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What Type of Lighting Is Best For Closets?

This is a look at the organized clothes on the racks of a walk-in closet.


You’ve redone your closet, and it’s looking beautiful and organized. Something still seems off though. Your new fixtures aren’t standing out, and everything still looks bland. You still need to add one of the most important elements of design, lighting.

Lighting is not just important for illuminating your space. Lighting helps create a mood and determine the feeling of a space. You want to be able to find your clothes in the morning, but you are also setting the tone for your day.

If you have a large walk-in closet, you may even be getting dressed in it, so you want lighting that flatters you, and helps you see how you look in your clothes.

A reach-in closet can feel utilitarian and boring. It can also be hard to find things because even though it’s a small space, the corners and shelves can be very dark. The right lighting can make it look charming and intentional, and if properly placed can illuminate every corner.

Why not start your day off with lighting that makes you feel good about your space and yourself.

So which fixtures and bulbs are right for your closet? Keep reading to find out.

How Old Is Your House?

Before you select lighting for your closet there are a few things to consider. Have you’re closets been remodeled fairly recently, or are they still the originals?

How old is your house? Older houses with closets that haven’t been remodeled may still have light fixtures that aren’t up to code. In older homes that have not been updated, some things that are not up to current codes may be grandfathered in and allowed to pass inspection.

Even if the closets were redone, that’s no guarantee that they were done properly. Not everyone calls a contractor or is worried about building codes.

Are the bulbs exposed? This is against code and could prove to be a hazard, you will either need to find a globe to fit over the bulb, or consider installing a new fixture.

Are any surface mounted (non-recessed) fixtures anywhere other than the ceiling or directly above the door? If there are, this should be addressed before considering new lighting.

Are all recessed lights with incandescent bulbs 6 inches away from any shelving or closet fixtures? Are surface-mounted fixtures with incandescent lights at least 12 inches from any storage? If not it’s time to move them.

Building codes can seem arbitrary and annoying but are necessary for safety. The codes regarding lighting are to protect your house from catching fire.

Choosing the Right Fixtures

Your lighting strategy will be affected by the size and layout of your closet. The fixtures you use and the number of optimum lights will be determined by the square footage if you have a walk-in or reach-in and how much natural light you have in your closet.

Reach-In Closet Lighting

Sunco Lighting 12 Pack 6 Inch Slim LED Downlight with Junction Box, 14W=100W, 850 LM, Dimmable, 6000K Daylight Deluxe, Recessed Jbox Fixture, Simple Retrofit Installation - ETL & Energy Star
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If you have a small reach-in closet, you might think lighting is mostly just used for seeing properly when choosing an outfit. Just because your closet is small doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to the lighting.

You can enhance the look of your closet using strategically placed lights. If you have clearance, recessed lights will help illuminate your closet, and keep it from looking dark and dingy. Running tape lights under your shelves, or behind the rod, provides backlighting and can give your closet a well thought out high-end look.

Ceiling Lights LED Plug in Airand 2ft Flushmount LED Tube Light 5000K Linkable Garage Light Fixture 18W Wraparound Ceiling Lamp Utility Shop Light Corded Under Cabinet Light with ON/Off Switch
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If you do not have a closet that is hard-wired for lighting fixtures, you can find puck lights and battery-operated LED’s to illuminate your space, without having to call an electrician. This goes for walk-in closets as well. Not all walk-in closets are huge or wired for more than a single overhead ceiling fixture

Walk-In Closet Lighting

DLLT Modern LED 4 Light Track Lighting Kit, Flush Mount Wall or Ceiling Spot Lights Fixtures, Flexibly Adjustable Decorative Accent Lamp for Kitchen, Living Room, Bedroom, Hallway GU10 Bulbs Included
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A walk-in closet, especially one that has a mirror would benefit from soft flattering lighting. A large closet needs strategically placed lighting to help illuminate all the corners, and if you have a particularly fancy shoe or purse collection, you may want to display it, even if you’re the only one who ever sees it.

Strategically placed recessed lights help illuminate the corners, and track lighting provides targeted lighting that can easily be moved to highlight every area of your closet. If you have solid shelving, running a tape of battery operated under counter LEDs can help illuminate your shelves, to both aesthetically enhance them, and make items easier to see.

Which Light Bulbs Are Right For A Closet

Satco S8202 11 Watt (40 Watt) 650 Lumens Mini Spiral CFL Soft White 2700K GU24 Base Light Bulb
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There are so many types of lightbulb available that deciding on the right one can seem like a massive undertaking.

Halogen bulbs give off too much heat to be safely used in a closet. Compact fluorescent lights are a good replacement for incandescent lighting, They are energy efficient and last a long time, and they also run fairly cool.

They will eventually burn out and you will need to find a place to dispose of them. They are still a good option, disposal issues aside. If you decide to go with fluorescent lights pick the full spectrum variety to get the most flattering light.

Another, slightly more expensive option is the LED bulb. They keep colors from looking washed out and provide plenty of illumination for small and large spaces. They do not generate much heat, so they are not a fire hazard. You can find LED’s that provide warm or cool lighting depending on your preferences.

The wattage you need depends on the size of your closet, and the amount of natural light. Typically a bulb about the equivalent of 150 watts is best, but your personal preference may vary.

You can find LED bulbs for most sizes of the fixture, as well as in puck lights, and battery-powered lights. Battery-powered lights are best in smaller closets, or for illuminating small spaces because they do not give off a lot of light.

Decorative Fixtures

PAPAYA Crystal Mini Chandelier Lighting 1 Light Chrome Chandeliers Iron Ceiling Light Fixture
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If you have a walk-in closet, whether it’s large or small, don’t just focus on task lighting. You can elevate the look and feel of your closet just by adding an attractive ceiling fixture. Don’t just throw in plain pendant light and call it a day. You can find a small chandelier or elegant specialty pendant to brighten your closet.

LB72121 LED Flush Mount Ceiling Light, 12 inch, 15W (150W Equivalent) Dimmable 1200lm, 4000K Cool White, Oil Rubbed Bronze Round Lighting Fixture for Kitchen, Hallway, Bathroom, Stairwell
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If you do not have the clearance for a chandelier or pendant, there are also stunning options for flush mount lights that will enhance your closet. The internet is full of attractive and unique lighting options.

Even your track lighting fixtures can be attractive. Track lights have come a long way, and you can find some that not only blend seamlessly with your design but also enhance the look of your closet.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. Are you in love with a fixture that is a little bit ostentatious, but is the perfect size for your closet? Be adventurous and give it a try. You are the only one who will see it, and if it makes you happy, and meets code why not be daring.

Still not quite certain about the look you want? Look at our tips on building the dressing room of your dreams for lighting inspiration.

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