September 15, 2013

Right lights enhance decor

You'll find the degree to which a great lamp can improve a room downright illuminating.

By MELISSA RAYWORTH The Associated Press

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?

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Designer Brian Patrick Flynn uses white plastic globe lights when decorating children's bedrooms. Globe lights cast a flattering glow, and they are sturdy but stylish.

The Associated Press

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Designer Brian Patrick Flynn groups several vintage George Nelson bubble pendants to create a warm pool of light in the bedroom.

The Associated Press

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"Lamps are one of the most important factors in a room's design," says 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 on choosing the perfect lamps, lampshades and lightbulbs to achieve maximum style and function.

OVERHEAD AND EYE-LEVEL

If a room has no overhead lighting or wall sconces, these designers say it's worth hiring an electrician to add them.

Flynn recommends using 2-inch or 4-inch recessed halogen lights overhead, rather than brighter 6-inch can lights.

"They instantly fill a room with the much-needed illumination," he says, "but without looking tacky or heavy."

Wall sconces also cast a flattering glow, and can serve as striking decorative pieces. Vintage (or new vintage-style) sconces are popular, says Burnham, 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 says, 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 "prison-like," Luetkemeyer says. "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 says. 

Flynn accomplishes this by choosing lamps at various heights. "It's all a game of scale and proportion," he says.

"If the lamps are going on a tall console table with a super long piece of art hung above it, I'm definitely going to be looking for tall, slender, maybe candlestick-style lamps. On low-to-the-ground end tables, I'm most likely going to aim for something squatty which is balanced with the proportion of the table and its nearby seating."

GO RETRO

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 says. "Since they're offered in many shapes, they're almost like art. The ideal place for Edison bulbs is romantic spaces which are not high-traffic. 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." Burnham points out that these bulbs' popularity may not last, so it's probably impractical to invest in too many lamps or fixtures that look good only with them.

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 says.

"I use these a lot, especially in kids' rooms," he says, "due to their fun shape and nostalgic appeal." Buy plastic globes rather than glass if you'll be hanging them in rooms where kids may be roughhousing.

Another option: vintage Nelson pendants, which are made of wire and vinyl in many shapes and sizes.

"One of the best investments as far as lighting is concerned is to invest in classic George Nelson bubbles," Flynn says. "I love to group them together and hang them above beds or dining tables."

FORGET OLD RULES

Don't feel obligated to use the lampshade that comes with a lamp, Burnham says. 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.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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This geometric metal pendant light by Crystorama is a stunning addition to an entryway.

The Associated Press

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A chandelier brings a decorative and unexpected touch to a normally task-oriented space – the bathroom.

The Associated Press

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Homeowners often give lighting far less attention than furniture or wall color. But the right lamps, lampshades and lightbulbs can make a huge difference.

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