute flush mounts are great but don’t forget that most of them do not have as many lumens as a recessed led light. For instance the Cadence one light could not light even a small closet, a candle has more lumens.

  6. Cortney Sloan says:

    OMG! Thank you for this post. I have HATED the light fixture in my galley kitchen for years. A LOT. BUT, install recessed lights in that space hasn’t been the priority. I am now looking up linear flush mount lights and found some great options like this – SO much better than a traditional florescent fixture!

  7. Hillary says:

    Forever will love recessed lighting! I think it allows the other fixtures to really shine. In my house if I had all fixtures I think my eyeballs would go bonkers with all the doodads on the ceiling. However, I really appreciate those details in a small room.

  8. Jeanene says:

    Thank you SO much for this post!!
    Wondering if you came across any that go on pitched ceilings. I looked through everyone you posted and none of them are suited for that. I love the flushmount trend instead of cans but we have sloped ceilings. Any round up for those I will be all ears

  9. Danielle says:

    I have really only seen people be critical of recessed lighting in older homes. Totally possible I missed the group of people who don’t like it anywhere, but I have to say I do love my old house sans recessed lighting and do not plan to ever add any. Give me all the flush mounts!

  10. Lucy says:

    Can lights…. They look fine with new builds…. I have a hard time with them in older homes. Our house is 1860 and going through a reno. Kitchen is a small galley so I will go with a row of flush Mount.

  11. Jesseca says:

    I am a big fan of using flush mount lighting as much as possible, but I do think there is a place and time for a can. They work great in basements with low ceilings, and they are very budget friendly. I will be using a few in our new home for the kitchen (I want the island lighting to be the star), and maybe a few in our living dining area. I do think they are currently overused, so it is nice to see a bit of a move away from that.

  12. Patricia says:

    we installed the clunky version of can lights in our kitchen remodel thirty-four years ago so they’ve been around awhile, mostly in kitchens, bathrooms and basements (lower ceilings). But just love those canless cans you showed. Why weren’t these around back then?

  13. Rachel says:

    We live in NC, too, and I always comment about how dark our house is even though we have tons of windows. The tree canopy around houses here are always thick. As someone originally from the midwest with plenty of plowed down trees and only fields, I certainly appreciate NC’s desire to leave neighborhoods, highways, parks, etc. as natural as possible. The trees also keep our house cooler in the Summer…but I do crave more natural sunlight :-)

  14. Amie says:

    We just picked out recessed lights for our kitchen and my heart sank when I saw this post. Thankfully we picked the same ones! Whew.

  15. Cici Haus says:

    I used six of #1 in the roundup down our long hallway and it brings amazing interest to a simpler space. That said, I much prefer recessed lighting (and installed it in our living room and kitchen). The “use flush mounts like cans” trend is very overwhelming to me. All in a row? Cool. Multiple rows plus pendants or chandeliers? All I see are dozens of pockmarks all over the ceiling.

    • MC says:

      Agree – I was about to say the same thing about the overuse of these small flush mounts and use the same word – pockmarks.

      I’m excited to see how Chris and Julia update the lighting in their new home – I’m sure they’ll do it well!

    • JL says:

      I agree wholeheartedly. I’d much prefer the simplicity and “clean-ness” of recessed lighting for larger areas. Multiple flush mounts are great when lighting a hallway, but when placed all over a ceiling, it looks far too busy. Moreover, if you’re also using pendants or chandeliers, the mounts take the focus away from these. Let’s see how it works in an office setting. Julia has surprised us before!

    • Cheryl says:

      It seems visually chaotic to me as well. That top photo with a billion black flush mounts look like bullet holes. This is a trend IMO and I’ll take a hard pass.
      Everything in moderation.

  16. Nancy says:

    Such a great topic! We have a fix of both in our house. We are currently doing a basement bathroom/ laundry remodel and our electrican install great flush mounts but didn’t instal ones with Kelvin options he just picked 4K. Everything else in our house is 3K. I was amazed at how it completely changed the look and feel (I didn’t like it!) Electrician wasn’t happy and tried to make me feel like I was out of date when I told him he would need to take the 4K out and install either ones with options or 3K. So happy I stood my ground though! He came two days ago and installed 3K and I love the new space so much more! Thank you for helping me understand why ❤

  17. Laura says:

    Wait, what? People are AGAINST recessed lighting? I’m so confused. I don’t like depending on recessed lighting for all lighting needs in a room. If I have recessed lighting in my living room, it’s so I can turn it on full force to work on homework or find the ding dang remote. For a casual evening at home? All of my lamps are on. For a casual evening with company when maybe we have dessert in our living room? Dimmed recessed lighting + lamps. Do I need recessed lighting in bedrooms? No. But would I take it over the ceiling fan with five bulbs that I have right now? Yes. We light our bedroom with lamps unless we are getting dressed and need as much light as possible to spot stray dog hair or need to know if those black pants are too faded to wear with that new black top. And in that case, I’d love 4-6 small recessed lights in our 13×11 bedroom. I could see multiple flush mount or other non-recessed options for some rooms, but not as a principle. I think recessed lighting is such a great and helpful innovation!

  18. Jennifer says:

    After reading your post about kelvins & lighting, I went in a hunt to find the perfect bulbs😂 Really does make a difference.
    It’s so funny bc we remodeled 10yrs ago & added can lights. Today, I still love them! We are in the design stage of an addition & I plan on adding can lights again. Partly b/c I love them. Partly b/c it will flow with the rest of the house making 1 of many decisions I have easier.
    I won’t lie, I have often dreamed about changing the hallway cans to flush mount or semi flush 🤣 Buuut, it’s low on my wishlist. Ps don’t tell my husband.😂🤑

  19. Virginia Marcinkiewicz says:

    Any thoughts for what type of lighting to use for under kitchen cabinets?

    • I’m personally not a fan of under cabinet lighting. I prefer a lamp on the counter if need be. Or wall sconces.

      • Michelle says:

        I couldn’t help but laugh at this because at barely 5′-0″ tall undercabinet lighting is task lighting for me in the kitchen and critical in my designs. Whereas, Julia, you and Chris are so tall, it probably only reads as accent or ambient lighting for you and a lamp would accomplish that beautifully. My BIL is 6′-4″ so have his perspective in mind when I’ve designed kitchens and baths for them. I love that our different circumstances can play into our ideas of things like this. Love all the advice and ideas here!

    • RC says:

      We love under cabinet lighting and if you do like there’s two things we learned: 1. have under cabinet lighting same color temp. as the room lights. 2. Make sure your lights strips or light bulbs are a common size for easy replacement, we’ve learned that the hard way.

  20. Jodi Robin says:

    I love this! And I appreciate the balance. I recently (quietly) unfollowed a designer who I really like because she was so extremely dismissive of recessed lighting in her content and patronizing to those who like it (eg clean and modern in kitchen or bath!). I just thought that is so unnecessary!

  21. Christina says:

    Can you talk about how to place recessed lighting in a space? For a kitchen, how far from the wall over a countertop/workspace or over a sink. Or, how to light a bathroom for functionality – doing makeup and for comfortable shower/bath lighting.
    Thank you!!!

  22. Brandi says:

    Great post! My husband and I have been in our house since 2015. We changed out most if not all of the lighting when we moved in. We have can lighting in several rooms. My only issue is we also have it one of the light sources for our front porch and its nice…but do you have any tips for keeping red wasps and dirt dobbers out of them!? I actually like the look of the first light you mentioned, the canless light. Ive never seen those before. They might work for us if they are rated for outdoor/damp areas.

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