Lighting design is brightening the home decor landscape. The advent of LEDs has been illuminating, and it was led to the rethinking of shapes and mixing of materials. Besides offering more versatile design, the smaller light-emitting diodes are attractive because they consume less energy and last longer.
By 2030, LED lighting will account for 75 percent of all lighting sales, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Switching to LEDS just over the next two decades could save the U.S. $250 billion in energy costs.
Leading the innovation is the pendant light, which continues to wend its way through nearly every room of the house. Often a staple in kitchens, where it shows up in pairs or a trio for task lighting over counters, the pendant has grown in size and importance. It is now taking on the chandelier -- even with its price tag, as the range may be from a few hundred dollars to just under $4,000.
"Everybody loves the pendant," say the folks at the LampsPlus catalog, suggesting it could be because of its artistry or its practicality.
"Without a doubt, the pendant chandelier is one of the most exciting types of hanging light fixtures available today," the Shades of Light catalog states. "A unique alternative to chandeliers, pendants can make a dramatic impact."
Some even suggest that for millennials, the pendant is simply a hip chandelier. While it may feature crystals or quartz that make it fancier, it's not as ostentatious as the more glitzy formal dining fixture, a plus for a younger generation, but also for Baby Boomers who are looking to simplify.
Although the discussion could well be semantic, Cecil Adams, creative director for Currey and Company, an Atlanta-based lighting and furniture brand, still holds on to the old-school definition: "To me, a pendant is a light bulb on a string."
He did concede, though, that usage has pushed the pendant to more creative applications, as well as more innovative designs that cross categories. There is stunning, artisan handblown glass, clear or colored, wavy, seeded or mottled. Fabric that's puckered or sheer, stretched over geometric frames. Paper that resembles puffy clouds. Wood or steel that's bent, laser cut or perforated so that light dances through it, as in charming Moroccan lanterns.
"We do show and sell a lot of our fixtures in multiples," says Adams. "Someone might purchase three to take place of a traditional chandelier, or hang in clusters in stairwells, foyers, powder rooms, or above a fancy bath tubs," sometimes staggering the heights for interest.
"Pendant lighting has become huge," says Patricia Davis Brown, a licensed interior designer and certified kitchen and bath designer based in Vero Beach, Florida. Davis Brown, a member of the trend-forecasting panel for the National Kitchen and Bath Association, says that horizontal formats and gold finishes are especially engaging. "And the size of the pendant has gotten much larger," she notes, with LEDs and other lights as well.
Davis Brown's blog, Dig This Design (digthisdesign.net) includes features on lighting from trends to tips.
She cites the crossover of drum lampshades to pendant styles that put the light inside as a pivotal point -- a handsome, modern option. "Some had a shabby chic style," she says. "The look is industrial, traditional, for a lot of mix and match in decor."
As we become acclimated to more substantial volumes and shapes, the design envelope continues to be pushed. You'll find styles that parallel what's happening in furnishings -- so mid-century modern, a hint of Art Deco, industrial and neo-Chinese, as well as forms compatible with emerging '70s looks are among them, and also finishes of the moment, like gold-matte and polished, burnished bronze and copper.
To track what's trending in pendants, just page through current home design magazines or retail or specialty catalogs like Lumens (www.lumens.com), LampsPlus (www.lampsplus.com) and Shades of Light (www.shadesoflight.com). You'll often find handy tips about styles, where to use and how to hang.
Some of the most prevalent directions in pendants include:
-- Seeing the light. Looking though a fixture to its light source -- Edison bulbs, LED tubes or candle lights is a favorite in industrial style. Sometimes the dressed bare bulb has beefed up or refined by a textural collar of metalwork around it, as the Hooked/Nude bulb pendant from the London brand Buster and Punch. A few years back, a conventional chandelier hung inside an acrylic box or a drum shade, surprised, with its modern, cool layered effect. Now, there's a whole new cagey category, with metal wires, rods thick black graphic frames or narrow wood strips geometrically composed to frame the light. Or in a globe crisscrossed in a string-like effect, as the 24-inch Nido Orb from Currey and Company. Or a spoke-y oval shape by Foscarini that spotlights its light source at the base, also a downlight.
-- Out of this world. Movies like "Star Wars" and "The Martian" seem to have revved up interest, but perhaps it's simply nostalgia for '50s and '60s expressions of space in galaxies, constellations or satellites. The '60s vintage Sputnik lighting by the Italian company Stilnovo is cousins with Regina Andrew's Constellation collection. Many examples in this genre have 15 or more lights. The Copernico 500 suspension lamp from Artemide, which features seven concentric circles cut from a single aluminum plate, supports 384 white LEDs. The orbs also rotate independently on two axes, allowing a range of spatial configurations, as well as closing to a completely flat plane.
-- Thin skins. Isamu Noguchi's paper light sculptures have been an icon of mid-century design, with simple crafting from handmade washi paper and bamboo ribbing in metal frames. Parisian lighting designer Celine Wright added copper foil as an accent to her Japanese paper lights in sun and moon shapes. Today, paper and fabric, some in a stretchy fiber, are being explored in a variety of looks like cotton candy, folded organic looks like nautilus, or pleated or ruched material.
-- Shaping up. With a palette including wood, stainless steel, resin, and plastics, designers are exploring ways to bend and shape, creating ribboning and ribbing, as in a bell-shaped pendant by the Scandinavian brand Muuto (available thru Lumens), which is finished in felt that hugs its fluted frame. But even traditional shapes show a spunky side with unexpected color, like four stripey bands in a pleasant range of hues on the aluminum Cirque collection, from another Scandinavian manufacturer, Louis Poulsen.
-- Tiering up. From meshy chain mail to dangling crystals and quartz to mirrored glass (Global Views), these layered pendants beef up volume and offer interesting pairings. A pendant "chandelier" from LUXXU that channels the interior architecture of New York's Guggenheim Museum, for example, features four stacked gold-plated brass bands, from which dangle graduated strands of black Swarovski crystals.
-- Surface interest. Textures and dimensions are explored with materials unusual for lighting, such as concrete, at Regina Andrew, and laser cutting and perforation, digitally etched metals as well as three-dimensional layering from Tom Dixon. One pendant from Kelly Wearstler resembles a porcupine: It's an assemblage of thin rods pointing out, with LEDS nestled within.
-- Lining up. You may notice that this type of linear rectangular or elliptical pendant or chandelier also is referred to as "suspension lighting," because it is suspended by one to three cords, depending on its length. Hybrids feature arms coming out of a smallish central globe or twisting, turning and angling about. The linear look has become a go-to for modern style and is resonating not only in use over counters and dining tables, but even in hallways, says Cecil Adams, where a narrow configuration may be more suitable. ET2 Lighting (at Lumens) features an arresting fixture with 24 LEDS suspended in glass droplets from a metallic canopy.
-- Strength in numbers. Designers have played with positioning by staggering pendant heights, sometimes even mixing sizes and shapes. The effect can be quite artistic, like light sculpture that adds a new dynamic to space. Kichler's Danika linear suspension is an example. Simple steel pendants with adjustable arms, in a white finish and natural wood accents, are assembled in three heights. Lighting designers surely have taken note, and are "pre-assembling." John Pomp's glass lights are especially impressive, as they combine clusters of up to 20 under a square or round canopy.
With so many options, consider your needs for the strength of light you need as well as making a statement.
"Decorative lighting is there to create a mood," says Davis Brown. "Lighting is so important for the ambience of a room."
-- Jonathan Adler, 800-963-0891, www.jonathanadler.com
-- AERIN, 866-647-3330, www.aerin.com
-- Arturo Alvarez, www.arturo-alvarez.com
-- Regina Andrew, 734-250-8042, www.reginaandrew.com
-- Artemide, 877-278-9111, www.artemide.net
-- Baker Furniture, 800-592-2537, www.bakerfurniture.com
-- Buster + Punch, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.busterandpunch.com
-- Currey and Company, 877-768-6428, www.curreycodealers.com
-- Tom Dixon, 212-228-7337, www.tomdixon.net
-- Elk Lighting, 866-344-3875, www.elklightinglights.com
-- Flos, 888-952-9541, www.flos.com
-- Framburg Lighting, 800-796-5514, www.framburg.com
-- Global Lighting, 800-326-0725, www.globallighting.com
-- Hubbardton Forge, 800-826-4766, hubbardtonforge.com
-- LightArt, a 3form company, 206-524-2223, www.lightart.com
-- John Pomp, 215-426-7667, www.johnpomp.com
-- Kichler, 866-558-5706, www.kichler.com
-- Louis Poulsen, 954-349-2525, www.louispoulsen.com
-- LZF, based in Valencia, Spain, distributed through Lumens Catalog, 877-445-4486, www.lumens.com
-- Northern Lighting, distributed by Global Lighting (800-326-0725, www.globallighting.com)
-- Studio A Home, a Global Views Company (globalviews.com), studioa-home.com
-- David Trubridge (www.davidtrubridge.com), distributed through Lightology, 866-954-4489, www.lightology.com
-- Visual Comfort and Company, 866-344-3875, www.visualcomfortlightinglights.com
-- Waterworks, 800-899-6757, www.waterworks.com
-- Kelly Wearstler, Kelly Wearstler Online Store, 855-295-3559, www.kellywearstler.com
(For editorial questions, please contact Clint Hooker at email@example.com.)