Our Northern California house has a small coat closet (really a hallway with 2 doors and hooks for coats) between our front entry-way and our basement. It's a tiny space: 3 feet wide, 5 feet deep, and has a low 7-foot-high ceiling. The door to the entryway swings out, and the door to the basement swings in.

What are options for installing lighting in this closet that are likely to pass muster with the local code inspector?

I'm familiar with the NEC requirements for closets which I believe means that a ceiling-mounted or recessed CFL or LED luminaire is the only valid option. But the 7-foot-high ceiling is a wildcard and I'm not sure how it interacts with other code requirements.

In addition to code questions, I'm also concerned about functionality—will any solution actually light up the space effectively? If I used recessed fixtures in this small space, will they shine straight down and leave the coats in shadow? If someone passes underneath will it kill all the light in the closet?

Or should I stick to ceiling-mounted fixtures instead?


2 Answers 2


You could try something like a Philips SpotOn. LED light, batteries-operated, motion-sensor-activated. Ideal for small, dark closets and cabinets.

  • LED battery operated fixtures have come a long way. They are bright and many have multiple batteries and last hundreds of hours. If there is not easily accessible wiring in the ceiling or over the door, a battery operated light is a good choice. Commented Jul 24, 2012 at 10:59
  • We have LED pucks from a local big-box home store (can't remember the brand) in our pantry, linen closet, and 2 small bedroom closets. They work quite well, and 2-years later still haven't had to have the batteries changed.
    – MarkD
    Commented Jul 24, 2012 at 16:17

On a recent inspection, my local inspector disapproved an open bulb in a surface mounted porcelain socket in a closet, but indicated that a bulb fully enclosed by a glass dome would be acceptable.

This was approved and cost less than $15:

wall sconce

While LED and CFL are lower draw and cooler, you could use one of those bulbs with a standard base in this type fixture.

I suggest you check with your local building department to see if surface mounts are acceptable.

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