Your choice of lighting has a huge impact on how your home looks and feels. But how do you choose when the options include everything from retro Edison-style bulbs with glowing filaments to compact fluorescents, plus lamps and fixtures in every shape and size?
“Lamps are one of the most important factors in a room’s design,” said designer Brian Patrick Flynn of Flynnside Out Productions. Yet homeowners often give lighting less attention than they do furniture or wall colors.
Here, Flynn and designers Betsy Burnham of Burnham Design and Molly Luetkemeyer of M. Design Interiors share tips to achieve maximum style and function.
Wall sconces cast a flattering glow, and can serve as striking decorative pieces. Vintage (or new vintage-style) sconces are popular, Burnham said, and can be found at some flea markets.
If you buy them used, “take them to a lamp shop to check all the wiring,” she said, and replace any worn parts before installing.
But don’t light a room exclusively with overhead lighting: Light from above that isn’t balanced by lamplight can be “prisonlike,” Luetkemeyer said. “It casts a bunch of shadows and makes you look like a cadaver.”
Instead, create “pools of light” at different levels for a warm, layered effect, she said.
Flynn accomplishes this by choosing lamps at various heights. “It’s all a game of scale and proportion,” he said.
Edison-style bulbs have become popular, and look great in industrial or vintage light fixtures or in chandeliers. But they can cost as much as $15 per bulb and give off minimal light.
So use them “as sculptural features integrated into lighting,” Flynn said. For example, a chandelier above a bed in a master suite with Edison bulbs is ideal, since the room is not task-related and is meant for being sleepy and moody.”
Another vintage option is the globe light that first appeared in the 1950s. Their “milky white finish and perfectly round shape” can cast a flattering glow, Flynn said.
Another option: vintage Nelson pendants, which are made of wire and vinyl in many shapes and sizes.
Don’t feel obligated to use the lampshade that comes with a lamp, Burnham said. You can replace it with another of similar size but a different shape, style or color. Or keep the shade but add piping or ribbon to change its look.
Another bit of rule-breaking: “Chandeliers should not be limited to living rooms and dining rooms,” Flynn said. “I use them in bathrooms a lot simply to bring more of a decorative look to an otherwise task-oriented space.”
His trick for making chandeliers appear less formal? “Swap out flame bulbs for globes. It modernizes an otherwise traditional, heavy element.”
Also, consider using a floor lamp as a bedside reading lamp. Many floor lamps have bulbs that sit between 4 and 6 feet above the floor — perfect for illuminating a book when you’re propped up in bed — and they take up little space.
“One of the most practical ways to employ accent lamps is as night lights,” he said. “Many times, I’ll add a few to a built-in so the wall becomes somewhat of a dramatic feature at night.”
Flynn takes that approach with the Astro pendant light made by Crystorama. He has used it several times to add beauty and style to entryways.