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L&L Design Guide: Cove Lighting Ideas

Cove lighting provides sophisticated indirect lighting. It is used for general ambient lighting as well as accent lighting. The light bounces off of the walls and the ceiling, creating even lighting across a room. It makes a space feel larger, taller, and wider, while giving it a contemporary look. There are a number of cove lighting ideas and ways of using this design element in a space.

cove lighting ideas

Light Types – Florescent and LED Cove Lighting Fixtures

The traditional way of creating cove lighting is to use florescent strips. These can sometimes create dark areas in-between the lamps, and are not as easy to use in curved spaces. LED lights are a lot more flexible as the strips of LEDs can bend around curves and corners. There are less mechanical parts, they use less energy, and create less heat in a room. They can also come in different colors, or for commercial settings they can be programmed to change colors. Because they use less energy, LED cove lighting is much more cost effective. When it comes to commercial cove lighting for retail, hotels, and restaurant lighting, places that have their lights on all day, LED lights will be most beneficial. LED lights need to be used if you want dimmable cove lighting – giving you more control of the lighting in the space. (Pegasus Lighting has a range of cove light fixtures for sale)

Cove Lighting Design Ideas

Cove lights need a place for them to sit, out of sight. The common process is to build a false ceiling, where the ceiling is lowered,  and have the lights fitted in a cut away within the false ceiling.

Within the basic form of ceiling cove lighting there are a number of design options:

– Multi-level cove lighting are used in more commercial spaces to create a dynamic ambiance

A home theater using multi-level cove lighting

– There are a range of shapes in which the ceiling that houses the cove lights can be made into. The most common design takes up the whole ceiling, in a rectangular shape. There are more decorative options, in more angular shapes or even curved forms as seen in the pictures below.

Using different ceiling shapes to form unique cove lighting designs

A kitchen using a unique shape for cove lighting

– The ceiling that the cove lighting highlights can be built and decorated in a number of different materials and finishes (i.e. wood or polished concrete), to suit different décor styles.

– Cove lights can be used alongside other ceiling lights, as they accentuate the other light fixtures. Cove and recessed light combinations are most common in homes. But pendant lights or even chandeliers can be combined with cove lighting ideas.

Cove lighting can be used to highlight other light fixtures

Reversed Cove Lighting

Instead of building an entire ceiling that spans the entire space, a section of the ceiling can be dropped down that will house the lights as seen below.

Only a portion of the ceiling has been dropped down

Crown Molding Cove Lighting

A much simpler way of adding cove lighting to any room is to use the crown molding method. This doesn’t require the heavy construction work of adding a false ceiling. Instead crown molding juts out from the wall, leaving a ledge above where the cove lights can be fitted and softly glow on the walls and ceiling. This style of cove lighting will make the space feel much, much taller.

Using crown molding is a much simpler way of adding cove lighting

Another example of crown molding cove lighting

Cove Dome

A dome ceiling is another cove lighting idea

A recessed dome can be created into a ceiling, in which the lights will sit hidden around the perimeter of the dome. This circular ceiling piece is an elegant feature in a space and one that will create a focal point in a room. A chandelier can hang down from the center of the dome to add more to this feature.


Wall cove lighting

Wall Lighting

There are a number of areas where cove lighting can be used within walls. Some examples include using them for bathroom mirror lights, installed behind large pictures or paintings, behind headboards in a bedroom, or just to create a decorative backdrop.

Within homes and retail spaces such as shops, bars and restaurants, display cabinets can have cove cutaways at the bottom and the top for light fixtures to hide from sight. Objects can be evenly lit without the glare that comes from normal halogen or tungsten display lights.

Cove lights being used behind a bar for display lighting

Floor Lighting

Floors can also be lit with cove lighting. Have a look at our post on floor lighting ideas for the section on floor cove lighting.


Adding any of the cove lighting ideas highlighted here will create a new dimension in a room. They easily make a space feel larger than it is, while providing even, soft, and relaxed lighting.


Related Posts:

Bathroom Lighting Ideas

Living Room Lighting Ideas and Designs

Home Lighting Ideas: From The Living Room To The Bedroom, The Kitchen To The Outdoors



Floor Lighting Ideas: Taking Your Interior Design to the Next Level

Floor lights are used for guiding people or as accent lighting to illuminate walls as a backdrop. Adding floor lighting to a home adds a luxurious touch. You want to add a number of different light fixtures to a space to create different lighting effects – floor lighting ideas can help in achieving this. This range of light effects is what creates a visually beautiful setting. Here we will go over ideas on lighting floors inside and outside of the home.

Floor lighting ideas

Recessed Floor Lighting

Recessed lights installed up against a wall

Recessed floor lighting is probably the top choice when it comes to adding floor lighting. This will require some constructional work to create holes for the lights to sit in and the wires to route to them. Or if you are looking for landscape lighting ideas, solar powered recessed lights only require the base hole and no additional wiring. When it comes to in floor lighting, they are usually installed up near against a wall – this is so that the light washes onto the wall. While outdoors, recessed lights are also used to light pathways and stairs.

When it comes to in home recessed floor lighting, you’ll need to choose the right light fixtures. As people will be walking over the lights, possibly barefooted, you don’t want them burning their feet. You will want to look for lights that are rated “cool to touch” such as florescent or LED floor lighting fixtures – while tungsten or halogen lights could burn.

Recessed floor lighting

There are also other areas where recessed lights can be fitted:

-To the base of kitchen cabinets

-To the vertical parts of steps in a staircase

-Into walls, close down to the floor (in stairways or hallways)

Hidden Lights

It is a lot more elegant when you can hide the light fixtures. The light will gently diffuse off of walls and the floor providing a soft glow of light. This also helps in preventing glare which is easily caused from floor lighting as they are usually in a person’s eye line.

Cove lighting

Adding cove floor lighting will be a major undertaking. You will need to dig up a shallow trench, and then a cut away where the lights can be laid hidden. You can see an example of floor cove lighting from a scene from the movie Inception, when the characters are in the Japanese castle.

A scene from Inception showing cove floor lighting

Using Rope Lights to Create Modern Floor Lighting

Rope lights can be simply laid out on the floor along a wall. Or they can hidden and fitted under couches, or under kitchen, TV or book cabinets for a much more sophisticated and softer look.

Rope lights can be used for a range of floor lighting ideas


A small can light, like this one from lampsplus.com ($14.99) can be used for floor lighting

Small can lights can be placed on the floor and along the walls. They can also be hidden behind plant pots and couches out of site.

You will want to avoid downlights in most areas of the homes. They can create a tunnel like effect if a number of them are used side by side. One placed here and there around the home can still work.

Specific Outdoor Floor lighting Ideas:

Some outdoor floor lighting ideas include post lights that you can plant into the ground. These can be either electrical or solar powered. Another option are downlights that are fitted into walls, stairs, or posts.