The Complete Guide to Ceiling Lights - Lighting Design NZ
The Complete Guide to Ceiling Lights

The Complete Guide to Ceiling Lights

Lighting fixtures provide much more than just mere light—they offer style and personality. Get the complete guide to ceiling lights here.

Words by ArchiPro Editorial Team

When you’re designing a space, you'll need to decide on wall colours, flooring, accent pieces, furniture, and more. But there’s one design element that is arguably most important of all: lighting. The lighting you choose affects not only your room's look, but also the way it functions.

Types of ceiling lights

There are thousands of different types of ceiling lights for you to choose from when you’re designing your space. Read on to learn more about the different types and when you should use them.

Inlite Super-Oh SBL

Ambient lighting

Before we dive into specific types of ceiling lights, let’s talk about the different types of light you need in a room. The first and arguably most important type of lighting you’ll have is ambient lighting. Ambient lighting provides illumination for the whole room and doesn’t focus on one certain area or item.

Ambient lighting often comes from the room’s central light fixture, such as a chandelier or large pendant light. It may also be a little subtler, in the form of recessed lighting. Whichever light fixtures you choose, you need to make sure the ambient lighting provides enough wattage to illuminate the entire space.

Task lighting

Task lighting is less focused on illuminating the whole room and more focused on providing light for one specific area. As the name suggests, task lighting is usually used in areas where you will be performing different tasks. These may include cooking, sewing, reading, writing, playing music, and more. Task lighting is often handled with table and floor lamps, but it doesn’t have to be. The right ceiling lighting can provide excellent task lighting and contribute to the overall ambient lighting in the room. However, you may want to put these lights on a separate switch so you can have them on only when you need them.

Eurotech Lighting Lucy Pendant Small

Accent Lighting

The third type of ceiling lighting you need to have in a space is accent lighting. These lights don’t have the same practical uses as ambient and task lighting, rather, their job is to beautify your space. Accent lights highlight areas of your home that you want to draw attention to, whether that’s a beautiful piece of décor or an architectural feature.

You may want to put accent lighting around an entertainment centre or on your kitchen cabinets to draw the eye to a focal point in the room. You can also use these lights to show off a beautiful fireplace, a particular work of art, or a piece of furniture you love. Accent lights can even be placed around mirrors to highlight the room's most captivating feature: you.


Several ceiling light fixture styles can help you build the right combination of ambient, task, and accent lighting. One of the most versatile is downlights, which, as the name suggests, point downwards. These lights are usually recessed and can be used in a variety of different applications.

Downlights are a popular form of ambient lighting, especially in rooms that need a cleaner, more minimalist feel. They can also be used as task lighting since you can place them over the area where the relevant work is being performed. Additionally, you can set them up as accent lighting for special pieces of décor or furniture. Read our ultimate guide to downlights here.

ECC Architectural Light Sniper

Track lights

Track lights are a fantastic option when you need task lighting or accent lighting that needs to be flexible. Track lights are multidirectional and run along a track on your ceiling that can follow various paths. Some tracks are simple, straight lines, while others create a more dynamic wave pattern.
Although track lights can be positioned individually, they all run on the same circuit, meaning that they’ll turn off and on as one cohesive unit. They can be a fantastic way to highlight different areas without installing individual light fixtures for each. They can also provide a somewhat flexible task lighting setup that allows for a more dynamic room arrangement.

Related Read: What are Track Lights? Everything you need to know

Pendant lights

Pendant lights are what most of us think of when we imagine a classic light fixture. These fixtures hang down from the ceiling on a chain or pole and generally provide ambient light. There are thousands of different pendant light styles to choose from, depending on what sort of look and feel you want in your home.

Pendant lights provide a definite style statement in your space, so you need to choose them carefully. You also need to consider the size of a space and your pendant light when you’re choosing your light fixture. A too-small fixture may look lost in an enormous space, and a too-big fixture may make an area feel cramped.

Dawson & Co Paradise Spiral Chandelier


Spotlights are the best tool for the job when you want to highlight something. These lights can be recessed or surface mounted, but unlike downlights, the fixtures swivel so the path of the light is customisable. You can choose exactly where you want illumination, without the visual impact you get with track lighting. 

Spotlights are a great option for highlighting wall décor, such as art pieces, framed photos, or sculptures. They are primarily used for accent lighting, though they can work as task lighting, too. Set up a spotlight over the area where you usually sit in the evenings to read, and you’ll find yourself spending much less time squinting at the pages.

Shielded Light Vogue Lighting

Linerar lighting

Linear lighting consists of a series of small lights (usually LED) affixed to a continuous, single track. It means there are no dark spots between the light that the bulbs cast, so it’s great for creating a “wash” of light over surfaces, such as under pelmets and benchtops.

Linear lighting tends to have a somewhat more modern feel, though that varies widely by the fixture style and type or colour of light you choose. Like track lighting, these fixtures are all on the same circuit and so will turn on and off simultaneously. They are popular under kitchen islands, bars, and other areas that need long, thin illumination bands.

FIT DOMUS Line LED Spotlights

Flush mounts

Flush mounts are the other popular form of light fixtures aside from pendant lights. As you might guess from the name, flush mount fixtures sit flush with the ceiling at their base, rather than dropping down like pendant lights. However, unlike recessed lighting, these fixtures do not extend into the ceiling for no-profile illumination.

Flush mount fixtures can be every bit as much a design statement as pendant lights, depending on the style you choose. They can work well in smaller spaces and rooms with lower ceilings, which may be overwhelmed by the presence of a pendant light. They can also provide a more minimalist look if you choose a simple, small fixture that provides light but doesn’t attract attention.

LED lighting

What type of bulb gives the best light?

Whichever sort of light fixture you choose, it’s a good idea to use LED light bulbs. They last far longer than their incandescent or halogen cousins and use a fraction of the energy. Yes, they cost a little more upfront, but they will save you tonnes of money over the course of their lives.

You can also use strips of LED lights as task, accent, or even ambient lighting! Run a strip of LED lights on top of your kitchen cabinets for some amazing accent lighting, or run them under the cabinets for bright task lighting. You can even run LED strip lighting on top of rafters in an open loft-style space for a brilliant glow that lights up the whole room.

FIT DOMUS Line Flexyled

What type of ceiling light gives the most light?

No matter what sort of lighting you’re using, you’ll need to make sure there’s enough light to illuminate your space. Running the proper wattage calculations helps you ensure you have the right combination of lights in the space. You’ll need to begin by measuring the length and width of the space you’re lighting and multiplying those numbers to get the total room area.

Multiply the area of your room by 25 to get the overall wattage needed for your space. Once you’ve figured out which light fixtures you want to use, take the wattage of each of those and subtract it from the total wattage you need, to see if you’ll have enough lighting. Try to avoid using only a few high-wattage fixtures to get the illumination you need; it will leave your space looking harsh and overblown.

Learn more about ceiling lights

Ceiling lights are one of the most important things to consider when designing your space. A ceiling light can make a space feel minimalist, dramatic, elegant or modern. You’ll need to consider both the style of fixtures you want, and the function of lighting in the room.

If you’d like to learn more about ceiling lights, check out the LED lighting collection on ArchiPro. We are the all-in-one platform helping Kiwis find trusted products and professionals for their building projects. Get started today and find products, browse projects, and learn about building, all in one place.

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