An illustration of a light with elvish from the Lord of the Rings around the edge. One light to rule them all......and in the darkness bind them

GEAR TALK: The Full Lineup

“What is the lighting budget for our new home?”

“We have 68 recessed cans at $150 each.”

The Lord of the Rings books and films are staples in our household. The kids share LOTR memes, we have the extended-way-too-long movies, and there are copies of all the books strewn about the house. The beloved stories follow heroes and villains and ordinary hobbits through an epic quest to destroy – or reclaim – a single ring of power that rises above all other powers. There is one ring to rule them all.

I could write a farcical tale of residential lighting design, and epic tale of heroes and villains and ordinary homeowners on their quest to live better lives, with just one kind of light to rule them all: the recessed downlight.

And, like the Lord of the Rings, my tale would be a fantasy. One downlight to rule them all is an oversimplified vision of lighting that is a nice easy story but misses the complexities and beauty of real life.

Using only recessed downlights in a home is a bit like using only 2×4’s to build it.

An illustration of a 2x4 with the words "would you build an entire home......using only 2x4s?"

“What is the construction budget for our new home?”

“We have 1,374 2×4’s at $3.96 each.”

This would surely be an easy way to budget homes, but any builder knows that 2×4’s are just one of many materials needed for a complete house. There are different sizes of 2×4’s, sheets of plywood, drywall, nails, beams, shingles, windows…and on.

We all know that building a house entirely out of 2×4’s is impractical, ugly, and more than a little bit silly.

An illustration of a house made entirely of 2x4s labelled "the 2x4 house is impractical and ugly"

No one wants to build a 2×4-only house, no one wants to live there.

Yet for some reason we seem content to build downlight-only homes, to live in downlight-only homes.

There is a better way to build a house; there is a better way to illuminate a house.

A diagram listing eight different types of lighting solutions

Like 2×4’s, recessed downlights are essential. Lighting designers like me use them by the bucket load. But a full lineup of fixtures is needed for us to do good work, just like a builder needs more than 2×4’s or a painter needs more than one brush.

We may supplement downlights with recessed multiples or cylinders. We may add layers of light with slots or tape light. We may fill utility rooms and closets with flat panels, highlight art with spotlights, and make a home safe at night with step lights. If your lighting budget calls only for recessed downlights and the occasional under-cabinet light, you are likely missing out on what lighting can do for you.

You trust your builder to choose the right lumber, the right materials, to build the house safe and sound.

It’s time to trust your lighting designer to choose the right fixtures to help you live a better life.

Light Can Help You