Should we use recessed can lighting in a mid century living room?

1960s living roomShould recessed can lighting be added to mid century homes, where there wasn’t any originally? And if, so, how? I’m throwing this one open to reader ideas. Natalie writes:

Pam – You link your kitchen to show your round, chrome, recessed lights, but I cannot find anywhere on the website where you say what the product is that you used for those round, recessed lights in your kitchen. We have vaulted ceilings in our “Den” with fake wood beams seperating it into 6 rectangles. The previous owner put in some nice 80’s can lights in each section. We cannot decide if we should replace them or if we should just close up the ceiling holes. If we close up the holes, I am afraid the living room will be dark, because the only light coming in there is from the patio door on one end of the room. So then I thought about recessed lighting to help it be more flush with the ceiling. Any ideas are welcome. I just needed a second opinion, well third since the hubs is just as stumped.

Thanks, Natalie

I ask Natalie whether the existing “eyeball” can lights work. She reports:

They work okay I guess, except that if you use regular light bulbs when they go out they explode. Like explode. And the light bulbs they have to go in there are like $40 for a pack. We flipped the lights on once and the one right above the light switch and entry way into the living room exploded in front of us. Then another one exploded over the couch. So there is currently only one light bulb in them.

I find them bright and kind of spot lighty, if you get what I mean. It is a den, it should be more warm.

And, when she sends more photos, she adds:

And we are actually trying to decide if we want to paint the beams white or not.

What do you think, readers — how should Natalie and Graham get more light into their mid century living room / den? Note, we had a post earlier this year in which readers weighed in (1) keeping a beamed ceiling and (2) with some comments on painting the beams. Although the style of the house was different, it’s worth taking a look — there were 80 comments!

  1. ModMeg says:

    You could replace the ceiling fan with a single pendant light, perhaps a school house style shade. Cover the can lights up and paint the ceiling a burnt orange. Love the wood beams!

  2. Cindy says:


    What did you end up doing to finish this project and can we see the results?
    Your room reminded me of the space I have in a mobli home with vaulted ceilings and fake beams. I want to paint and I’m not sure if I want to paint over the faux beams. The ceiling needs painting so bad and painting around 3 beams seem like tedious project. My ceiling fan is white and was added to the home- not original but extremely functional for hot Texas weather with no central ac.
    The white against the white ceiling does not take away from what the rest of the room . The previous ower started painting white on the hall wall and stopped against a pepto bismal pink. I’m not a creative type, but know good taste when I see it and try to follow that lead. I look forward to seeing what you did. I was excited because I was also considering a teal color for the room.
    How did that work out? My main wall is currently a antique pink floral wall paper like fabric with stains that I cannot get out. I think I will have to Kiltz it, and add floor molding because the previou owner put id dark hard wood planks and forgot to replace the molding. The home is about 900 sq. feet and I’ll have to be careful to have minimal furniture and use a color that will open it up and be cheerful. I have thought about additional lighting in the ceiling expcept for blowing fuses from electrical overload. No exploading lights yet. I am anxious to see your end result and thank you for sharing your home project with us.

  3. walter says:

    Recessed lights are very mid-mod. Our house had square ones in every room. The fixtures produced very poor lighting by todays standards. So when we rebuilt the house we replaced them all with modern cans.

    For the ‘exploding bulbs’, I wonder if you somehow got some defective ones. In any event, you might consider replacing them with LED bulbs of the same size (PAR38?) and never worry about it again. LED bulbs use about 1/7th the power for the same brightness too.

  4. Evan says:

    We are restoring our 1947 ranch style and it has two recessed chrome lights in the kitchen, original to the house. I like them, but as we are in the middle of work, not sure how they will be actually “in use”.

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