Recessed Lighting vs. Flush Mount : How to Choose The Right Lighting for Your Home

Struggling to decide between installing recessed lighting or flush mount fixtures in your home? There’s a lot to consider when choosing the perfect ceiling lights for a space. And the type of lighting fixture you select can ultimately make or break or a good design plan.

Recessed Lighting vs Flush Mount

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I’ll break down the main differences between these two popular choices, including costs. And give you some guidance on how to determine which fixture is better. And spoiler alert, sometimes the answer is both!

Read on to find out which lighting fixtures are right for you.

What is the difference between recessed and flush mount?

Can lights, pot lights, recessed light fixtures. They’re all synonymous with the standard builder grade lighting we’ve come to be familiar with in homes since the early 2000s.

Typically consisting of a round can shaped housing unit that’s recessed into the ceiling, hence the name, these lights have become the more modern version of the single flush mount light fixtures.

You’re probably all too familiar with the term boob lighting, as they were affectionately coined. Which ultimately gave flush mount lights a bad rap as everyone raced to replace these ceiling fixtures with recessed lighting.

So what’s the difference exactly? And why would someone opt for one lighting style over another?

The main difference between the two types of lighting is in the amount of light diffusion it provides.

Flush mount, or semi-flush mount light fixtures are typically encased in glass housing which allows light to diffuse or spread throughout and entire space.

Recessed lighting, on the other hand, provides vertical downlighting, and can require more fixtures to achieve the same level of brightness within a room.

Is recessed lighting going out of style?         

Recessed lighting has become a staple in new homes and remodels since the early 2000s. But has this once popular lighting worn out its welcome, or is it here to stay for good?

This has actually been a controversial debate. And a lot of homeowners are thinking it might be time to reconsider this lighting choice. But there’s great news if you’re a lover of canned or recessed lights, because they actually don’t seem to be going out of style anytime soon.

They are however, taking a back seat while other fixture styles steal the spotlight. Many designers are now opting to use small scale decorative flush mount fixtures in place of traditional canned or recessed lights.

While you might think this design approach is a little bit busy, it’s all about balance. So selecting something that is in scale with the room, while not competing with the larger focal fixtures, is very key to this design approach.

Specifically flush mount and semi-flush mount fixtures.

Current flush mount lighting is taking on a more modern design with different shapes and finishes to suit practically any style. Not only are they vastly different than their traditional designs, but they’re also being used in the most unexpected places.

Designers today are experimenting with using small scale lighting to replace entire rows of recessed lighting fixtures. Take this kitchen from Studio Gutow for example.

Recessed Lighting vs. Flush Mount

The miniature flushmounts are stunning and fit seamlessly into the kitchen design while adding some much needed lighting throughout the entire space.

Is recessed lighting cheaper than fixtures?

Yes and no.

While recessed light fixtures on their own are relatively cheap and inexpensive, the installation cost of them coupled with the sheer amount of lights that you might need to cover an entire room add up fairly quickly.

Versus standard ceiling fixtures that require less electrical housing and labor, and overall volume.

What is better than recessed lighting?

Well, as a self-proclaimed lighting enthusiast I’m probably a little more than biased when I say everything!

It’s a running joke in our own home whenever we have a dinner guest over, they ask if this chandelier in the dining room has always been there or if it’s another new one.

I affectionately refer to lighting as the jewelry of a home and my husband is kept quite busy with switching out light fixtures on a regular basis.

Neutral Dining Room

But I do strongly believe that a great lighting plan in a home is all about layering in different sources of light to achieve the look and feel that you need to enjoy that space.

So while I don’t believe there’s anything wrong at all with recessed lighting, I certainly believe that the lighting it provides can be enhanced by adding in a variety of light sources.

Take this gorgeous basement from Bigger Than the Three of Us, where they incorporated low profile brass flushmounts with their recessed lighting layout to add a bit if drama.

Recessed Lighting vs Flush Mount

Using accent lighting like wall sconces, for example, is a great way to illuminate walls and artwork. While layers of task lighting such as pendants and table lamps allow you to light up specific work areas in a home.

When to use recessed lighting?

As much as I would love to tell you that there is a magic formula or a design secret for when to use recessed lighting it ultimately comes down to your preferred taste and the needs of a room.

On the one hand you want to make sure that you have enough light within a room to fill a space that may not have a lot of natural lighting or windows. And recessed lighting is a wonderful choice to illuminate an entire room with ambient lighting.

On the other hand it’s all about striking that delicate balance between lighting up a room to provide that additional warmth and cozy atmosphere and making it feel like an overly lit office environment.

DIY Bathroom Remodel on a Budget

But here are some general guidelines to consider when it comes to selecting the best option for your own home’s lighting.

What rooms should have recessed lighting?

There are plenty of spaces where it just makes sense to have recessed lights as your main source of light within a room. These might include a large room with an open floor plan or those with higher ceilings.

Recessed Lighting vs Flush Mount

Dining rooms and master bedrooms with various levels of ceiling heights, such as tray ceilings, make wonderful spaces to use recessed lighting as the main overhead lighting source.

This is especially true in areas where ceiling height comes at a minimum, like this beautiful moody living room from Bloom in the Black.

Recessed Lighting vs Flush Mount

In fact, recessed lighting is the best choice for a main light source in any large space when you have low ceilings. It also lends itself well to a living room when a chandelier or other type of light fixtures just won’t fit.

But Rooms with low ceilings aren’t the only place where you should consider using recessed lighting.

Areas with high ceilings like great rooms and master bedrooms, and even some large master bathrooms and on suites make great spaces to combine recessed lighting with other forms of ceiling fixtures.

This is one way to provide visual interest and additional light sources for a space.

Recessed lighting is a great option when used in conjunction with pendant lights over a kitchen island. Take this kitchen from Southern Home & Hospitality.

Recessed Lighting vs Flush Mount

It allows the pendant lighting to take on more of an ambient lighting source and can really soften the appearance of a kitchen to make it feel less cold and sterile while also providing task lighting when preparing food.


Often, the wet location of a bathroom shower can make it impossible to use anything but a canned or recessed fixture. There are safety reasons behind this, and the addition of a closed cover on these lights prohibits moisture from entering into the electrical housing.


And while we may not consider hallways a room on their own, they’re definitely an area worth highlighting. Because of their length, hallways are often found to use multiple recessed light fixtures in a row. But this doesn’t mean there aren’t other options available.

I recently took the plunge and converted all of our existing canned light fixtures to standard ceiling fixtures using this easy kit here.

Recessed Lighting vs Flush Mount

I felt this space lacked lighting in a few dark areas and adding in these gorgeous semi flushmount fixtures really helped to diffuse the light throughout the entire hallway and brighten up those dark places.

Not only did it solve the lighting dilemma, but it definitely had a major impact on the overall design of this hallway. Rather than stark white ceilings the lighting is now a focal point in this space.

Here are some other gorgeous flushmount fixtures that I was considering using in this area.

What are your thoughts? Are you a diehard recessed lighting fan or you considering taking the plunge into flushmount and semi flushmount fixtures? Let me know in the comments below, I love hearing from you!

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