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Seeing the light: The latest in illumination

During the dark days of winter and beyond, lighting can illuminate your rooms and set the tone for your home. While functional in nature, the latest fixtures and lamps have become more decorative to add glamour wherever they land.

One reason lighting has seen a resurgence from a decorative standpoint is that consumers are more design savvy, says Greg Martin, creative director of design for Kichler Lighting. “We’re in a global pandemic where people look at things a lot longer that they might have before, like their lighting that might be old and tired. They want to update with something that speaks more to who they are.”

Martin also credits HGTV for letting people see behind-the-scenes how much lighting contributes to the look of a space. In addition, trend-forward retailers like Target and IKEA show consumers how unique these pieces can be.

Social media sites like Instagram highlight the latest styles, too, like larger fixtures. “Scale became increasingly important,” says Martin. “Whether you have a chandelier or a pendant, they’re bigger and more sculptural now. Lighting is still functional, but people also want forms that are an extension of their own personal style.”

Natural woods, wood-like finishes and stone have been popular. “They let you bring nature indoors,” he says. Rattan and lighter woods emphasize nesting at home and coziness with warm tones like greige that are trending. Brass and golds are in demand and black is still going strong.

Fixtures with integrated LED lights can be more sculptural. “They can be thinner and more elegant,” Martin says. Even outdoor lighting has become more decorative. “Black is outselling everything else and wall lanterns with a larger scale can be a statement piece. They almost become an architectural feature outside of the house,” he adds. Landscape lighting that can be controlled remotely has also been trending.

In new homes that often include downlights, Martin says people still want fixtures like chandeliers that are more sculptural. “They don’t just want a big empty space above a dining table or a kitchen island,” he says. “Fixtures add visual interest and more ambient or mood lighting, so there’s still a functional aspect. People have become more knowledgeable about health and wellness and they want the right kind of light for the task like a dimmer one for a cup of tea in the morning and a brighter one for cooking.”

Lighting the way

Maria Kramer, gallery director for City Lights Detroit at the Michigan Design Center in Troy describes lighting as the jewelry of the home. “A chandelier can add glam to a space if you want to dress it up, or it can add an architectural element to enhance the rest of the décor,” she says.

Placement can make a statement, too. “People put chandeliers over the bathtub to give a spa-type look to the space,” says Kramer who suggests checking with your city first for local building codes. “A chandelier can even go in a more utilitarian area, like a butler’s pantry for an elegant touch.”

It’s important to know the dimensions of a space and the ceiling height before making your selections. People often come to the City Lights Detroit showroom, Michigan’s exclusive Visual Comfort & Co. designer lighting gallery, which is open to the public, with magazine images of their dream fixture that might not fit.

It also helps to think of lighting in layers. “There isn’t one decorative fixture that was intended to light an entire room,” says Kramer. “You can have a beautiful chandelier with some table lamps and floor lamps and add picture lights on a bookcase to keep it warm.”

Lighting can add so much to a home at this dreary time of year. “The beauty with interior lights is that you can control them so you have a nice warm glow in your home,” she says.

In addition to chandeliers and pendants, other ceiling fixtures include lanterns, hanging shades, flush mounts and semi-flush mounts. “Pendants can be so versatile,” says Kramer. “One can go on either side of a vanity in a bathroom. You can have a group on a kitchen island or a solitary pendant to highlight a space like a bar or a pantry.”

Wall sconces have become more popular. “People are adding them where they haven’t had them before,” she says. Portable plug-in styles that don’t require electrical work are easy to add above a sofa in a living room or by your nightstands in a bedroom.

Table lamps – often purchased in pairs – can add color to a space, like the green ceramic styles that have been trending. “They can go in a bedroom or on a buffet or an entry table,” says Kramer. Customers looking for floor lamps tend to want more functional types with flexible features like adjustable arms.

While some prefer traditional lighting and others favor contemporary, the materials can often be the same with traditional styles featuring more details than streamlined pieces. Current favorites include brass and gold.

Lastly, Kramer says LED lighting has become more available in decorative fixtures. Switching to LED bulbs may help homeowners save some money on their electric bill, but it’s important to know what color temperature to get for a cohesive glow.

Bright spot

Kelley Mason, manager of content + creative for Lulu and Georgia agrees that lighting has long been seen as the jewelry of a room. “Now more than ever, I think we're seeing a lot of showstopping and funky pieces – lighting essentially as art,” she says. “Table lamps that look like modernist sculptures, intricately balanced linear hanging pieces, and fluted and textured shades feel really fresh to me.”  

Mason also loves playing with scale. “Whether it is a small table lamp in a bedroom or an oversize pendant light above a dining table, it can add playfulness to a room,” she says.

“Lighting is also a great avenue to mix design styles or bring in vintage pieces. A pair of mid-century sconces – as well as being great conversation pieces – can be just the right quirky piece to take a more contemporary powder room to the next level.”

The easiest and most popular forms to upgrade a space are table and floor lamps that don't require hardwiring and professional installation. Ceiling and wall fixtures complete the look. “I love sconces and pendants in bedrooms and bathrooms, and chandeliers look great over a dining table or in a foyer,” says Mason.

Natural materials are being incorporated into the latest lighting, whether it’s a woven rattan pendant, stone base table lamp or wooden floor lamp. “High-quality materials with an artisan feel will always look on-trend and last as an heirloom piece,” she says.

Jeanine Matlow writes the Smart Solutions column in Homestyle. You can reach her at