For many people, lighting in the home is an afterthought at best, or just something to be dealt with, at worst. In reality, lighting is important not just for providing the right levels of illumination, but also for adding ambiance, style and artistry.
Today’s lighting fixtures are integral elements in home decor that add sparkle and personality to any room. The type of lighting you choose can enhance a space, expressing personal desires and playing up the features that you have already incorporated. The styles available are nearly endless and there’s a fixture that is ideal for every space.
Different Types of Light
But before you choose a specific fixture, it’s important to know about the different types of lighting sources that are available. Each type has its advantages and disadvantages and they all emit light with different qualities. Here’s a rundown on the types of lighting sources available and what distinguishes each type.
It used to be that this was pretty much the only type of lighting used in residential homes. Incandescent bulbs have – until recent years – been what people refer to when they talk about a light bulb. These standard bulbs screw into a base and create light by using electricity to heat a miniature coil or filament, causing it to glow. Not only are they cheap to make, incandescent bulbs are good for throwing light in all directions and are known for being very good at rendering color.
Incandescent bulbs are generally the least efficient type, create heat and are limiting when it comes to the fixture designs that they can be used in. Some bulbs have “long life” construction with stronger filaments, but these are even less energy efficient.
Some US states already ban incandescent light bulbs and manufacturers are all working toward producing more efficient bulbs. Some changes in the US are expected to go into effect by 2025, introducing requirements for more energy-efficient lighting. New regulations for producing more light with less energy will knock the more wasteful incandescent and halogen bulbs off the market in the coming years.
Halogen lighting is a type of incandescent bulb that is more energy-efficient than the standard type. They are actually made of small capsules filled with halogen gas that enclose the heated filament, increasing efficiency. Some also have a special coating on the glass to boost efficiency. They’re more expensive to buy but less costly to use.
That said, there are distinct disadvantages to halogen bulbs. They really emit a lot of heat — sometimes too much heat to sit under. Plus, anyone who has accidentally touched a halogen bulb that was recently switched off can attest to how searingly hot they get. Halogen bulbs often need to be used with a metal shield for protection In case they explode – which they indeed can do. All this heat can make them more hazardous and severely limit the types of designs in which they can be used.
The fluorescent lights we probably know best are the circular and tubular styles found in public buildings, stores and offices. These were often used areas of the home that need extra illumination, like laundry rooms, kitchens, workshops or closets. Now, however, the search for more efficient lighting has brought a compact form of the technology into residential settings.
Compact fluorescent lamps, known as CFLs, typically have an integral ballast and a regular screw-in base. While they have been used for the same types of home locations, they are becoming more common in all areas of the home. CFLs have the same energy efficiency that traditional fluorescent bulbs do, but with the convenience of regular incandescent bulbs and an energy savings of 75%. They also last up to 15 times longer than a typical light bulb. Finally, recycling is key for fluorescent lighting because every bulb contains a tiny amount of mercury, which can be environmentally hazardous.
Light-emitting diode (LED)
LED stands for light-emitting diode (LED) and this technology has not only improved energy efficiency but has also led to revolutionary changes in lighting designs. LED lights are durable and energy -efficient, last 25 times longer and stay cool to the touch. This last quality means that they can be used in innovative designs where incandescent bulbs never could.
The light source – the LED – is typically only about 5 millimeters in diameter, and white light is created by using a mix of green, red and blue. LEDs emit light in one direction, which makes them great for task lighting. These lights are also safe, not just because they stay cool but also because in smaller products they are often used in an epoxy housing, not glass. A good example is in strings of Christmas lights.
As great as they are, LEDs do have a few disadvantages. First, they are not always dimmable, so it’s important to pay attention when shopping. The other drawback can be that they emit more blue light, which at this point in time, scientists say can disrupt the sleep cycle and upset natural circadian rhythms.
For outdoor lighting, the most energy-efficient option is solar. Landscape and other outdoor lighting based on solar power is easy-care and won’t affect your monthly electric bill. Of course, not every geographic area or piece of property is conducive to using solar lighting. Climates that are very cloudy or areas that are heavily shaded may not be able to provide enough light and the fixtures will not run as long as intended. Less light in the shorter winter months will also affect run times by as much as 30 to 50 percent.
A Mass of Glass Globes
Chandeliers used to be rather predictable in general shape, but now that different types of ceiling installations the range of options is oh-so-much wider! This fixture by Embassy Interiors of Poland is a mass of oversize dimpled glass globes, that are suspended at different heights from the metal plate on the ceiling. This type of fixture is ideal for a tall entryway, a large dining area or room with a higher ceiling.
Outdoor Accessory Lighting
As we turn our outdoor spaces into extensions of the interior rooms, accent lighting can help create the right mood outside too. The Ropy Table Lamp from Royal Botania Outdoor is a perfect accent on a coffee table or side table. It has a solar LED but is also rechargeable via USB, which means you’re not tethered to an outlet and can take this cute little lamp anywhere outdoors. It is made from coated aluminum and polyolefin fiber.
Wall Lighting as Art
Wall lighting provides not only some mood illumination but is also a spectacular wall art addition. This arrangement consists of several pieces of the Folia fixture from Crystal St. Louis, which make a marvelous statement. The piece was inspired by the forests surrounding the manufacturing facility in Moselle, France. The woods are represented by the hand crafted base and the crystal shared are adorned with geometric and organic carvings that honor the leaves.
Modern Geometric Pendants
Adding a modern edge to décor is easy with geometric pendants like these from CVL. This grouping is from the company’s the Calé(e) collection of geometric patterns that play on a visual imbalance of simple forms. The arrangement is completely customizable and the cluster of pendants can be as big or small as desired. A variety of metal finishes are available but the round disc is always rendered in the black finish.
With vintage glassware as the base and inspiration, these Glass Droplet fixtures from Studio Kalff are unique creations. The combination of old and new creates a completely fresh looking pendant and transforms the function and form of the original objects. Each one is hand-made and composed of the varying elements. The fusion of the more detailed pieces with minimalist orbs and capsules create versatile pieces for almost any style of home.
Portable and Versatile
Although designed for the outdoors, Fermob’s lamps can go anywhere because these models are cordless and USB rechargeable. This collection shows the round MOOON! Lamp along with the different sizes of the Balad Lamp. The Balad is a modern interpretation of a handheld lantern while the MOOON! is fresh take on the 19th century Parisian street lamp. It also has two light temperature settings and is dimmable. In both cases, the lamps have aluminum frames and a polyethylene diffuser. As stylish as these are, they can go inside or out.
Large and Theatrical
Lighting fixtures that are large and dramatic are ideal for tall spaces like an entryway or a living space with a soaring cathedral ceiling. Modern designs like the Linea from Brand Van Egmond are as much art piece as they are a functional fixture. Like a whirl in the air, the Linea floats in the open space, displaying light and metal elements. Linear sections appear to be randomly placed yet create a beautiful, cohesive and proportional suspension light fixture that adds a sense of theatricality to the room.
Day to Night Style
Understated wall art by day and striking sconce by night. The Bahia from Foscarini has a soft look that is stylish at any time of day, reminiscent of the sun or moon. Changing shadows and depth of light that varies create a glowing light fixture that is ideal for literally any room in the home. The luminescence from the all-white piece casts a magical and diffuse glow across the wall, much like the moon itself.
Inspired by the undulating movement of sand on the ocean floor, the Mytilus is a powerful shape that conveys a sense of movement. Designed by Arturo Alvarez, these pendants are part of a larger collection, all crafted from painted stainless steel mesh, that consists of organic forms that are ceiling pendants or wall lights.
The interplay of light and shadow through the mesh brings to mind the waves and constant motion of the water and the sands, both alive and mysterious. Stylish as a single pendant, a grouping of the large and medium sizes creates an artistic array and focal point in the space.
Customizable Linear Elements
Among the many advances that LED technology has allowed is the customized modularity of lighting fixtures like the Halo Wall Sconce from Vibia of Barcelona. The linear sections can easily be styled into arrangements both big and small.
Each stick has A double methacrylate cover, which gives it a more diffused lighting quality while the LED technology is hidden. The aluminum-base fixture was designed by Martin Azùa and is part of a larger Halo collection. The beauty of the wall sconce is that imagination is the only limit to how it can be arranged.
Painted Metal Designs
Simple rounds become the basis for the uber-stylish Timeo pendant lights from Masiero of Italy. Designer Omri Revesz transforms painted metal elements into fixtures that are modern but have almost a moth-like appearance as if they are glowing beings ready to take flight. The small pendants are part of the larger Timeo family of light fixtures, which encompasses medium and large pendants with an entirely different — but still drama-filled — look. The artful pieces are ideal for a range of decor styles from modern to transitional.
Innovative Floor and Table Designs
Definitely out the ordinary when it comes to contemporary table and floor lamps, the Papilio from Masieri is a customizable design. The name is derived from the Latin term for butterfly because it was inspired by the movement of butterfly wings. The number of shades and Murano glass globes in the painted metal fixture is an individual choice and the shades can be positioned however you like — pointing upward or down. Created by Armando Bruno and Alberto Torres, the Papilio is a contemporary floor lamp that is also a fresh design addition to a room. The matching table lamp has a smaller profile but just as much style.
Funny Lighting Fixtures
To keep home design from getting too serious, it a good idea to add a little whimsy to keep the mood light and these funny lamps from Seletti are just the ticket. For a smaller touch, choose one of these cute little white mice — named Step, Lop and Mac — carrying their own lights. They’re funny lighting fixtures designed by Marcantonio that will definitely get attention from family and friends! For something a little bolder, the bug mischievous monkey can sit on a shelf or hang from the wall, offering up a bulb to light your way. Designed by Marcantonio Raimondi Malerba, the monkey also comes in a model suitable for outdoor use.
Modern Chandelier Concept
Today’s modern chandelier designs challenge the notions you probably have about chandeliers. More modular and sleek that the traditional kind, fixtures like the Interweave from Artemide combine lighting and other electronic elements like sensors and speakers. The flexible system has two sizes of cylinders that contain light sources and are also connected by a flexible LED fixture that runs among them like a visible current. Designer Pallavi Dean created the fixture, highlighting the cylinders with multiple cuts. the arrangement is completely customizable and controlled via the Artemide App or Alexa voice control. This new type of design is a creative combination of functions in the most stylish way.
Big and Bold
Big and bold lighting fixtures are a fabulous option in an open plan space because they don’t overwhelm the decor. Adriani & Rossi’s Plissè Vogue Lamp is a great example of how the right piece adds drama. The expansive fabric shade is large yet light in feeling, punctuated by a Murano glass globe at its center. Here the lamp is done in a neutral tone, but it is also available in dark gray and bordeaux. When using a statement pendant lamp fixture in the middle of the room, it’s not necessary to have a lot of detail cluttering up the space.
Artful Industrial Style
Inspired by the melting watches in paintings by Salvador Dalì, the namesake pendant light design from Tosca Design for Tonin has the same surrealist vibe. The Dalì pendant features fused glass that looks like it is melting over the solid oak wood supports that have a recessed LED light inside. The light fixture, which also comes in a table model, is suspended by a genuine leather strap. While the combination of materials gives it an industrial vibe, it is still very refined and modern lighting fixture.