How Cove Lighting Can Enhance Your NYC Apartment Renovation

Discover why cove lighting is a top choice for illuminating small spaces in Manhattan and Brooklyn renovations.

March 11, 2024


mins to read

How Cove Lighting Can Enhance Your NYC Apartment Renovation

Sometimes the situation calls for cove lighting.


In apartment renovations with limited square footage, cove lighting is one of the most desirable options to illuminate a space. In this article, we’ll explain what consititues cove lighting, how these unique light fixtures can visually enhance a space and why they’re ideal for many renovations in Manhattan and Brooklyn. 

[#What]What Is Cove Lighting?[#What]

Cove lighting is a lighting technique where lights are installed in a recessed space, typically near the ceiling, to create a soft, indirect illumination that washes over the surrounding area. 

There are several types of cove lighting, but two commonly used types are:

Indirect Cove Lighting

This type of cove lighting involves installing light fixtures in a recessed space or ledge, typically located near the ceiling or upper part of the wall. The light fixtures are aimed towards the ceiling or wall, causing the light to be reflected and diffused, creating a soft, indirect illumination. This technique is often used to provide general ambient lighting or to create a sense of uniform illumination throughout the space.

Grazing Cove Lighting

Grazing cove lighting is achieved by placing light fixtures close to a surface, such as a wall or textured architectural feature, with the light directed at an angle. The light grazes across the surface, accentuating its texture, patterns, or contours. This type of cove lighting is commonly used to enhance the visual impact of specific architectural elements, such as stone walls, decorative moldings, or artwork.

Both types of cove lighting can be combined and used in various combinations to achieve different lighting effects and create a desired ambiance within a space.

Cove lighting from bathroom of Brooklyn brownstone renovation. View the full renovation before and after.

[#Optical]Why Does Cove Lighting Create Optical Illusions?[#Optical]

While cove lighting itself does not directly create optical illusions, it can contribute to the perception of certain visual effects due to the way it interacts with architectural features and human visual perception. 

Here are a few reasons why cove lighting might create optical illusions or visual effects:

Shadow Play

Cove lighting fixtures are often positioned in a way that directs light upward, causing the light to bounce off the ceiling and create a diffused glow. This can result in subtle variations in light and shadow, which can give the illusion of depth or texture on the ceiling or walls.

Accentuating Architectural Features

Cove lighting is frequently used to highlight specific architectural details, such as molding, trims, or textured surfaces. By strategically illuminating these elements, cove lighting can create the perception of depth or dimensionality, enhancing the overall visual impact of the space.

Visual Boundaries

When cove lighting is installed along the perimeter of a room, it can create a visual boundary or frame for the space. This defined edge can make the room appear larger or smaller, depending on the lighting design. By manipulating the perception of boundaries, cove lighting can influence how we perceive the size and proportions of a room.

Ambience & Mood

Cove lighting is often employed to create a specific ambience or mood within a space. By using warm or cool lighting tones, adjusting the intensity, or incorporating color-changing capabilities, cove lighting can evoke different emotions or alter the perceived atmosphere. These changes in lighting can indirectly affect how we perceive the space and the objects within it.

It's important to note that while cove lighting can contribute to optical illusions or visual effects, the extent of these effects will depend on various factors, including the design, placement, and characteristics of the lighting fixtures, as well as the overall context and visual cues present in the environment.

[#Cove]Cove Lighting In New York City Apartment Renovations[#Cove]

Cove lighting is often considered desirable in New York City renovations for several reasons:

Space Enhancement

New York City apartments and buildings often have limited space, and cove lighting can help create an illusion of a larger and more open space. By illuminating the ceiling or upper walls, cove lighting draws the eyes upward, making the room feel more expansive and less confined.

Architectural Enhancement

Many buildings in New York City have unique architectural features, such as exposed brick walls, decorative moldings, or textured surfaces. Cove lighting can be used to highlight these features and enhance their visual appeal. By strategically placing lights near these architectural elements, cove lighting can create depth, shadows, and accentuate the textures, adding character and charm to the space.

Ambient Lighting

In densely populated urban areas like New York City, it's common for buildings to be surrounded by other structures, which can limit the amount of natural light that enters the space. Cove lighting provides a soft and indirect illumination that helps to create a pleasant and inviting atmosphere. It can be used to provide general ambient lighting throughout the space without creating harsh shadows or glare.


Cove lighting is a versatile lighting solution that can be customized to suit various design styles and preferences. It offers flexibility in terms of the type of lighting fixtures used, the color temperature of the light, and the ability to incorporate dimming or color-changing capabilities. This versatility allows designers and homeowners to create different moods and ambiance within the space, catering to specific needs or preferences.

Energy Efficiency

With increasing emphasis on energy efficiency and sustainability, cove lighting can be designed using energy-efficient LED light fixtures. LED lights consume less energy compared to traditional lighting sources, helping to reduce electricity costs and minimize environmental impact.

Overall, cove lighting is desirable in New York City renovations because it provides an effective and aesthetically pleasing way to enhance the appearance, functionality, and ambiance of the space, especially in environments where space is limited, and architectural features are prevalent. 

Considering a renovation in NYC? View our full portfolio of New York City renovation before and afters, learn more about Gallery KBNY, or simply contact us today to find out why our full-service approach makes most sense when choosing a contractor in NYC.

We are an award-winning design-build firm in New York City with a full-service approach to residential renovations in Manhattan and Brooklyn that includes everything from interior design and architecture services to filing permits and construction. We’re experts in renovating pre-war homes, kitchens, bathrooms, flooring, sourcing custom pieces, building entirely new rooms, millwork, and all that falls in between. Let Gallery bring your dream home to life.

Marketing Director

Ben Bowdon

Ben Bowdon is the Marketing Director of Gallery KBNY, a full service design-build firm specializing in the design and interior renovation of apartments, townhomes, and lofts in NYC. For over a decade, Ben has navigated the ever-changing landscape of online marketing, delivering digital strategy solutions for companies of all sizes, until finding a permanent home with Gallery. As lead brand champion and curator, the proud Western Michigan Bronco strives to deliver thoughtful, industry-leading expertise to Gallery’s esteemed clientele via the most seamless omnichannel experience possible.




By providing your phone number, you agree to receive text messages from Gallery. Message and data rates may apply. Message frequency varies.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form