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Family Room Recessed Lighting Design

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Brad Suder
Family Room Recessed Lighting Design
on Nov 7, 2011 at 5:05:14 pm

We are preparing to finish our basement and would like to use recessed lighting for general lighting. Accent lighting will be provided by table lamps, etc for the most part. LED bulbs will more than likely be used for this job.

I want to add some directional recessed lights above the fireplace to "wash" over the fireplace, but other than that, I'm at a loss for how to design this appropriately.

Here is the layout of the basement:
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I've heard that you want to keep them about 3' from the walls so you don't end up with shadows - is this correct? If so, how many lights and where would you place them?


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Todd Terry
Re: Family Room Recessed Lighting Design
on Nov 7, 2011 at 5:26:16 pm

You'd probably get a lot of advice in here... if you were planning to shoot a movie in this room. :)

This is a forum about lighting design for things like the film and video industry. However, you might get a couple of people to chime with with ideas just for fun. It's not really our areas of expertise, though.

I'm betting you can find an architectural lighting forum somewhere on the web... God knows there's everything else out there. I think that'd be a good place to start.


Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

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Steve Kownacki
Re: Family Room Recessed Lighting Design
on Nov 8, 2011 at 2:24:47 am

Hey Brad
Here's my $.02 as I look up at my ceilings...

Not really familiar with the new LED recessed lighting, but having installed traditional recessed fixtures in a basement with low ceilings, you have to be aware of the joists and mechanicals (pipes, HVAC, etc) and you may be limited in your design. If you have 10' ceilings and put in a drop ceiling grid at 9' you'd be OK.

There are some building codes you should look into for your state/municipality as to switch locations and specifics like stairwells. The wash on the fireplace should be on it's own dimmer for sure.

You can't put in enough 3 & 4-way switches. And some LEDs/CFLs are not dimmable, get the right bulbs and switches. Bulbs have specific angles of focus and the amount of spread is based on the ceiling height to floor, tables, furniture. Using soft bulbs will generally fill a room, while a hard spot will put pools on the floor.

Is your room divided into 2 or 3 unique areas? If so, you want to control area individually and lining fixtures up evenly around the walls is not practical. Where will your chairs be? Light needs to come from overhead or slightly from behind for better reading.

LEDs and CFLs stay the same white color when dimmed, I like the amber glow of my 65watt incandescent bulbs.

Go visit some model homes for ideas.


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Mark Suszko
Re: Family Room Recessed Lighting Design
on Nov 8, 2011 at 4:19:25 pm

I saw somewhere a company is selling edison type bulb sockets with wireless DMX built in, each bulb then becomes individually addressable for on/off and dimming by a wireless controller. Seems like overkill for this basement, though. Taking it back to video, it could be "da bomb diggedy" for controlling practicals as well as individual PAR's on a bashed-together grid.

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Tom Guiney
Re: Family Room Recessed Lighting Design
on Dec 13, 2011 at 3:23:47 am

One good place to start is where you want the light to fall. What's the furniture going to be in the room? Do yourself a big favor and move around in the room with a stepstool and a spotty flashlight. Figure out what the furniture layout is going to be. Where might people be reading? where might they be doing some task? Move around, pointing hte light at the action areas from various points on the ceiling and mark up the ceiling wiuth where you want the units. Where are the decorations going? Posters, paintings, etc. How steep an angle do you want the light hitting them from? Try it all out with a flashlight. Even better if you could put the light on a stand and step back to see it. Dummy up one of the fixtures you're going to be using.

And of course, are you going to be doing any shooting in this room? MAking it convenient to make into an occasional studio? Want to put extra outlets in the ceiling up high in case you're rigging lights? and rigging points in the ceiling/walls for easy hanging of lights or backdrops? Things to think about, especially in this forum.

Tom Guiney Gaffer, DP
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