3 Ways To Enhance Your Closet Lighting Design

When you open your closet, you’re probably staring into dark and unwelcoming space. Putting an outfit together is difficult when you can’t see the colors and textures of the material. Rummaging through drawers for accessories becomes frustrating. Luckily, there are three ways you can step up your closet game and transform the space from dim and dungeon-like to bright and inviting. To do so requires knowing what style will work in the space. The lighting design for a large closet won’t be the same for a small closet. When choosing the appropriate fixtures, it is important to consider the sizing, light intensity, and placement of your fixtures so you can create the desired effect. Another critical factor is proper installation. If done incorrectly, your lighting will be ineffective and a possible safety hazard. Following these tips will help you create a room where you’ll never have to struggle in the dark again.

Lighting Ideas

When lighting your closet, you want to add features that make sense for the space. That’s why you must think about the size and location of your closet. If your closet is big, you need fixtures that will provide adequate illumination. For small closets, your lighting design is limited. Once you determine the size of your closet, you will know what fixtures you need. Place recessed LED strips on each shelf for subtle illumination. Accent lighting on shelves will give you warm look. Brighten cubbies by installing small lights within them. If you’re into a contemporary look, lights at the base of your cabinets will give you a unique floating effect. Give your closet some dimension with mirrors and glass cabinets. Having mirrors is a good way to add extra light. Light reflects off the mirror, spreading throughout the entire room. By using this technique, you avoid having to install additional fixtures. Another idea is to wrap LED rope lights around a hanging rack or placing them under the rods.

Large closets and small closets

For large walk-in closets, consider using a chandelier as the main light source for a touch of glamour and elegance. If you have a longue, island, or any other large feature in the center of the room, putting a chandelier or over-sized pendant above it will serve as a nice focal point for visual appeal. A closet with an open space will look high-end if you paint it bright white. This technique also imitates sunlight, perfect for windowless closets. Add a drama by hanging an ornate fixture, such as a crystal chandelier with high wattage. When closets are small, there aren’t many lighting options available. One solution is to convert any larger rooms, such as a spare bedroom, into a closet. Ideally, the room should have a window. Not only will it shine extra light into the room, a window serves as an excellent centerpiece.


Let’s say you don’t have a bigger room with a window that you can convert into a closet. Highlight walls, shelves, and drawers with a high-gloss white finish. The light will reflect off the white making the room seem larger and inviting. A neutral white ceiling will also bounce light, creating a wash of light that illuminates the entire room and prevents shadows. Consider installing skylights in closets located on the top level or attic for natural lighting.

Types of Fixture and Bulbs

Ceiling lighting

• Track lighting

Because track lights are directional, they are ideal for highlighting any area in the closet and illuminating narrow closets. Track lights are also useful in large closets since they have multiple fixtures attached to it. The movable track heads allow you to reposition them to the area where you need light regardless of where you stand. For dark wood, install large track lighting on the sides of the walk-in closet to highlight textiles. Glossy wood acts as a reflective surface when light hits it, increasing the size of the space. Install a track lighting system with pendants that are low-wattage and paint the wall a flat sandy-tone. The lights and paint combined leaves you with a cozy, warm glow, rather than an unattractive fluorescent color. Feel free to swap single fixtures for track lights if you want brighter illumination.

        • Pendants and chandeliers

Fixtures aren’t one size fits all. The size and layout of your closet will dictate the type of fixture you need. Pendants work well with high ceilings. Try installing a stylish pendant or low-hanging chandelier. Closets tend to have general lighting inadequate for illuminating the entire room, especially if it is a large or walk-in closet. Supplement the lighting with other fixtures, such as track lights, recessed lights, and other directional fixtures. Another idea is to hang a decorative chandelier with low light intensity for style and use a hidden wall aglow as a main light source. Place the switch for your overhead lighting in your walk-in closet on the wall outside of the closet or inside the door.

        • Surface-mounted and semi-flush lights

Surface-mounted lights are the most commonly used closet fixtures. They mount to the ceiling or wall. The National Electric Code has standards for closet fixtures and require these lights be covered to avoid fires. Semi-flush ceiling lights work best in walk-in closets. However, because these fixtures don’t provide enough lighting on their own, you should combine them with other light sources. Use a decorative surface-mounted fixture to create a focal point and make a statement. Keep in mind that if you plan on switching an incandescent for a fluorescent or CFL, preferably dimmable, you won’t need to change the fixture for standard surface-mounted or recessed light fixtures. These bulbs are ideal because they provide the same light output as incandescent bulbs, using less heat and energy. Cover your fluorescent bulbs and make sure you meet local building and fire codes by contacting your municipality.

Battery-powered fixtures and hard-wired fixtures

Battery-powered fixtures are cost effective and easy to install and are best for small closets since they don’t emit much light. Place one on each side of the closet by sticking or screwing them into place. Some battery-powered fixtures allow you to turn the light on and off by simply touching the light cover. Using motion-activated lights will save you cost of replacing the fixture’s batteries. Another option is to go traditional and pick fixtures that have switches or cords. However, fixtures that are hard-wired provide the best lighting. If you have an attic above the closet, contact an electrician to install the fixture into an existing circuit. Place a switch outside of the closet that lights up when the door is closed. That way you’ll always know if you’ve left the light on which will reduce energy costs.

Small under-counter lights are either battery powered or plug into an outlet. Sometimes upper shelves block light from reaching the racks and shelves underneath. Under-counter lights are perfect for providing illumination for those dark shelves and behind clothing racks. The great thing about under-counter lights is that they don’t require much electrical work. Save energy by only turning these lights on when needed. They usually use LED or fluorescent fixtures, which provide adequate light without emitting much heat. Illuminate the entire area with sconces and use mini light fixtures, preferably adjustable, for dark corners. Supplement your general ceiling fixture by placing ribbon lighting along the length of your clothing rods. Try these DIY lighting ideas for small closets that restrict your lighting design options.

Types of Bulbs

Go for low wattage fixtures over higher-powered lights for energy efficiency. When choosing bulbs, heat should be your first concern. Avoid halogens or incandescent lighting because they contain gas that produces a lot of light and heat. If the closet is small and the fixtures touch any flammable material, such as clothes and shelves, a fire can break out. Fluorescent lights are a good alternative because not only do they produce less heat, full-spectrum bulbs create more natural light that is perfect for seeing colors accurately. For closets that don’t have natural light, increase the wattage. LED linear lighting uses 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs and are available in different wattages. Depending on the cabinetry color, and the existing natural and ambient light, LEDs will produce different lighting effects. A medium intensity LED light has approximately 1.4W per foot, causing a soft accent glow. A higher intensity LED with 3W is perfect for task lighting or shining more light on your clothes. Try matching the room’s colors and materials using warm or cool LEDs.

Installing LED bulbs or larger fixture can increase the light output if you have the right closet size. Before deciding on LEDs, you must consider both how you will use the light and your budget. Remember, they are cooler than incandescent bulbs and have a wide range of light intensity. Most LEDs have 5000K, giving off a bright bluish white light. Install LED bulbs with 3000K for a clothing closet for adequate light on your clothes and other contents. LEDs are also ideal for hall closets, pantries, and laundry room closets. If you plan on using LEDs for your pantries and laundry room it is best to get a 4ft LED light. It’s a simple looking fixture that emits bright light.


Install dimmers for control over light intensity. That way you have the option of adjusting the settings for a warm glow or bright illumination. You can also use them to control the lighting in small corners or areas with unique shapes. Go for LEDs for versatility and energy-efficiency.  Avoid dealing with cords and wires by using a wireless system that is motion activated, such as a 10-LED sensor. It’s simple yet has a nice look. You also have the option to manually control the system.

    Light placement

Each fixture should illuminate a 4 by 6 ft area of space. Avoid hitting fixtures while moving around by installing recessed or flush-mount fixtures. Give at least 7 ft of clearance for fixtures above walking areas to avoid hitting your head. Watch for bulbs being blocked by clothing or racks by hanging fixtures. Any recessed fixtures with incandescent or LED bulbs must be 6 inches from closet storage areas while surface-mounted fixtures with incandescent or LED bulbs must be at least 12 inches away from storage areas. If your surface-mounted fixtures have CFL bulbs, then make sure they are at least 6 inches from closet storage areas.


It’s important to think about safety before installing your fixtures. Closet lighting must meet building codes and regulations to prevent fires. Keep in mind that incandescent bulbs must be covered. Any fixtures that located in the attic that don’t have a cover must be replaced. If you live in an older home, it is likely to fail the minimal standards. Check with your municipality to ensure those standards are met.

It is possible to upgrade your closet with the ideal lighting. Think about the size of your closet and what kind of fixtures will compliment the space. Try larger decorative fixtures if you have the closet space. Track lights are perfect for bigger closets since they provide a lot of illumination. Pendants and chandeliers will add style and elegance. If you can’t convert another room into a bigger closet then focus on using white to give the effect of a bigger room. Go for cost effective with LEDs and battery-powered fixtures and stay away from halogens and incandescent bulbs. It’s important to be safe when installing your fixtures. Correct placement of your fixtures will not only avoid the risk of fire but will give you optimal lighting. Bring your closet out of the darkness and enhance it with style and comfort!



Create practical lighting for your closet. Light shelves and clothing racks with energy-efficent LED lights. Mirrors brighten room by reflecting light. Use wireless systems. Place chandeliers in walk-in closets. Light small or attic closets with track lighting. Make use of natural light if possible. Hang lights over islands or with high ceilings. Install dimmers.


Use bigger room as a closet for space. Install centered hanging light. Mimic sunlight with bright white for an open space. Combine bold lighting with other light sources. Create cozy vibe with warm light. Install track lighting with direction, low wattage pendants. Light high-gloss finishes to reflect light and make room seem bigger. Use accent lighting for dark wood. Highlight textiles with large track lighting for walk-in closets. LED or CFL bulbs produce white glow without heat. Add dimmers. Lighting dark wood removes shadows. Mirror back and glass cabinets add dimension. Less natural light means more wattage. DIY lighting is ideal for small closets. Put automatic switches that turns on when you open doors. Combine direct and indirect lighting so that it mimics sunlight. Increase illumination with neutral white ceilings.


Lighting design should have function and form. Light shelves with recessed puck lights or ribbon lights, or brighten cabinet base for ambience and a nice lighting effect. Opt energy-efficient, long-lasting LEDs. Use medium-intensity for accent lighting or higher-intensity for task lighting or brighter lighting. Use LED temperatures that match the look of the room.


Install CFLs in surface-mounted fixtures to save energy and avoid fire risk. Make sure to follow building codes and regulations. Cover recessed and surface-mounted incandescent lights. Keep recessed lights with incandescent or LEDs 6 inches from closet storage area. For surface-mounted lights, leave 12 inches. Leave 6 inches for surface-mounted fixtures with CFL bulbs. Avoid halogen because they produce heat that can cause fire. Fluorescents are ideal because they are cool and energy-efficient. Use dimmable CFLs instead of incandescent bulbs. Use battery-powered fixtures, especially for small closets. Automatic lights save money. Both are DIY projects. Have an electrician install new hard-wired fluorescent fixture for better lighting. Place switch outside of closet that remains lit when closet light is on.


Surface-mounted closet lights are the most common and mount to ceiling or wall. Make sure it’s covered to avoid fire. LEDs provide brighter light. Use them in hall closets, pantries, laundry room closets, and clothing closets. Semi-flush ceiling lights are ideal for walk-in closets. Supplement with other light sources for more light. Use a decorative piece. Light shelves with battery-powered LED semi-flush mounts. Adjustable track lighting is a good alternative and offers brighter light.


Use multiple light sources for ample illumination for walk-in closets. Directional track lighting and recessed lighting can be adjusted to see wider area. Choose low-watt fixtures. Install small LED or fluorescent under-counter light to light under shelves, counters, or behind racks. It’s an easy DIY because are battery-powered or plug-ins. Use fluorescent bulbs instead of incandescent to avoid fire. Full-spectrum luorescent bulbs depict color better. Check building and fire codes to make sure you meet guidelines. A fixture should light 4 x 6 sq ft. Recessed or flush-mounts give more headspace. Make sure clothing or racks don’t block bulbs. Have 7ft clearance over foot paths. Install a switch for your primary light source.

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