Downlighters Explained

Designers and suppliers Orange Lighting announcing their Lighting Essentials Toolbox to help you tackle the techie side of your next lit interior, starting with the downlight.

It is true that lighting is a technical area. Sometimes it is difficult to see through the practical detail in order to remain focussed on the creative concept. In cerebral terms, our aim is to focus the right side of your brain on the necessary specifications, whilst freeing the left side of your brain to visualise your design concept.

For this exercise, I would ask you to picture a toolbox. Inside this handy container all the essentials you need to light your next project. If you like, every item in this box is a lighting hero, an essential fixture that features in the majority projects. In the forthcoming series of lighting updates, we will select one item to join a growing collection of lighting heroes from the myriad of choices in the lighting world. Importantly, every product selection has been  built into a special reference section on the Orange Lighting website, so you can utilise the toolbox guide when planning forthcoming projects.

Our first Toolbox hero is the ubiquitous downlight. Arguably the bread and butter of interiors over the last 30 years – yet should it be your number one choice – especially in this LED era?


Toolbox Item #1: Downlight

It seems the downlight is considered as an essential light source for most schemes because spaces are illuminated downwards from above which seems to be the natural choice.

Yet, designers that have a reliance on the fixture are making an error. In fact, an overuse of downlights can be viewed as lazy. For instance, I know a couple of designers whose first question at the planning stage of a project is “how do I avoid using downlights?”

It seems that every job that we supply at Orange Lighting has a downlight component. My advice is to use the fitting thoughtfully with an awareness of alternatives. Downlights cannot be relied upon to answer every

question or suit every lighting need. Nevertheless – they are extremely useful!


Where should you use a downlight? Effectively, the light is falling and creating a pool of lightdetermined by the beam width. Use this almost too simple principle to decide where…..

Determine whether you want the general light in a space supplemented with more light. If it is safe to increase the lighting level without over illuminating – use downlights – but consider, do you want to spread the light out wide or create tight beams that define pools of light on the floor?

Main fixtures used are:

650 lumens +


Fixed and adjustable white recessed 2700K with an output of just under 700lms – the equivalent to the
old 35W low voltage dichroic.

Trimless versions are increasing in popularity with a square solution winning recent approval, however, the round 60mm is wonderfully discrete.

Also, consider the very small versions of the adjustable white downlight for ‘pin’ spotting. Remember shower and bathroom versions are available too.


500 lumens and under

For less powerful lighting, it’s best to select a GU10 removable lamp fitting – available in all thevarieties above.

When does this tool come out the box?


To infill spaces where light is required to raise the levels overall and where the light source is intended to be hidden or obscured. A good tip is to use a well diffused fairly wide beam that isn’t too powerful when fitting a standard height ceiling.


Concentrate light by defining a beam width, although remain open to adjustment to ensure correct positioning on site, so the light is thrown where it needs to go.



We use downlighting in two main ways as an accent light.

  1. Utilise a mid-beam width and make sure the room exhibits defined lights and darks. Hence, the beams of downlights do not touch and there is a clear light and dark pattern on the reflected surfaces notably on the floor.
  2. Locate downlights near a wall to reflect light off the vertical surface and into the room and consider using it’s shape as a feature. The downlight should contribute to the lighting scheme by providing light and interest but not in an overpowering way. Act to minimise glare by guarding against light spill – especially overhead.

When to use 500lms and under or 650lms or more?


If the project affords dimming then it’s always good to have some light in reserve to use occasionally whilst the default scheme is dimmed for comfort. This suits an LED chip as it’s like running under power. Akin to a 2.0 litre engine in 6th gear at 50 miles an hour – it purrs it’s way through life.

We use LED lamps (500 lm and under) in schemes when required but choose to double up on fittings by opting for twin adjustable downlights as a preference and keeping them well spaced out. That way we retain the principle of accent lighting and double up on the output capacity.

For examples of downlights – take a look around our online Toolbox essentials guide – click on the button. You will find specifications and a host of alternatives to provide a range of flexible solutions. Remember, you are welcome to call the team at Orange Lighting to discuss the deployment of downlights in your next scheme.


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.