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The Very Best Flush-Mounted Ceiling Lights

Photo: Retailer

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It’s rare to hear someone talk with great enthusiasm about their flush-mounted light. Strongly associated with $15 Home Depotboob lights” in rental apartments, they have the reputation for being badly designed and producing bad light. (I only turn on my pallid, greenish overhead lights when I am cleaning, and the desire to turn them off makes me clean faster.)

But flush-mounted lights don’t deserve their bad rep — like any other light, there are good and bad varieties, and a lot of common complaints can be mitigated by picking the right fixture for your space and installing lightbulbs with a warm color temperature and good color rendering. In a home with low ceilings, they’re often a necessity, and there are some solid non-boob-light options on the market. Strategist senior editor Jen Trolio, an experienced flush-mounted-light buyer, advises going subtle and solid over dramatic, and layering with other lighting: “They should still never be the only source of light in a room,” she says. “Go with something you won’t hate too quickly and that’s not a pain to deal with in terms of the bulbs, and then pick way more interesting table and floor lamps.” For a roundup of our 100 favorite lighting implements, visit our Lighting District.

What we’re looking for

Drop

The drop is the distance from the ceiling to the lowest point of a flush-mounted light; in most cases, it should hang at least seven feet above the floor, although you can go lower in areas where there won’t be any foot traffic, like above a kitchen island or dining table. The higher the light hangs, the more of the room it can illuminate, so for a space with low ceilings, a more compact ceiling light will often provide better lighting.

Bulb capacity

Although fixtures with integrated LED lights versus traditional screw-in lightbulbs have been gaining popularity over the past few years, all of the options on this list use lightbulbs, which have some practical advantages. Screw-in bulbs are easier to replace and offer more customization in terms of brightness and color temperature. We’re listing the number of sockets, which Trolio looks at as a predictor of how much light a fixture can emit — “two versus four can make a big difference in brightness,” she says — as well as the style of socket. (E26 is the most common, compatible with a standard box of lightbulbs you’d buy at a hardware store.)

Best overall

Drop: 7” | Bulb capacity: One E26 bulb

We love this low-profile, vintage-inspired ceramic fixture from Schoolhouse for its flexibility: It has a compact seven-inch hang, comes in several basic and vibey colors, and works in a variety of spaces and styles, from farmhouse to industrial. Strategist senior editor Simone Kitchens uses the fixture in black over a kitchen table: “I like the big tulip-shaped dome,” she says, and that the silhouette of the lamp can change depending on the lightbulb. “You could put in a small bulb and it completely disappears inside or use a bigger one, like this drum-shaped one from Tala, and it creates a whole new form.”

Best low-profile flush-mounted light

Drop: 4” | Bulb capacity: Two E26 bulbs

Trolio owns three of these flush-mounted lights, installed in her hallway. She likes that they’re low-profile and relatively inexpensive — she bought them during a Black Friday sale, so they were even cheaper — and their minimal vertical drop. They’re the lowest-profile option on this list, with a thin four-inch projection from the ceiling, and have two lightbulb sockets for plenty of illumination.

Best DIY flush-mounted light

Drop: 1.5” socket, 7” bulb | Bulb capacity: One E26 bulb

For a less-expensive alternative to a flush-mounted light, designer David Netto shared this quick DIY hack in our guide to low-lift home improvements under $100. “A classic white porcelain socket always looks beautiful,” Netto says, and if white is too basic, the ceramic socket comes in 17 other colors, from bright rust red to mint green.  “Screw in a chrome-tipped bulb and you’re done.”

Best vintage (or vintage-inspired) DIY flush-mounted light

Drop: 6.5” to 10” | Bulb capacity: One

If you hate the look of an exposed lightbulb, Schoolhouse sells a handblown replica of a glass shade from the early 1900s, and Kitchens has a hack: You can find genuine vintage shades in the same style on eBay, Etsy, and at salvage stores for about a third of the price. It can be installed with an inexpensive fitter, like this $15 option on Amazon.

Best flush-mounted light with exposed bulb

Drop: 3.5” socket; 10” fixture | Bulb capacity: One or two E26 bulbs

One of our favorite wall sconces, recommended by Decorilla lead sales designer Devin Shaffer, this Dutton Brown fixture also comes in a single- and dual-bulb flush-mount style, for households with lower ceilings. It’s made of aluminum and steel and comes in 14 finishes, from a greige-ish off-white to bright orange.

Best romantic flush-mounted light

Photo: Retailer

Drop: 8” | Bulb capacity: Two E26 bulbs

Trolio uses this pretty lamp with a scalloped capiz (a.k.a. windowpane oyster shell) shade in her daughter’s room, which she likes for being “not too kid-like but not too stuffy.” It comes in two colors, an iridescent off-white and peachy pink, and has the capacity for two standard lightbulbs.

Best semi-flush-mounted light

Drop: 10” | Bulb capacity: Three E26 bulbs

In her living room, Trolio uses this Hinkley Lighting semi-flush lamp, a style slightly offset from the ceiling but without the longer drop of a chandelier or pendant lamp. It’s on the brighter end of the spectrum, with the capacity for three bulbs, and comes in five colors, including matte black and and a vintage-y brass finish.

Best splurge semi-flush-mounted light

Photo: Retailer

Drop: 14.25” | Bulb capacity: Four E26 bulbs

Recommended by designer Rayman Boozer in our guide to the best pendants and chandeliers, this semi-flush fixture balances the drama of a chandelier with the compact footprint of a flush-mounted light. It has four glass bulbs, which come in both clear and opaque styles, and the metal hardware is finished in either nickel or brass. It’s on the larger side, at a little over a foot, but if you have the ceiling height for it, the four bulbs and dynamic shape will cast plenty of light.

Our experts

Rayman Boozer, interior designer
• Simone Kitchens, Strategist senior editor
David Netto, designer
Devin Shaffer, Decorilla lead sales designer
• Jen Trolio, Strategist senior editor

Some more lights we’ve written about

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The Very Best Flush-Mounted Ceiling Lights