Can Track Lighting Ever Be Cool? (Spoiler: I Think Kind Of)
There are certain things in design and decorating that are kind of ‘necessary’ (or at the very least super functional) but traditionally just don’t look that great. Track lighting is one of those things. Our previous kitchen (above) had track lighting and while I never really resented it – it more or less disappeared visually, provided good task lighting and frankly, we didn’t really have any other options because we had an exposed ceiling – I’m a bit hesitant to use it again. The kitchen in our mountain house is similar and we are faced with the same track lighting issue, but for some reason, I’ve been resistant.
Why was I anti-track lighting?? In a battle of form over function, track lighting wins for function. It points to what should get attention (like task areas), it can be adjusted and angled in tons of ways to work best for what you need. Track lighting is smart and downright useful. But…I’m having some feelings about it that I need to get out…consider this post a little track lighting self-soothing.
Typically when I think of track lighting, I envision something that’s busy, clunky and dated. It gets a bad rep for being pretty generic and boring. And while it’s probably not that fair to bully track lighting on a stereotype, I’m not going to overlook that what you might think of when you hear “track lighting” is something similar to the below:
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While I hadn’t discounted track lighting entirely (again, I didn’t mind it in my last house), I have a general rule for myself that it shouldn’t look ‘groovy,’ ‘funky’ or ‘seductive’. You can keep your ‘sexy’ lights (lower left), I don’t want them tarting up my ceilings.
Rooms with exposed ceilings kind of call for track lighting though because putting in cans isn’t ideal (though possible). In a way, cans are scarier because you are cutting holes several inches wide into your ceiling – permanent holes and a lot of them. At the mountain house, our kitchen ceiling also happens to be the floor above so I’m not even sure there is room for cans (which look flat but can be about 7 1/2″ deep, though more shallow 4 to 5″ options exist).
Besides, tracks can kind of be ‘hidden’ in the rafters and provide really good task lighting in addition to pendants over the island and sconces flanking the window (without having to stress about junction boxes being where you want/need them to be).
My heart says ‘really?’ while my head says ‘what choice do we have?’. I picked the mind of the EHD crew recently while brainstorming stories for the site, and everyone was wavering just like me. At first mention of ‘track lighting’, most were like ‘yeah, no’ but the more we talked it through, the more everyone flipped the script. Then the discussion turned to what kinds of track lighting can actually look good (like, really good, not just acceptably good) and in what types of spaces. We tasked ourselves to try to find some cool track lighting and boy did we find some that we love.
I love that track above. It doesn’t exactly blend seamlessly into the wood ceiling, but the matte black and the small lights look pretty sleek.
Another matte black option, this time in a really modern kitchen. The dark tone overhead balances all the white (and the delicate frame echoes the legs on those barstools).
Keeping the spotlights clustered on either side like in this room can look pretty interesting. I’m into it. Would it have been better in white? Possibly…
The beauty of track lighting is that you can put the spotlights right where you need them, like over a dining space (without stealing too much attention from the furniture like a more dramatic chandelier would do).
In a big, long kitchen, you kind of need multiple lighting options (you want to cut your fingerling potatoes, not your fingers). A couple of simple tracks keeps things visually uncluttered. Okay, maybe I’m talking myself into this…
In a scenario where you have a really cool (but really subtle) light fixture like that bar pendant over the island, I can see how track lighting that matches your ceiling color is helpful, functional and not too, too noticeable.
They work in living spaces, too…
Convinced? (I kind of am…) Here’s the thing, though: all of these have something in common that make them work in the rooms shown above. They are all super simple, sleek and modern and while we did find a few that have two tones (see grid below), most of the ones we love are just one tone/color.
Additionally, they are all in houses that architecturally lend themselves to modern style. I would not put track lighting in our current house that is 100 years old. EVER. But I also take the rather boring view that generally, your lighting should reference your architecture and era of your house, stylistically. Don’t get me wrong, I love it when people put crazy modern fixtures in really old houses (the French love to do this and do it effortlessly) but if it’s not done right, it can look dated and disjointed. That’s all to say, it’s harder to make track lighting work in older homes – it can be done, it’s just harder.
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Above are some nice, modern track lighting 2.0-type options. The matte black and brass option in particular is pretty special (no need to hide that one up in the rafters).
Now, for the mountain house, our architect likes these (above and below) because of function – they are LED but a warm light and can be moved a lot.
I was leaning toward the track lighting with tiny round spotlights, but I’m open. I want to choose function over style but also want to make sure that these are going to either disappear or look really great.
So we went on a track lighting research mission and found some that we love (and while technically, track lights are composed of a track and lights that you clip into said track and move around – which 90% of these are – we couldn’t help but include 10%ish that have the look of tracks but not quite the same functionality).
1. | 2. | 3. | 4. | 5. | 6. Light: & Track: | 7. Light: & Track: | 8. | 9. | 10. | 11. | 12. Light: & Track: | 13. | 14. Light: & Track: | 15. | 16. | 17. Light: & Track: | 18.
As soon as we get closer to deciding what the pendants in the mountain house kitchen will be, I’ll let you know what we end up with.
So, because inquiring minds want (NEED) to know… are you pro-track lighting or anti? Do you have them in your home and just wouldn’t want to live without them? Did this post change your stance at all either way? Or are you like me where when it’s the right track lighting in the right home, it’s great?