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What is Cove Lighting?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 16, 2024
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Cove lighting is made up of tubes or other shapes of light that are hidden high up on walls or ceilings. They are often used in architectural accent pieces, such as ledges and crown moldings. For instance, a narrow piece of cove tube lighting can be placed inside a ledge attached to crown molding on the upper parts of adjoining walls. The result of this type of lighting is a dramatic glow of light reaching upwards on several walls.

Since cove lighting effects are usually quite eye-catching and dramatic, they are often used in theaters, bars, and unique living spaces. For example, cove lights can add warm elegance and drama to a formal dining room. The tops of the walls on all sides of the dining table could have a glowing lighting effect. Some dining room designs feature a tray ceiling with cove lighting accenting it. Tray ceilings are rectangular ceiling recesses that often contain lighting fixtures in the recessed section.

Both commercial and residential living areas may be good spaces for cove lighting, as long as there are or will be architectural elements which can contain the lights. Cove lights are a form of indirect light since they are hidden within architectural features. They create mood light rather than task lighting. Task lighting refers to lights or lamps that illuminate a part of room or a piece of furniture, such as a desk, to allow a person to see better when doing tasks such as cooking, reading, or working on a computer.

In bathrooms, cove lighting is usually used in addition to lights over the sink vanity. While the main vanity lights illuminate the mirror and counter for tasks such as hand washing, cove light tubes placed above these on the upper wall can create a soft glowing effect.

Not all tube cove lighting is straight in shape. The cove light tubes may be curved to follow the line of a circular roof. This effect can be very striking and call attention to round architectural features in a home or commercial establishment.

Colored or color changing cove lights are usually more expensive than the white versions, but even a little colorful light can add big drama to a feature wall. Bold, bright shades of blue, yellow, pink, green, or other colors can be used to create dramatic ceilings in restaurants, bars, and even home theater or media rooms. The color changing effects are created through fiber optics.

Coverings in which to enclose cove lights may be custom made. For instance, rather than hiding cove tube lighting in ledges, light boxes can be constructed of crown molding or other decorative wood pieces. Fittings and an electrical cord for a regular or colored light bulb are then added, and these units can be hung high up on walls.

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