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Unshaded lights bother the heck out of me so I hesitate to install recessed lighting. But I need to do something. We moved into a house with lower ceilings than I'm used to. In other houses we just put a simple ceiling fixture in the center of the ceiling and I was happy. In this house that isn't working because frequently someone else stands in line with a ceiling light -- for example, I'm sitting in the dining room and someone else is standing about halfway between me and the living room overhead light, and that drives me nuts. Should we put a floor lamp in each corner? I just don't know how to light the spaces without being bothered by what feels like glare when I look at the other person.

Related to this, the kitchen has a fluorescent fixture in the middle of the ceiling, and if I'm in the dining room, and someone is standing between the kitchen light and me, but still in the kitchen, s/he becomes a silhouette with the face in shadow.

Should I run a string of lights in small paper spheres along the edges of the ceilings?

Can you think of anything that would work better for me than the current arrangement?

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    A friend of mine a few years back put cove molding about 10" from the ceiling and placed LEDs inside. That shone up and was reflected from the ceiling, it was a nice effect and we could see.
    – Gil
    Nov 7 '21 at 2:43
  • @Gil - Could you make me a sketch? I looked up "cove molding" but I don't quite get it. Are you saying the LEDs sit on top of what is basically a small shelf whose upper surface sits 10" below the ceiling, like a partial faux ceiling? How far apart would the LEDs be, and how many watt equivalents for each one? I like good lighting so I can see the fine print on Eurogames. Nov 7 '21 at 2:49
  • Stop thinking "watt equivalents". That is a method that leads to no end of problems. Think Lumens. That is the proper way and will work no matter what technology comes along and, along with color temperature, will help you figure out what will really work for you. Nov 7 '21 at 2:53
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    When cove molding is mounted it is against the wall at the bottom and away at the top. He placed the LEDs in the gap between the molding and the wall. Remember the top of the molding is several inches away from the ceiling.
    – Gil
    Nov 7 '21 at 2:55
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    think "picture rail". And the LEDs in question may be LED strips, which are practically continuous. The point is, they aim up and bounce off the ceiling, the way old halogen torchieres used to. (500W / 9200 lumens). Nov 7 '21 at 2:56
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As discussed in the comments, cove lighting is one alternative that lights the whole room from the edges instead of the center and without having a hanging chandelier (easily blocked if the ceiling is relatively low) and without using ordinary recessed lighting.

I easily found a tutorial from Family Handyman which covers a lot of the issues involved.

The basic concept is that you install molding but not the usual "right up to the ceiling". Instead you install it several inches below the ceiling so that the LEDs are hidden by the molding but shine up to the ceiling. Essentially you will get a glow coming out of the molding. It can be just an accent or it can be used as the main lighting for the room. It helps if the wall above the molding, and especially the ceiling, is painted white.

Here is another example with some good pictures.

As far as how much light, the key is lumens. Measure the amount of light output, not the power input. The amount you need will vary depending on usage and personal preference. One guide I found suggests 10 - 20 lumens per square foot for a bedroom and 70 - 80 lumens per square foot for a bathroom. In general, more is better, provided it can be controlled appropriately. For example, a bathroom generally needs a lot of light and a bedroom doesn't. But a bedroom that is turned into an office might need more light, and many people like to have a minimal amount of light in the bathroom at night so that if they need to get up at 3 am they aren't blinded by the light.

One way to start is by looking at existing lighting. Calculate the total lumens in a room (add up existing bulbs/fixtures) and then shop for more, less or about the same total lighting in replacements. That's what the whole "watts equivalent" mess is trying to do, but it doesn't really work all that well.

As far as floor lamps, I recommend against them except if you are in a rental (because then you can't change anything without landlord's permission, etc.). They are tripping hazards, take up valuable floor space, light the room very unevenly (compared to a center lamp or multiple recessed lights or cove lighting around the room) and older versions (especially halogen) were notorious fire starters. Many years ago when I moved into my house, one of the very first things I did (paid someone, I had no idea how to do it myself) was to install ceiling lamps in the bedrooms to replace switched receptacles, and that was money very well spent.

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    Very helpful, thanks. I think I understand now about the cove thing. I now have hope that moving isn't the only solution to what is currently the main thing bothering me about this house. Nov 7 '21 at 19:25
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Glare when looking at a light source is proportional to its lumen output divided by its surface area. A small bright light like a GU10 bulb makes a lot of glare, because all the light is emitted by a tiny area, so that area appears extremely bright if you look directly into it.

If you don't like glare, but want a decent amount of light, then:

  • either you use small point sources, but they have to be hidden, for example in recessed fixtures, wall fixtures, etc.

  • or you need a light source that has a large area, so if you look directly at it, it doesn't appear blinding bright.

  • the largest possible surface area is the ceiling itself, so if you have white ceilings, you can use indirect lighting.

For example, if you have a ceiling fixture in the kitchen and you really don't want to look directly at it, then perhaps you can replace it with indirect lighting.

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If you prefer light to be above so they're not behind someone, then putting floor lamps in the corners of the room might not work, likewise wall fixtures are usually at eye level. You could try with indirect lamps aimed at the ceiling, though.

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If you have low ceiling and you want a ceiling fixture that is large to avoid glare, you can use LED panels.

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If the glare from fluorescent lighting bothers you that much, and if you're above 50-60 years old, I'd suggest you get your eyes checked for cataract. My father just did the operation and he's delighted with the results.

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  • Very helpful! I had never heard of LED panels before. Also my ceiling fixtures are only 2-3 inches away from the ceiling -- maybe choosing something just a bit suspended would help. Good ideas here, thanks. Nov 7 '21 at 19:23

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