Following a blog I posted a few weeks ago on thinking about your lighting plan like a cake (no, really) in order to encourage my wife to read past the first sentence, I’ve had a lot of enquires about using spot lighting. Where it works and where it doesn’t, what sort of unit to use and what sort of bulb.

It’s time to turn the spotlight onto spotlights…

Where to use them

Spot lights were designed to highlight specific areas rather than to provide an ambient light source. Using them as a main source isn’t ideal anywhere – except perhaps bathrooms where there are precious few other options for “in shower” lighting. The problem is they light downwards, so as soon as you position yourself between the source and the thing you’re lighting, they become a bit useless.

Think of them as site specific lights and angle them onto walls to highlight pictures or displays, or position them over objects to really make them a feature.


Think of all the statues in your house which aren’t lit effectively… You’re welcome.


Where NOT to use them

Ideally you wouldn’t use them anywhere – unless you’re doing some of the above things. In kitchens and living rooms, where they are most often used, think about how you use the spaces before you think about lighting them. No living room needs rows of downward facing spots creating pools of light on the floor. It needs layers of light to help guide the eye and create a relaxed atmosphere.

Even in a kitchen where task lighting is really important, they’re pretty useless as you’ll always be between the light and the onion you’re chopping up. Think about your under counter and over island lighting which give great, direct light and highlight your beautiful worktops too. Use LED framing to cast your light across the ceiling to create the base light.

Kitchen underlight

What sort to use

There are so many variations available now, all with different benefits if used correctly. They basically fall into 3 categories, though:

Fixed spots

Spot light

Your basic, fixed down light. Use to highlight things directly below.

Angled spots


More versatile, they can be trained onto walls, bookcases and displays to highlight and feature spaces better. Think about the positioning though as you don’t want to admire your original Hockney with your own shadow cast over it.

Once in position, you can’t change the basic position of the light (yes, different bulbs are available, but that’s another blog…maybe) so it offers less flexibility than…

Adjustable spots


More versatile again. You still need to think carefully about their position, but because the beam can be moved, they can enable you to change things within the display without having to replace the lights.

I hope that this has shed some light (ahem) on the situation.