From bare-bulb looks to twisty wires, whose teeny lights resemble fireflies, and multiple pendant installations at staggered heights, lighting has emerged as one of the most exciting elements of home decor.
In foyers and stairwells, over dining tables and on walls, lighting is making a dramatic statement. As a focal point, it can infuse energy into a vanilla interior.
"I've always craved light -- layers of light for my own rooms and the homes I design for others," says Atlanta interior designer Beth Webb. "Light is essential to life. Light is joy. Light creates ambience and it infuses a house with psychological warmth."
Modern styles have been the most illuminating in recent years. The range of materials include the familiar -- metals, glass, wood, rattan, stone, shell, fabric -- but it's the way those materials are being put together that's impressive. Architectural and sculptural forms transform some lights to art.
Industrial styles marry with romantic crystals. Retro looks bring sputnik forms into a new era with a fresh perspective. Tiers of cascading lanterns range from metal to seashells and shimmering crystals. Some linear shapes have morphed to freeform metal tubing that snakes around spaces. Even sconces are stretching across walls with branchlike arms, some to be configured as you wish. Scale is huge, literally and figuratively, and hanging pendants in multiples speaks volumes. In addition, the option for customizing has made new designs more appealing.
"What's happening with lighting is incredible," says Houston designer Margaret Naeve. "It's super important. People are paying more attention to it at the beginning of their projects. Lighting has become more of a star. Light can change a room, evoke a feeling."
LED (light-emitting diode) technology has been a real game changer for product. Not only are the bulbs smaller and literally cooler, they allow more creative applications.
The appreciation for handcrafted, artisanal pieces continues to grow. There also are hybrids, such as some of the new table lamps that seem more like light sculptures or objects that simply light up. Handblown glass sparkles, evoking raindrops, icicles, starry constellations.
Even classic designs are being tweaked, sometimes with more durable materials, reinterpretations in scale or new colors.
At virtual design shows in Paris (Maison and Object) and London (London Design Fair) in September, as well as October's High Point Market, illuminating introductions cover a wide swath of categories.
And now that designer show houses are opening up again, it's an opportunity to see first-hand some of the newest fixtures and applications.
Naeve designed a gallery for the Kips Bay Decorator Show House in Dallas (open until Oct. 25), and she created a focal point with a spectacular light installation by Apparatus Studio. "It's a glorified hallway -- very long, very rectangular," says Naeve. "It needed a moment in the middle." The pendants, with jewelrylike chains, become a "lit sculpture in the middle of the room that defines the space."
"It adds a little magic and a moment of curiosity, too, as the last pendant almost touches the table," she says.
Looking ahead to 2021, this is what you can expect to see in lighting:
-- Bare essentials. Stripped down Edison bulbs have been electric in lighting design. They have not lost energy, but are evolving, with more movement and dynamic shapes within the classic filament pattern.
-- Global entry. There's no denying that globes and spheres are among the most popular shapes today. Clear to mottled or wavy glass, combinations of frosted or metallic with clear or white and black, in addition to a variety of colors, have lit up the choices.
-- Pump up the volume. Supersizing has been a theme with lighting designs. The approach works well above large kitchen islands and dining tables. Boxy, linear suspension lamps shine in this group. Pendants get plenty of praise, commanding a space when they're hung in multiples.
-- Geometry reigns. Hexagons, octagons, diamonds and polyhedrons have taken shapes beyond pleasant circles. These forms complement popular designs in floor and wall tiles.
-- Cagey frameups. The geometric shapes themselves become frames for lights within -- single bulbs or even traditional candle lights, which give them more gravitas.
-- Nature inspires. Biophilia has been a buzzword in decor, and the connection to nature is evident in lighting design, as well as the use of natural materials. Dimensional flowers -- metal petals or blooms in ceramic, crystal or glass strike a romantic note.
-- Natural fibers also speak to sustainability. Weaves like rattan, raffia and hemp are being integrated into lights in creative forms that also happen to be good for the environment. These materials also are appreciated for their texture and tactile dimensions. Beth Webb chose rattan to create a framework around a white linen lamp, part of her new light collection for Arteriors.
"Wicker and rattan immediately put you at ease," says Webb. "They infuse any space with a sense of approachability. Texture is my 'color.' I gravitated to the simplicity of the drum shade, with the linen diffusing the light, and softened it a bit with a slight angle."
-- Drumroll for the drum shade. The simple squarish lampshade has been elevated to its own category. Plain whites surged in restaurant design and moved into the home. Florals and horizontal stripes came into play. Last fall, menswear patterns like houndstooth and tartans were introduced by Diane Keaton. The actress's Keaton Industries teamed up with Aidan Gray Home for her foray into lighting, in a not-surprising palette of black and white.
-- Jewelry glow-ups. It's not simple adornment but jewelry that's inspiring some designers. In Jonathan Adler's Globo collection, for example, "jewels" in the form of blue acrylic relief cabochons, polka-dot the face of white lacquer cabinets. His new sconces extend that collection, lending an elegant note that's a little glam without glitz. Lariat-like roping in some pendants channels jewelry. And the Italian Twenty Brand Design (www.twentybranddesign.com) sets off rough-cut Cryrock (crystals that look like amethyst and garnet) in gleaming asymmetrical brass frames reminiscent of musical triangles.
-- Finishing touch. Black wins for its graphic edge, as in other areas of home interiors. Paired with gold (often as a liner), it's dressed up. Matte is the preferred finish, and that also seems to have rubbed off on other metals, including brass, copper and silver.
-- Arteriors, 800-338-2150, www.arteriorshome.com
-- Brokis, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.brokis.cz
-- Duistt, email@example.com, www.duistt.com
-- Hammerton Studio, 801-973-8095, http://studio.hammerton.com
-- Hubbardton Forge, 800-826-4766, www.hubbardtonforge.com
-- Jonathan Adler, 800-963-0891, www.jonathanadler.com
-- Louis Poulsen, 954-349-2525. www.louispoulsen.com
-- M. Naeve Interiors, 713-524-0990, www.mnaeve.com; Apparatus Studio lighting (www.apparatusstudio.com) available through M Naeve Interiors Boutique
-- Tom Dixon, 866-446-3140, www.tomdixon.net
-- Vanderpump Alain, 786-409-5775, www.vanderpumpalain.com