Understanding Recessed Lighting Options: Square vs. Round

Different Recessed Lighting Options

In the realm of interior design, lighting plays a pivotal role in shaping the ambiance and functionality of a space. Recessed lighting, in particular, offers a sleek and modern solution for illuminating various environments. When considering recessed lighting options, one key decision to make is whether to opt for square or round designs. Let's dive into the factors to consider when choosing between these two styles.

Recessed Lighting Trim Types

The trim of recessed lighting, the only visible component, significantly impacts the overall visual design. Understanding the pros and cons of each trim type can help you make an informed decision.

Round Recessed Lighting Trim

round recessed light


  • Fits residential homes seamlessly, providing a softer and more organic look.
  • Generally less expensive and offers a more even light distribution.
  • Installation is more forgiving due to the circular shape, requiring less precise alignment.


  • Not as fashionable or decorative as square trim.
  • May cast sharper shadows due to the absence of defined edges.

Square Recessed Lighting Trim

square recessed light


  • Offers a contemporary alternative to traditional round trim, making it ideal for modern homes and offices.
  • Fits well with straight lines and angles, enhancing architectural features.
  • Looks more high-end and trendy, particularly in unique architectural settings.


  • Requires precise alignment during installation for a symmetrical look.
  • May not suit traditional styles and can cast defined shadows due to the well-defined edges.

Baffle Recessed Lighting Trim

Baffle Recessed Light


  • Offers glare mitigation and softened light, enhancing eye comfort.
  • Ideal for areas where low light is beneficial, such as bedrooms and living rooms.
  • Provides a ribbed texture inside, enhancing aesthetics.


  • Slightly lower light output compared to non-baffle trims.
  • May be slightly more expensive.

Gimbal Recessed Lighting Trim

gimball recessed light


  • Offers directional control of light, perfect for accent lighting and highlighting specific areas.
  • Great for overhead kitchen counter areas and sloped ceilings due to adjustability.
  • Creates unique lighting patterns for a dramatic effect.


  • Slightly more expensive and bulkier in design.
  • Requires maintenance to ensure smooth movement and prevent dust build-up.

Types of Recessed Lights

Recessed lighting comes in various types and styles, each serving different purposes and installation requirements. Understanding the differences between these types can help you choose the right option for your space. Let's explore some common types of recessed lights:

Retrofit Lighting Solutions

Retrofit kits are an excellent option for upgrading existing recessed lighting fixtures to more energy-efficient LED technology. These kits include everything needed to convert traditional incandescent or fluorescent recessed lights to LED, including LED modules, trims, and connectors. Retrofit kits are easy to install and can help reduce energy consumption and maintenance costs while improving light quality and longevity.

Canless Lighting Solutions

Canless recessed lights, also known as wafer or slim lights, are designed to be installed directly into the ceiling without the need for a traditional recessed can housing. These ultra-thin fixtures are ideal for spaces with limited ceiling clearance or where retrofitting with a recessed can is not practical. Canless lights offer a sleek and modern look and are available in various sizes and designs to suit different applications. They are commonly used in residential kitchens, bathrooms, hallways, and offices.

To learn how to install all different types of recessed lights, read this article: ​​How to Install Recessed Lights

Recessed Lighting Features

When choosing recessed lighting for your space, it's essential to consider various features to ensure optimal performance and functionality. Here are some key features to keep in mind:

1. IC Rating (Insulation Contact)

IC rating is crucial, especially for canless recessed lights that come into contact with insulation. An IC-rated fixture is designed to be safely installed in direct contact with insulation without posing a fire hazard. This feature is essential for maintaining the integrity of the insulation and ensuring compliance with building codes and safety standards.

2. Dimmable Functionality

Dimmable recessed lights offer the flexibility to adjust the intensity of the lighting according to your preferences and needs. Whether you want to create a cozy ambiance for relaxation or bright task lighting for activities, dimmable fixtures allow you to customize the level of illumination to suit different occasions and moods. Installing dimmers on your recessed lights enables precise control over brightness, contributing to energy savings and enhancing visual comfort.

3. Selectable Color Temperatures

Selectable color temperatures provide versatility in lighting design by offering a range of color options to match various settings and atmospheres. With the ability to adjust the color temperature of your recessed lights, you can create different lighting effects, from warm and inviting to cool and energizing. Whether you prefer the cozy glow of warm white light or the crisp brightness of daylight, selectable color temperatures allow you to tailor the lighting to suit your preferences and complement your interior decor.

4. Wet Rated Design

For areas exposed to moisture or water splashes, such as showers, balconies, or outdoor patios, it's essential to choose recessed lights with a wet-rated design. Wet-rated fixtures are specially constructed to withstand exposure to water and humidity without compromising performance or safety. These lights feature sealed housings and gaskets to prevent water infiltration, ensuring reliable operation and longevity in wet environments.

5. High CRI (Color Rendering Index)

High CRI (Color Rendering Index) is a measure of how accurately a light source renders colors compared to natural daylight. A higher CRI value indicates better color fidelity and more accurate color representation, enhancing visual clarity and depth perception. For tasks that require accurate color discrimination, such as reading, cooking, or artistic endeavors, choosing recessed lights with a high CRI rating is essential. High CRI lighting not only improves visual comfort but also enhances the overall quality of illumination in your space, making colors appear more vibrant and true to life.


Choosing between square and round recessed lighting depends on various factors, including room type, design preferences, and installation ease. Consider the benefits and drawbacks of each trim type to make an informed decision that suits your space. For a wide selection of high-quality recessed lighting options, explore NuWatt's extensive collection and illuminate your space with style and functionality.