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Reading up on Domino’s shopping guides is like having your own personal product concierge. We do the tedious part—deep-dive research, hands-on testing, and tapping experts for advice—so all you have to do is hit “add to cart.” That’s why we call them Simply the Best.

There are times when a glamorous pendant light or even a flood light won’t work as overhead lighting—think: narrow hallways, tight closets, and even bathrooms, where you need good light without much flair in the shower. That’s where recessed lighting comes in: It can add some much-needed illumination or increase overall brightness without changing a room’s decor or calling attention to itself with a flashy fixture.

“I would say recessed lighting, more than any other lighting, is function above anything else, and I think it’s important in any room to have a mix of functional lighting, decorative lighting, and task lighting,” says interior designer Emma Beryl.

With recessed lighting, you’ll need to consider your ceiling material and structure, as well as what you want to highlight with these new bulbs. Additionally, how will the fixture’s trim work with your current aesthetic? We pored over the top brands and models on the market to shed a light on the best recessed lighting for every need.

Our Favorites

Best Overall: Lucifer Lighting Fraxion3 LED Recessed Downlight

Simply the Best photo
Fraxion3 Led, Lucifer Lighting ($510 and up)

Bulb type: LED | Size: 3-inch diameter | Color temperature: 2,700K

What we like:

  • Multiple finishes
  • 2 shape options
  • LED bulbs

Worth noting:

  • Expensive

Why we chose it: Four finish options and two shapes makes this design-forward recessed light worth investing in. 

Why stick with a basic white trim if you don’t have to? With four finish options (white, black, champagne gold, and white/black) and round and square designs to choose from, you can use this recessed lighting to complement your style. “Say we’re doing black hardware in the kitchen. Choose to do a matte black ring,” says Madelaine Mayer, an architect at Matriarchy Build. “Now there’s a conversation happening that ties into the aesthetic.” 

This downlight has a slender 3-inch depth that offers enough clearance for lower ceilings while providing a 896-lumen glow from LED bulbs. Additionally, there’s a dimmable option that allows you to control the light for a temperature of 3,200K to 1,800K, which helps eliminate constant harsh overhead lighting. It also works with a wide array of ceiling types, including microflance, drywall, and trimless wood for easy installation.

Best Value: Torchstar Basic Series 12-Pack

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Basic Series 12-Pack, TORCHSTAR ($97)

Bulb type: LED | Size: 6-inch diameter | Color temperature: 4,000K

What we like:

  • Smart capabilities
  • Dimmable
  • Inexpensive

Worth noting:

  • A bit difficult to install

Why we chose it: With this simple and dependable 12-pack, you can outfit all your hallways for a good price.

If you’re outfitting multiple hallways or rooms with low-profile lighting, this 12-pack is a cost-effective option. Each light is dimmable, and the LED bulbs remain cool to the touch and only use 10 watts of electricity. However, to take full advantage of the dimming capabilities, you’ll need to hook it up to a wall-mounted dimmer switch, but it’s worth the effort, as it will allow you to decrease brightness and conserve even more energy.

Each 4-inch recessed light installs to ceiling drywall using spring clips, and each light features an easy-to-wire junction box that doesn’t require an attachment to ceiling joists.

Best Smart: Philips Color and Tunable White LED Dimmable Smart Downlight Kit

Simply the Best photo
White LED , Philips ($24)

Bulb type: LED | Size: 6-inch diameter | Color temperature: 2,700K

What we like:

  • LED bulbs
  • Smart capabilities for easy control all over the house
  • Switch from warm white to bright daylight, or use color settings to change up the mood

Worth noting:

  • Requires Wi-Fi network

Why we chose it: Add some serious mood lighting that you can change just by asking Alexa.

Philips is known for its functional, smart LED bulbs, which makes it a great source for recessed lighting. Whether you want a soft purple for movie night or a bright and eccentric yellow, you can choose the appropriate hue using the smartphone app or just by asking your Google Home or Alexa. You can also change the shade of white or dim the lights with the press of a button. For extra automation, schedule lighting settings to best suit your lifestyle throughout the day.

Bonus: If your receptacle is already wired for a screw-in adapter and has mounts for the spring clips, this option allows for a very easy at-home installation.

Best Outdoor: Halo HLB Recessed Integrated LED Kit

Simply the Best photo
Integrated LED Kit, Halo ($30)

Bulb type: LED | Size: 6-inch diameter | Color temperature: 2,700K

What we like:

  • Available in round and square models
  • Ultrathin profile
  • Suitable in showers and outdoors

Worth noting:

  • Can-less design so may be less secure

Why we chose it: A durable option that can withstand all weather conditions.

If you’re looking to install recessed lighting on your back porch or pergola, there are some special considerations to be made, namely: Is the lighting waterproof? Installable just about anywhere, these recessed lights are wet rated, meaning they’re safe to use in the shower or outdoors. (For longevity, however, make sure that they aren’t in direct contact with your hose, sprinkler, or shower spray.) The half-inch depth and spring clips also make these lights easy for a contractor to install for a secure fit. 

Plus you don’t have to worry about changing out the bulbs frequently, as these LEDs have 50,000 hours of life—the equivalent of 22 years—if you use them for about six hours per day. You can also set the mood for your outdoor dinner party by choosing between five color temperatures, ranging from warm to daylight.

Best Dimmable: Sunco Lighting Retrofit Recessed Lighting

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Recessed Lighting, Sunco ($65)

Bulb type: LED | Size: 4-inch diameter | Color temperature: 2,700K–5,000K

What we like:

  • Dimmable
  • 7-year warranty
  • Helps conserve energy

Worth noting:

  • Best for homes with existing recessed cans

Why we chose it: Save on your energy bill and set the mood with this dimmable option.

Dimming can make your lighting feel more natural—and helps conserve energy in the process. This recessed light from Sunco works with a standard or a dimmer switch and can be adjusted from a soft white to a bright daylight. Installation is particularly simple if you’re doing a reno, as you can hook these lights into your current wiring and then position the spring clips for a snug fit. You’ll also get a seven-year warranty with this pack of 10. The white trim is unobtrusive and will easily blend into the ceiling and seamlessly cover the installation site.

Best for Bathrooms: Halo Recessed Light Trim with Frosted Albalite Lens

Simply the Best photo
Recessed Light Trim, Halo ($13)

Bulb type: LED | Size: 6-inch diameter | Color temperature: 2,700K

What we like:

  • Water-resistant
  • Frosted lens
  • Works with tile

Worth noting:

  • Requires recessed cans

Why we chose it: Shed a light on your early (or late) shower sessions with frosted lighting.

Beryl loves adding recessed lighting in the shower: You’re not going to hang a chandelier in there, but popping in a recessed light or two adds much-needed light. And thanks to a Air-Tite listed, wet-rated cover, this recessed option seals tightly to the light’s base for moisture protection. That means it can survive the steamiest of showers without blowing a fuse. We also like the frosted lens, which helps soften the light and makes your shower session more luxurious. 

Note that while this fixture uses a 60-watt A19 bulb, you’ll need to install a recessed lighting can in your bathroom if you don’t already have one. But this design is compatible with other Halo cans for easier install.

How We Chose These Products

When it comes to selecting recessed lighting, you need to consider both the material and depth of your current ceiling. From there, you can pick the size, trim, and special features like LED or dimmable bulbs. For our list of the best recessed lighting, we selected a variety of styles and designs that are relatively easy to install whether you have a new build or a reno, offer lengthy warranties and minimal upkeep, and are durable. We also tapped architects and interior designers to determine where recessed lighting best fits into a space and how to match it to your decor. 

Our Shopping Checklist

Location and Placement

Since recessed lighting is a little more low-key than a pendant or flood light, it’s best used in a place where you need direct overhead light that doesn’t distract from the surroundings. That’s why you’ll often see these canister lights in kitchens, bathrooms, and hallways. “You’re not looking for ambient, cozy lighting,” Mayer says. “You’re looking for: ‘I don’t want to cut the tip of my finger off when I’m chopping onions.’ You want it lit and bright and clear.”

Another great use for recessed lighting is accenting artwork or a built-in bookshelf without needing to mount an additional fixture to the wall. Plus, when paired with a more design-oriented pendant light or chandelier, these direct bulbs can bring in additional lighting without distracting from the main event.

In terms of placement, Beryl recommends keeping recessed lights 4 to 6 feet apart from one another, depending on what additional statement lighting you already have.

Trim Type

The first thing to consider with lighting trim type is the style you’re looking for. Do you want the light to blend into your current ceiling and just patch up the installation area? Or do you want a colored trim that stands out in your space? “My thought on recessed lights is that you shouldn’t really notice them. They should just be clean and simple,” Beryl says. “Usually they are there to support whatever decorative lighting you have.” 

Then there’s the light’s location. “If you’re doing a bathroom or a kitchen or any environment that has more moisture naturally, you’re going to want to go with a moisture-resistant trim,” says Mayer. These are the main trim types to consider: 

  • Baffle: The inside of this can features circular ribbing to reduce glare, which is what you’ll find on most standard recessed lighting. 
  • Reflective: This mirrorlike surface increases brightness and is ideal for places you need clear, direct light, such as a kitchen. The rim is also well suited to overcounter task lighting where extra brightness is desirable.
  • Open: This wide, open trim allows for wider bulbs and creates a more flushed feel between the rim of the can and the bulb.
  • Eyeball: With an adjustable inner ring, you can direct the light in a specific direction to best suit your lighting needs.
  • Pinhole: A thin pinhole trim creates a spotlight effect that is ideal for highlighting artwork or using in a movie room for that theater-style feel.
  • Wall-wash: This trim focuses the light onto a nearby wall as accent lighting, thanks to a shield that blocks light from the rest of the room.
  • Shower: For wetter environments, like in a shower or outdoors, you’re going to need a tight seal that blocks out humidity to save your ceiling from mold.

Brightness and Color Temperature

Most recessed lighting fixtures come in three to five color temperatures that go from soft to bright to daylight. This typically ranges from a temperature of 2,700K to 5,000K, creating a warm yellow glow or more of a white-light feel. If you’re using the fixtures as accent lighting for a painting or bookshelf, you’ll want to stick to a lower color temperature so as to not damage books or art coloring. But for bright overhead lighting, you can increase the glow. 

For a whole range of brightness, you can get dimmable options, which Mayer recommends. “Dimming recessed lighting is nonnegotiable,” she says. “Because the light is completely direct, a lot of times it’s brighter than what we need it to be if the bulbs are just on and off.” 

Smart Technology

If your home doesn’t have dimmable switches installed, it may be a good idea to invest in smart bulbs that give you the option to adjust lighting from your smartphone or digital assistant. Depending on the bulb, you can also change the color of the light from cool blues to moody purples and more to really add some personality to your space. It’s also a heck of a lot easier than dealing with additional wiring. 

Ask Domino

Q: How challenging is it to install recessed lighting? 

The first question Mayer says to ask is: Do I have the space for recessed lighting? “Some homes have a deeper cavity between the ceiling frames and the structure above; some of them don’t. It’s not just the diameter, it’s also the depth,” she explains. As long as you have the proper wiring, recessed lighting installation involves cutting a hole in the drywall and securing the light and trim to cover up the imperfections. 

However, recessed lights shouldn’t be used in concrete ceilings or in ceilings with detailed plasterwork or molding, which could be damaged by the incision. Depending on what model you choose, it’s easier to replace your current recessed lighting, which won’t require an entire cutting process but rather swaps out the current finish.

Q: How can recessed lighting be more energy efficient? 

This has more to do with which bulbs you use than with the recessed fixture itself, explains Mayer. LED lights use less energy and last longer than incandescent lights. Additionally, dimming your recessed lighting not only offers endless options for your moods and needs, it reduces energy consumption in the process.

Q: Is recessed lighting cheaper than fixtures?

Individually, recessed lights may be cheaper than a larger, intricate fixture. But usually you’ll need several recessed lights to illuminate a certain area, which can add up. Additionally, if you opt for smart features or a custom trim, that will increase the price as well. 

“Recessed lighting is great for spaces where you really want to emphasize the ceiling itself and you don’t want a hanging light that distracts from the ceiling,” Mayer says. “If you have dramatic vaulted ceilings where you need light in multiple locations, hanging lights can be very tricky and distracting.”

The Last Word

While not the flashiest of lighting options, the recessed light does what it’s meant to do: provide direct lighting for your space. However, a light with multiple stylish trim options, like the Lucifer Lighting Fraxion3 LED Recessed Downlight, can add some extra pizzazz. For wetter spaces, like a shower or outdoors, use a model with an airtight seal, such as the Halo HLB Recessed Integrated LED Kit.