Better Than Builder-Grade: Choosing A More Stylish Flush Mount Light

There is a light fixture you can find in almost every home in modern day American construction: the flush mount lighting fixture. Flush mount lights sit directly against (or flush) with the ceiling, preventing dust, bugs, and other debris from accumulating inside. Most feature an opaque glass dome with a single screw in the center that keeps the fixture in place. Most infamously, they are known among homeowners and contractors alike as the “boob light.” Whether you agree with the sentiment or not, you know what light I’m talking about. While efficient in their purpose (lighting a room), their abundance has earned them a bad reputation as a cheap and ugly light. Here are some ideas to shake up how you look at your recessed flush mounts at home.

How Flush Mounts Became the “It” Fixture

Everything that feels “overused” has a reason on why it became so popular in the first place (by Just the Thing Decorating, Staging, and Windows)

There is an incredible history behind how this flush mount lights became standard. When they were first made, these lights were an at-home revolution. Before, if you didn’t want an exposed bulb on your ceiling, you needed a shade that had to be hand-crafted and professionally installed. Then suddenly with mass production, manufacturers could create lightweight glass shades that create a secure seal with the ceiling to keep dirt and grime from building up inside the fixture. It was cheap and easy to install, and homeowners could even do it themselves. With only a single large screw, you’re unlikely to lose any pieces when cleaning the glass or changing out the bulb, making them the perfect do-it-yourself fixture.

Elevate the Dome

If you find the look of your flush mount too plain, opt for a more decorative finish (by Patricia Bonis Interiors, Inc.)

There is no denying the ease of access these flush mounts provide when it comes to changing a bulb yourself. If you’re seeking an alternative that has the same single screw format — but looks above builder grade quality — you can change the shade. There are several ways to go about this. First, most of these flush mounts are perfectly opaque to hide any grime building up within the light and consequently also the bulbs. If you like the exposed bulb look, look for a more transparent shade that lets you see the hardware. Alternately, pick a more ornate shade to dazzle the room. Stained glass, mosaics, and crystals are a great way to break up the solid dome visual without actually changing the shape.

Change the Overall Shape and/or Material

Try to get ahead of the interior design curve by picking a different flush mount shape (by SGDI – Sarah Gallop Design Inc.)

If your biggest issue with this light is its common appearance, try avoiding the dome shape entirely. Already, many interior designers are moving away from the classic dome in favor of boxier, flatter shades for flush mounts. You can go for a square or opt for rounded edges to not stray too far from the original dome. A lot of these are made of a paper composite, which is even lighter than the normal glass. It’s also less likely to shatter if installed too loosely and falls to the floor! The big drawback here is that paper shades dent and crumple more easily, and require more delicate spot cleaning.

From Flush to Semi-Flush

Get all the perks of a chandelier look without needing 20 bulbs by changing your flush mount to semi-flush (by Tindall Architecture Workshop)

A small change can make a big visual difference. Even if you change nothing about the actual dome of a flush mount, making it not hug the ceiling completely affects the look of it. A semi-flush light fixture can take on a chandelier-like quality without the cost or needing a very high ceiling. This can even accent the single screw to make it feel more of a fine point or teardrop that is a welcome design element on the shade. If I attributed a comparison to these lights, I’d call them “acorn-shaped.” However, this does remove the perk of keeping grime from getting into your shade and needing to clean it less often. And if you’re very tall or have low ceilings, even a semi-flush light may hang too low.

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Eliminate the Single Screw

If you’re willing to do a more involved installation, avoid the single screw structure entirely (by Wilson Lighting)

The biggest issue with this light’s imagery is the single screw in the center of the fixture holding the shade in place. The obvious solution then is to eliminate that. Unfortunately, you can’t get a lighter hardware or paint the screw the shade’s color to make it all match. Once it’s lit up, there will still be a dark center in the shade. Instead, you need to change the entire fixture to one with side screws. It will be harder to install and remove the shade by yourself, as there will be more screws along the rim or sides of the light to keep it in place. However, removing that center dot will completely change the appearance of your light fixture. If you need the same size and dimensions as your old flush mount, choosing one without a center screw may be the ideal visual replacement.

Flush mounts and semi-flush mounts are overused in today’s construction, but you don’t have to settle for the builder-grade light fixture that came with your home. Make a change to your lights and you’ll find the entire room a little brighter!

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