Types of Light Fixtures (Luminaire)

Light fixtures, also known as luminaires, come in a variety of sizes, shapes, wattage, etc.  The diagram below shows the major types of fixtures.  Obviously, there are many varieties of each type of fixture. We also have an article that discusses the different parts of a light fixture.

Descriptions of the types of light fixtures are listed below the diagram.

Diagram of showing types of light fixtures
Light Fixture Types

Recessed Cove Lighting Fixture

A recessed cove fixture is mounted in a light cove, which is built above the ceiling at the intersection of the ceiling and the wall. These fixtures typically direct the light toward the wall. It is important that trim at the edge of the cove is tall enough to hide the lighting fixture otherwise the lamp may be visible, which is unappealing.

Indirect Pendant Lighting Fixture

Indirect pendants hang from the ceiling and are usually suspended from cables. The lamp is completely hidden from below and a reflector directs all of the light up toward the ceiling. This type of fixture offers a softer and more even distribution of light within the space. It is best used for general lighting and is not appropriate for task lighting. The ceiling color should be light so that it reflects as much light as possible.

Direct / Indirect Pendant Lighting Fixture

A direct / indirect pendant also hangs from the ceiling, but it directs light up and down. These types of fixtures are used a lot in offices where general lighting is required, but there is also a need for task lighting immediately below the fixture. Direct / indirect fixtures are designed in variations that distribute differing amounts of light up and down so that a designer has control over the light distribution.

Recessed Lighting Fixtures

Recessed lighting fixtures are the most common fixtures used in commercial and institutional construction. Fixtures are sized to work with common ceiling tile sizes. While fluorescent lamps have been most popular in the past, many facilities are shifting to LED fixtures because they last longer and require less maintenance.

Wall Wash Light Fixtures

Wall wash fixtures are recessed lights with reflectors that direct the light toward the wall. They are most often used to highlight art, signage, or other items on a wall. The diagram above shows recessed wall wash fixtures, but they can also be surface mounted to the ceiling, which allows them to be aimed easily.

Wall Sconce

A wall sconce is a decorative fixture that is mounted to a wall. They provide general room lighting, but are mostly decorative.

Task Lighting

Task lighting is a generic description for lights that are used to illuminate specific tasks or work that is being done. Task lights can be lamps, lights mounted to desks, under cabinet lights, or any lighting that helps people see their work better. It is highly recommend that the temperature of task lighting match the overall room temperature.

Under Cabinet Light Fixtures

Lights are often mounted below cabinets so that tasks on the counter below can be seen easily. These can be found in homes and offices and are generally controlled from a nearby switch or a switch on the light fixture. Like task lighting, we recommend that under cabinet fixtures be selected to match the color temperature of the overall room lighting.

Article Updated: October 17, 2021

Help make Archtoolbox better for everyone. If you found an error or out of date information in this article (even if it is just a minor typo), please let us know.