The light choice: How to pick the right fixtures
By Lindsey M. Roberts,
Choosing a lamp seems simple. But the number of decisions that go into it can be daunting. “People get confused about sizing, if the style is going to fit the room, if it’s going to give off the right amount of light, all the different price points,” says Zoe Feldman, a Georgetown interior designer. All those factors can add up to a stunning space — or one that’s significantly lacking. “Without the proper lighting, the space is sort of dead,” she says. We asked Feldman and others for their advice on the right lighting styles, shades and hanging heights to bring a room back to life. Though they disagreed on some things, there was at least one rule they all agreed on: To have your home ready for any kind of moment or mood, every light should be on a dimmer.
No dark corners
Have a dark corner but no room for an end table? Try a floor lamp. Besides his own, Rick Singleton, a D.C.-based lighting artist, thinks there are three good types of floor lamps to go with. The first is a torchier on a dimmer. “You get the light that bounces off the ceiling and diffuses around the room,” he says. The second is a multi-armed candelabrum with a shade. And the third is a pharmacy lamp, such as Restoration Hardware’s 1900s Pharmacy Floor Lamp, good for reading ($249, Restoration Hardware).
Add some glamour
A good chandelier is like a good necklace: ready to transform any outfit or space into something a bit more special. Gale Singer, owner of Circa Lighting, says the Oslo Chandelier is a bestseller because of its glamorous crystal beads yet simple, traditional shape. She suggests hanging chandeliers five feet above the floor in dining rooms, unless the ceiling is especially high ($1,008, Circa Lighting).
Classics are classic for a reason
“I just so often think that things are overdone in the lighting category,” says longtime D.C. designer Frank Babb Randolph. For that reason, he overlooks trendier pieces for classics such as the Tizio Table Lamp, designed by Robert Sapper in 1972, best for task lighting in drawing rooms and home offices ($525, Museum of Modern Art).
For the bedroom, Randolph says a swing-arm lamp, such as the classic Hinson, is the go-to choice. “There’s nothing like a swing-arm lamp in the bedroom because it gives you the proper lighting at the proper height,” he says. Similar lamps can be found in many places, such as the Classic Swing Arm Lamp by Circa Lighting ($252, Circa Lighting).
Another classic is the Anglepoise Lamp Original 1227 desk lamp. Designed by George Carwardine in 1932, it was rereleased last year by Anglepoise for its 75th anniversary ($250, Rejuvenation).
Tips for your table
Choosing a table lamp can be trickier than choosing a bedside or task lamp, because there are so many choices. If you’re overwhelmed, Interior designer Zoe Feldman suggests a gourd, such as the Porcelain Table Lamp by Garnet Hill. “There’s tons of different ceramic gourds that are all sorts of colors,” she says, making it easy to find one that complements your color scheme. For shades for any type of lamp, Feldman recommends a basic white linen or paper shade in a drum shape ($231, Garnet Hill).
“When done in pairs, table lamps can create a nice amount of symmetry,” Feldman says. “Especially if you don’t have matching end tables.” For an edgy modern option, consider the Concrete Cube Mini Lamp by Regina-Andrew Design ($210, Neiman Marcus).
How big should a table lamp be? When debating about size, Feldman says, “Err on the side of bigger rather than smaller.” West Elm’s Perch Table Lamp would be a good fit for a small end table ($69, West Elm).
Lighting as art
Lighting can be classic and subtle, but it can also be the perfect finishing piece for a room in need of distinctive art. “Many times in the rooms that are going to be visible to guests, like a powder room or dining room, people will go a little bit over the top and choose statement pieces,” says Circa Lighting’s Singer. The Large Wire Globe Lantern by the Richmond bloggers of Young House Love is a good eye-catching complement for traditional or modern homes ($89, Shades of Light).
For a really funky piece of lighting art — appropriate for a kitchen, rec room or even a teenager’s room — try Vintage Marquee Lights, in letters or numbers ($229, Vintage Marquee Lights).
Consider the bulb
Though they’re often concealed by shades, don’t overlook bulbs: Retro Edison-style bulbs such as West Elm’s are making a comeback just as manufacturers are pushing toward more energy-efficient options ($12, www.westelm.com).
“Keep in mind that these bulbs are more decorative,” says Tina King of Rejuvenation home and lighting store. “They should be used for ambiance, not to light a kitchen where brighter light is needed for your work area.” A tungsten bulb such as the 30W Radio-Style Small Tungsten Filament Bulb from Rejuvenation is another option for imitating the glow of candlelight ($10, Rejuvenation).
If you’re going to go with a retro bulb, make sure that your fixture shows it off, as does the glass bell shade on Crate and Barrel’s Lander Sconce ($149, Crate & Barrel).
Roberts is a freelance writer.
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