Light Your Way

Curved Track Lighting: Flexible, Monorail and Fixed Tracks

Curved track lighting provides texture to your ceiling and flexibility to your lighting design.


Curved track lighting breaks the mold of traditional track lighting. Historically, track lighting has been limited to straight, industrial looking tracks. This is the result of its origin in museum lighting, where its primary purpose was to light art objects against the wall. As it moved into the home, people became increasingly unhappy with such simple design. As a result, curved tracks became available. These tracks provide all of the function of traditional straight tracks, but provide interesting opportunities for shaping your ceiling and making it a work of art in itself.

Curved track lighting comes in a number of different types. The first is flex track lighting. These tracks can actually be bent to the exact configuration that you require. The second is modular curved track lighting. These tracks come in preset curves that may be assembled into the overall pattern that you wish. Finally, there is fixed curve track lighting. These tracks come with a preset curved shape that you can use where you wish. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, and I will discuss each of these in turn.

Using Curved Track Lighting

Curved Track Lighting

Notice how the track draws the eyes up and across the kitchen.

Curved track lighting doesn’t simply “look cool”. It serves a very special function in terms of your room’s overall design. Specifically, it has the effect of drawing the eyes of your guests both upward and across you ceiling. When installing curved tracks, then, you should think about where exactly you want your guests to look. For example, do you have an especially attractive mantle piece? Do you have a direction you would like your guests to travel? You should consider these aspects when installing the track.

Drawing the eye works especially well when using dual tracks. This is because the eye will naturally follow the wide end of a line to the narrow end of the line. Take for example track lighting in a living room. You want your guest’s eyes to be guided toward your fireplace. How should this work? Place your tracks in such a way that they are further away from each other at the location where you expect your guests to enter the room, but closer together near the fireplace. In this way, you guide the guest’s eye forward.

Tracks can also work with only a single track involved. In this case, the eye will be drawn from the close end of the track to the far end. This can be especially attractive in hallways. The track will guide your guests’ eye from the end of the hallway at which they are to the other end of the hall. This works in both directions. This has the effect of making your hallway look longer, bringing your guests’ eyes from the close to the far end.

Curved track lighting also generally has the effect of drawing your guests’ eyes upward. At this point you need to ask yourself a question: do you want your guests to look at your ceiling? In many rooms, having a blank area on the ceiling can actually be distracting, and curved track lighting will make the ceiling more lively. In other rooms, you may find the curved tracks too busy. It is a judgement call based your room’s décor.

Flexible Track Lighting

Bent Flexible Track

Flexible track lighting can be shaped in just about any way you wish.

Flexible track lighting is actually bent by you to exactly the curvature that you want. This has the advantage that it can be made any shape. You can bend the track into elaborate shapes that are limited only by your imagination. Do you want the pendants in your room to be hanging from a spiral track? Do you want a track that exactly conforms to the contour of your contemporary kitchen counter? With flexible track lighting, you can do this and more.

The difficulty with flexible track lighting is that it can be difficult to produce symmetrical effects correctly. If you wish to put your track lighting in the form of a perfect “S”, you will need to ensure that you bend the track lighting to exactly the same (and reflected) shapes on both ends. While this is possible, it will take some work to do correctly. Similarly, circles can be surprisingly difficulty to produce, as can any shape where one shape is designed to echo another. If you wish to use symmetrical shapes, you are probably better off using modular curved track lighting.

Modular Curved Track Lighting

Track Lighting Pieces

Modular, monorail track lighting kits like this one, available from Amazon, provide flexibility in your design.

Modular track lighting, sometimes called “monorail track lighting”, comes in a number of different curved shapes that you can choose to put together. This can include quarter circles, which turn at a ninety degree angle, but also more fluid curves, bending at thirty degrees, sixty degrees or other angles. These tracks are designed in a lot of ways like a children’s train track. By assembling the tracks in set orders, you can produce a variety of curves that are symmetrical or simply fit your geometrical vision.

One fun thing you can do is to produce a “snake” using modular track lighting. In this case, you use a lightly curved track followed by an identical track that curves in the opposite direction. By arranging your track in this way, you will produce a snake-like track that can look especially attractive in hallways in other rooms where you wish to give your ceilings texture. These patters can be easily created and, if you add some tracks with sharper curves, you can even make the snakes travel around your ceiling.

Fixed Curved Track Lighting

Fixed Curve Track

Fixed tracks can include their own decorative elements, like these bars connecting the curves.

Fixed curved track
Fixed tracks can include their own decorative elements, like these bars connecting the curves.

Fixed curved tracks are made by designers with predesigned curves that are intended to provide decorative objects in themselves to your ceiling. They can often be quite elaborate, with curves heading in opposite directions, and they can include decorations, such as curved endings for tracks and even vertical curves that are very difficult to create yourself, even using flexible track lighting. Some of these curved tracks will have decorations at the end that look nothing like tracks, but rather like metallic mouldings. In fact, some of these fixed tracks don’t even look like track lighting at all.

The downside to this type of curved track lighting is the same as its upside. The track itself is completely inflexible. As a result, you should think of purchasing fixed curved track lighting in much the same way as you should consider purchasing a lighting fixture, work of art or other decoration for the room. If you like how it looks and think it would look attractive in your room, then it may be the right decision. If you don’t, then you’ll need to move onto another product. Fortunately, there is a wide array of fixed curved track lighting available, so that you will have hundreds of options.

Putting It All Together

Curved track lighting has changed the face of track lighting. There are no longer only the industrial looking straight tracks that so many people are used to:

  • Tracks can be used to guide the eyes of guests’ to objects of interests or in the direction you wish them to travel.
  • Tracks can be decorative works in themselves, adding texture to your ceiling.
  • Flexible track lighting can provide numerous shapes, but are poor for symmetrical patterns.
  • Modular ceiling track lighting provides a number of symmetrical shapes, but provides fewer options than flexible track.
  • Fixed ceiling track lighting should be treated like decorative objects in themselves, to the point where many don’t even look like track lighting.

Curved track lighting, therefore, provides you with some unique and exciting options for your ceiling lighting design.


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