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How To Light Your Home: 10 Types of Light Fixtures

Upgrading or choosing new light fixtures for your home? This guide will give you the rundown of all of the basic types to light your home.

Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links. Ratings and prices are accurate and items are in stock as of time of publication.

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Ceiling Glass Light Fixturestab62/Shutterstock

Buying Light Fixtures

The light fixtures in our homes are often something we take for granted. They’re on the wall or hanging from the ceiling, doing the job intended, and we rarely pay much attention to them until the time comes to change out a light bulb.

But what if you wanted to update your fixtures, or you’re building a new home? If you’ve ever been down the lighting aisles of your favorite home improvement store, the choices can seem overwhelming. Don’t worry. We’ll help you make sense of it all.

What To Consider When Choosing Light Fixtures

Focus on the features most important or necessary for your needs. Some important considerations when choosing new light fixtures include:

  • Size: If you’re replacing an existing fixture, purchase one that’s relatively the same size. You don’t want an enormous entryway chandelier hanging over your kitchen table. The same can be said if you’re building new. Make sure the size makes sense for the area you’re planning on putting the fixture
  • Cost: Prices of light fixtures can vary wildly. Don’t fall in love with a fixture that blows your budget.
  • Function: Consider what the fixture will be used for. Is it for a moist area like a bathroom? Will it be on a wall of a well-traveled hallway? If so, make sure it’s not one that juts out too far into the space.
  • Light output: Be sure the fixture provides the amount of light you need. Some only allow small candelabra bulbs, while others accept full-sized lightbulbs.
  • Light bulb style: Which kind of light bulb does your fixture accept — LED, CFL or halogen? There are many styles and choices.
  • Style: This one will vary from person to person and home to home. Most often, matching the home décor makes the most sense, but pairing of different styles can create drama some people love.
  • Maintenance: Once you’ve installed the fixture, will cleaning it be simple and straightforward, or will you need to disassemble it? Also, consider how easy or hard it is to change a fixture’s light bulbs.

How To Light Your Home Types Of Light Fixtures Infographic Gettyimages(10)

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Merwry 52 In. Integrated Led Indoor Matte Black Ceiling Fan With Light Kit And Remote ControlVia Merchant

Ceiling Fans

Everyone knows what a ceiling fan is, but there are probably more styles than you think. For our purposes, we’ll focus on those with lights, but there are styles without.

Down rods are another option to consider. Will your ceiling fan need to drop far down from the ceiling? Maybe it’s a small room and a ceiling hugger style with no rod would work better.

Some ceiling fans come with remote control lights, while others interface with smart home technology. The lights themselves can include everything from flat, glass light sources to protruding tulip-style sconces. Bulb type is another consideration. Smaller candelabra bulbs put out less light than standard bulbs.

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Titus 8 Light Polished Nickel Contemporary Drum Dining Room ChandelierVia Merchant

Chandeliers

Chandeliers aren’t just for airy entryways or formal dining rooms. Chandeliers can be cleverly used in lots of places. Try putting one in a walk-in closet, a covered porch or even in a bathroom. Think outside the box with chandeliers for distinctive lighting accents.

With multiple light sources, chandeliers are good in areas that demand a lot of light. Put one on a dimmer switch to control the light output. Chandelier styles are as varied as the rooms where they’re found. Choose from classic to modern to farmhouse and rustic to industrial.

Some designs include crystal, globe, drum, candlestick, cage and island. Finishes vary wildly as well, with options made to match any décor style. Note: If you do put a light fixture in a bathroom, make sure it’s rated for moist areas.

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Rowan 28 In. Bronze Table LampVia Merchant

Lamps

Lamps are a classic way to light up a space. Stand one on the floor, mount one to the wall, place one on a desk or a table — the choices are limitless.

As with other light fixture types, lamps can accept a variety of light bulbs. Make sure your choice will work with the space you intend to light. A desk lamp may not need a big bright light, but a floor-standing lamp in a room without a ceiling light could benefit from it.

Non-traditional lamps include things like lava and salt lamps, color-changing lamps and stained-glass shaped lamps. Go ahead and have fun with your choices.

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Briarwood Collection 1 Light Cerused Black Kitchen Farmhouse Ceiling Light Flush MountVia Merchant

Flush Mount Lights

Flush mount lights are just what their name suggests — they mount flush against a surface, usually the ceiling. This type comes in a myriad of shapes, including drum, bell, empire, cluster, circle and square. Flush mount lights are most often installed in tight space like hallways or rooms with lower ceilings. Choose an unusual style like a square or cluster to add interest to an area.

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Southbourne 15.5 In. 3 Light Matte Black Rustic Farmhouse Semi Flush MountVia Merchant

Semi-Flush Mount Lights

Semi-flush mount lights hang from a downrod, cord, chain or some other mechanism. These lights function like a chandelier but don’t hang as low. Lights can be singular or multi-bulb. Many have a shade or halo covering the bulbs.

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Ashhurst 1 Light Oil Rubbed Bronze Wall SconceVia Merchant

Sconces

Traditionally, a sconce was a candle holder attached to a wall or bracket. Electricity changed the look of sconces, but not their function.

Sconces come in all kinds of styles. Wall sconces are available as hard-wired, battery-operated or plug-in units. The finishes are just as varies, with brass, nickel, stainless, chrome, antique bronze and matte black a few of the options.

Although traditional sconces direct the light upward or downward into a space, other options include non-directional lighting. Some models allow you to change the direction of the light.

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Hlbsl 6 In. Color Selectable New Construction Or Remodel Canless Recessed Integrated Led KitVia Merchant

Recessed Lighting

Recessed lights, also known as can lighting, add a clean, modern look to a room. They’re typically flush with the ceiling with only a trim piece sticking out, although there are trimless models available.

Recessed lighting is typically installed during the home build when the ceiling is open and accessible. There are canless recessed lighting kits that work in nearly any ceiling, but you’ll need access to wiring. Recessed lighting comes in several sizes as well as smart options.

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Regan 21 In. 3 Light Brushed Nickel Bathroom Vanity Light With Clear Glass ShadesVia Merchant

Vanity Lights

Vanity lights are the ones above a bathroom sink and mirror. They come in various styles including single sconces, 2-, 3-, 4-light and light bar options. Lights can face up or down, similar to wall sconces.

Most homes typically have vanity lights wired above the bathroom mirror. Other options include lights on the vanity mirror itself. Lights are available in all of the common finishes including chrome, nickel, brass, bronze and black.

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Peak Collection 1 Light Grey Glass And Nickel PendantVia Merchant

Pendant Lights

A pendant light is a fixture suspended from the ceiling, typically with a single light bulb. Options exist with several lights hanging from a single location. Sometimes called a drop or suspender, pendant lights hang from a cord, chain or metal rod.

Pendant lights are available in just about any style you can imagine. Swirling LED art glass pieces, contemporary metal box frames, classic metal shades and modern light globes are a few of the options. Pendant lights can hang just about anywhere but are often seen above corner sinks or kitchen islands. The classic pool hall light is an example of a pendant light.

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Hampton Bay Light White Integrated Led Linear Track Lighting Kit With Mini Cylinder Track HeadsVia Merchant

Track Lighting

Track lights are mounted in, you guessed it, a track. In typical installations, a conduit power feed connects to a light fixture box mounted to the ceiling. Several lights attach to the track and highlight specific areas in the home.

Some tracks are modular, allowing the connection of other tracks, even at angles. Other track lights are a single pole or bar extending out from the conduit box. The most common track lights are a single, straight track, but other styles include circular patterns, squares wavy lines or curls.

Track light systems use LED or halogen lights, with several light bulb base options to choose from.

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Shay Tilander
Shay Tilander is a senior editor at Family Handyman. When he's not enjoying family time with his wife and three boys, he loves tinkering with projects and geeking out on electronics.