Artificial lighting is a huge part of architecture, but how design pros choose to illuminate their spaces varies. These days, lighting trends are pivoting toward extra large pendants, adjustable fixtures, color, miniature recessed cans, and highly personalized pieces that can double as art, among others.
Like everything else, lighting preferences ebb and flow with the time. Once, Tiffany lights were the epitome of a forward-thinking aesthete, but they fell out of favor a while back—at least for most home buyers and consumers. Old-style fluorescent tubes that were once ubiquitous in many American houses are hardly ever found in the average suburban home, partly because of their harsh cast and noisy, flickering performance.
Today, incandescent and compact fluorescent bulbs are still available, but more and more they are being phased out in favor of LED, which is highly efficient. As a result, the technology dominates the industry.
The Mix & Match collection is a lighting system that features three lighting designs—Gem, Ritual, and Gregg—made with blown glass techniques to achieve different finishes. These lamps are available in four different application options and three hardware finishes.
Lighting trends are much more democratic and harder to pin down. Gone are the days when a handful of trends dominated the conversation. Instead, the lighting sector is seeing interests in a broad range of styles, colors, periods, architectural influence, materials, sizes, and more.
It’s all about the function and feel of each space, says Sebring Design Build in Naperville, Ill. “Like any other part of interior décor, lighting design keeps changing,” the firm says on its blog. “Technology is one reason for these changes. As manufacturers come up with advanced fixtures and bulbs, homeowners incorporate them into their homes. Tastes and preferences also change with generations. That is why we have vintage lighting, Art Deco, Mid-century Modern and so on.”
At the 2019 edition of Euroluce, the biennial Milan, Italy-based event for contemporary lighting, manufacturer after manufacturer displayed extra large pendants, adjustable fixtures, sculptural lighting that doubled as art, colored glass pieces, and products in a wide variety of materials such as alabaster, walnut, onyx, copper, and more.
Design by Markus Johansson, the Le Klint Carronade spot pendant is ideal as a single working light or general light source for home use. The units, the manufacturer says, are perfectly sized to hang as a beautiful cluster, in a row or at various angles to highlight the rotating head feature. It has a painted aluminum shade, brass fittings, soap-washed oak or American walnut accent.
The biggest trend at Euroluce was scale—make that large scale. Brands, such as Flos, Artemide, Louis Poulsen, Hudson Furniture New York, and Marset, introduced unusually large ceiling and wall sconces that are intended for open plan environments, great rooms, or high-ceiling homes. This upscaling of lighting follows in the footsteps of other products in the home that have recently increased in size, including patio doors, windows, and tiles.
Naturally, different manufacturers and lighting showrooms are seeing different things in the market. “AMEICO is noticing an increase in demand for color in both fixtures and bulbs, an interest in experimentation in form and material as well as an increased fascination with sculptural lighting,” says Tess O'Reilly, a rep for AMEICO, a Milford, Conn.-based wholesale lighting distributor, retailer and source for the contract market.
For Progress Lighting, the top trend among its customers is designs that are cozy and warm, incorporating “luxurious textiles, inviting color palettes, and geometric patterns found across all interior design styles.”
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Designed by Jeffrey Alan Marks, the Surfrider Collection Large Pendant feature tiers of metal curves converging in an ever-widening circle. Oversized hooks suspended from a simple orb surround a floating braided metal cable. It’s shown in Maliblue.
Jennifer Kis, director of marketing for the Greenville, S.C.-based company, says Progress designers are incorporating a wide variety of influences into product development for 2020 and beyond.
“A new favorite trend combines Coastal and Modern Farmhouse elements for a casual, relaxed vibe that plays vintage elements of wood and lighting distressed finishes against a clean, light, and airy palette,” Kis explains. “Soft beachy hues in paint, accessories, and textiles contrast beautifully with black matte lighting and furniture made of distressed wood and metal.”
Kis says soft modern is another emerging trend. “The straight lines and neutral color palette of the Modern look are mixed with organic textures such as wood, greenery and colorful abstract art to soften the edge, creating a more approachable style,” she says.
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Part of the ED Ellen DeGeneres collection, the Darwin Large Pendant measures 19 inches in diameter and comes in matte white with a wood accent. It uses an A19 75-watt bulb.
Rick Leeds, director of North American contract sales for Flos USA, says one of the trends “in spaces right now is lighting as if we are working from home, and conversely living at work. “Lighting that has a residential feel (or conversely doesn’t look institutional), with great aesthetic, appropriate scale, that can be turned up brighter for intense tasks, or dimmed low for quiet, thoughtful moments, is key,” he continues.
Societal changes are affecting how designers and homeowners think about lighting, too. Based on what has happened in the last five months with the coronavirus, priorities have shifted.
“With so many of us now working from home, one major trend is that people are paying more attention to the design of their home workspaces,” says Charlie Bowles, director of lighting brand Original BTC. “Everyone wants to optimize this space the best they can. It is somewhere we are spending so much time, so why not make it great? To do this, they are seeking inspiration via Pinterest and Instagram.”
Offering an old timey vibe, the Abrams Double Sconce is made from solid brass and can be dressed up with a wide range of bulbs and shades. It may be mounted with the arms up or down.
So what do you need to consider when specifying lighting for your projects?
Progress Lighting recommends that building pros think about lighting at the beginning of the design process to give the homes the best combination of decorative and functional fixtures. The company says to think about the primary function of the space and align the lighting choices to them. “In rooms with high ceilings, use statement lighting or a decorative ceiling fan to create a focal point that adds visual interest to the space,” Kis says. “Add decorative wall sconces and pendant lights for task lighting on work surfaces, for reading, or to create ambiance.”
In addition, Kis says a light’s color temperature can influence the way the room looks and feels. “Use warmer color temperatures (2700K and 3000K) to lend a cozy and inviting glow,” she explains. “Cooler color temperatures (3000K and higher) can make the room look and feel clean and bright.”
Papillons is a new lighting collection that features iconically modern, whimsical shapes in suspension. The brand says the collection offers the pathos of Modernism and the colors of Mondrian and Miró. Papillons is offered in single, four-light, nine-light, 13-light, and 24-light versions, with a combination of black, white, red, and yellow shades.
“Designers should be thinking about how their design goals are being accomplished with the lighting they choose,” says Leeds. “We always recommend layers of light since one light is never adequate for any given space (or task). The three thought processes are best expressed by Architect Richard Kelly’s lighting design principles: Ambient Luminescence (general lighting), Focal Glow (wall washing, highlighting artwork, task lighting), and Play of Brilliants (sparkle, energy, and interest). Almost all spaces need to have all three considered.”
While some spaces are more or less straightforward to illuminate, some are more problematic. Two of these are kitchens and baths, says O'Reilly. “For kitchens, keep in mind that the position of the light should not case a shadow on your work surface as you stand at the counter,” she explains. “This is one reason why under-cabinet lights are so useful. In the bathroom, sconces placed on either side of the mirror, evenly light the face, as opposed to a fixture postponed over the mirror, which is one directional and creates shadows. In sum, when thinking about lighting spaces throughout the home, the way in which light is necessary and helpful are two of the most important questions to be thoughtfully considered.”
Important Things to Remember About Light Specification
- Start thinking about lighting and client needs early in the design process.
- Do think of using layers of lighting to illuminate rooms properly.
- Consider lights for different functions—ambient, task, and spot.
- Use statement lighting or large, dramatic lights for large spaces.
- In rooms with high ceilings, use decorative wall sconces and pendant lights for task lighting on work surfaces, for reading, or to create ambiance.
- Choose LEDs lights wherever possible.
- Remember that color temperature influence the way the room looks and feels. Use 2700K and 3000K to warm a space and use 3000K and higher for bright spaces.
For more advice, see Lighting Fundamentals by the American Lighting Association
Measuring 11 inches long and 4¾ inches wide, the Clara balances contemporary design with classical styling. The hanging glass shade encloses the included vintage filament bulb.
The dweLED Atlas LED series is reminiscent of brilliant modern artwork, the company says. It features three illuminating cubes that move independently. It has a 3000K color temperature and comes in 50-inch, 30-inch, and 41-inch sizes.
The Clifton Wall transforms virtually any of the brand’s line-voltage pendant into a wall sconce. An integrated telescoping arm accommodates pendants up to 20 inches in diameter and 20 pounds. It’s available in two finishes, Antique Bronze and Satin Nickel.
Constructed from aluminum and featuring a wood accent, the Nora pendant measures 11½ inches and uses a 40-watt, medium-base bulb.
The classic PH Artichoke fixture was given an update in CopperRose. It features 12 rows of six leaves each and provides decorative and comfortable lighting, the manufacturer says.