Alternative to Downlights

Find an alternative to downlights

It would be impossible to imagine a world without downlights after all you find them almost everywhere but let us take a moment to ask ourselves why? Is this long lived love affair justified or is it ripe for review? Certainly if we revisit our principles of good practice – there are many limitations to these simple luminaires, so perhaps we should consider whether we have become lazy in our over use of the all too popular light source?

The 1980’s saw the boom of the low voltage downlight. A fabulous tool to choose exactly where you wanted the light to fall and it remains extremely useful up to the present day. The ubiquitous downlight allowed almost anyone to ‘design’ their own lighting scheme and (as a consequence) in came the grid and row upon row of downlights.

However good practice teaches us that the key to designing a lighting scheme is to encompass the architecture, the interior and the people within it and not just in the space. After all, the form of the architecture and the interior itself – often dictates where to position the fixtures and how best to present places and structures in light. The best schemes are formed ‘naturally’.

Throughout the design process glare is our enemy and the downlight is a major culprit – generating intense light from a small aperture.  Maybe we should spare a creative thought for a diffused light that is easy on the eye as a ready alternative?

Downlights can be a safety net – creating ample coverage in a dependable and familiar way that is not challenging as a method of delivering light. Additionally as design professionals there is often a realistic need to choose a simple design route that a budget dictates rather than proposing a riskier and time consuming lighting solution.

Why We Like Downlights:

Downlights provide a clearly defined pools of light that introduce ‘lights and darks’ compared to a single source diffused light.

Downlights are flexible and they generate light exactly where you want it.
They offer a concealed light source as a recessed fitting – hidden in the ceiling.
Ultimately a cost effective solution.

Push the envelope! Let’s have a look at the alternatives to downlights…

Downlight: Wide beam downlight to create general ambient light.
Alternative: Use large or multiple opal glass ceiling lights or pendants to create a wide diffused light.

Downlight: Tighter beamed downlights to focus and create pools of light, over tables for instance.
Alternative: Drop pendants over areas and back up with reflected light off the ceiling or if possible adjacent wall.

Downlight: wall washing downlights.
Alternative: Use a hidden linear LED to wash light down a wall.

Remember this post when you next mark up a plan for the lighting and think twice before pockmarking the ceiling with downlights! 

#alternative to downlights

Andrew Orange, the owner of Orange Lighting qualified and worked as an interior designer in 1993 before specialising in lighting working on high profile projects based in London. Since starting Orange Lighting Ltd in 2003 he has been sharing his knowledge and unique teaching style mostly to his designer clients, offering practical real life advice born from running a busy consultancy and lighting supply business. Launching in 2020, his blog has evolved into Quick & Easy Lighting, curating some 25 years design experience into making the lighting choice and design process achievable and easy to understand for all.