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Overall, there’s a trend away from more neutral lighting to more colorful lighting. There’s much more use of colored glass which tends to have dramatic impact and, depending on the kind of glass you use, can warm up an atmosphere,” says Rick Lappin, owner of Lappin Lighting in downtown Minneapolis. During the last few years, he’s noticed lighting fixtures have become larger to accommodate the scale of today’s bigger homes.

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Spring 2007, Parade of Homes – Easy Street

Dressed-up lighting

Marcia Jedd

Lighting is taking on a larger decorative value today than ever before. Instead of simply blending into the background with matching finishes and styles throughout the home space, variety is the spice of life.

“The selection in lighting over the last several years has widened tremendously, while pricing has decreased,” says Tara Wirz, lighting designer with Lights on Broadway in Minneapolis. One case in point is the prevalence of various types of art glass – think sleek Murano, sophisticated speckled and even tortoise-shell looks.

“Overall, there’s a trend away from more neutral lighting to more colorful lighting. There’s much more use of colored glass which tends to have dramatic impact and, depending on the kind of glass you use, can warm up an atmosphere,” says Rick Lappin, owner of Lappin Lighting in downtown Minneapolis. During the last few years, he’s noticed lighting fixtures have become larger to accommodate the scale of today’s bigger homes.

The infusion of a grand variety of glass styles, colors and finishes means fixtures are more whimsical, dramatic or just plain fun. Wirz says glass colors are following the trends of paint colors, with deep browns and chocolates as one of the hottest categories. “Almost every manufacturer is doing art glass of some kind. You can easily find a large art-glass bowl pendant for over your dining room table at under $100,” she says, noting fixture makers are offering multiple price points in many popular types of fixtures.

Kari Cartier, marketing director at Cartier Lighting in Plymouth, says colored crystals are a strong trend in lighting fixtures. “They tend to have a high bling factor and are found in contemporary fixture styles such as cubes, pyramids and spirals or the more traditional heirloom, draped look.” As well, semi-precious stones like amethyst and rock crystal and even capiz shells are used.

These and other “feminine fantasy” looks are popular, says, says Deb Earl, buyer with Creative Lighting in St. Paul. She notes lighting maker Kichler offers lighting with decorative magnets such as crystals and grape motifs that attach to a metal chandelier. These types of jeweled and decorative fixtures are even showing up in powder rooms.

Lighting Basics

When planning lighting, designers say to think in terms of function or layering. “People are embracing the layer theory,” says Frankie Cameron, account manager with Bellacor in Mendota Heights. These layers are:

– ambient or general lighting;
– task lighting like under-cabinet lighting and downlights;
– focal lighting such as track lighting, and
– decorative lighting such as chandeliers and sconces.

Depending on the type of room, multiple sources of light are key to achieve a balance of light. Cartier notes today’s large spaces and high ceilings allow for generous lighting to splash walls, such as sconces. “Wall sconces add a soft glow to family rooms, home offices or any room setting. They add comfort to a space because they bring attention to the perimeter of a room and can add personality to interiors.”

Finishes have it

Lighting designers report bronze and nickel finishes in lighting fixtures are hot. To complement warm tones as seen in many popular bronze finishes, browns and ambers are popular in glass components. “Bronze and nickel finishes are the most popular and we’re starting to see bronze with little touches of gold to give even more warmth,” Earl says.

Finishes are flush with choices. Earl says many manufacturers offer their lines in bronze finishes with amber glass as well as nickel finishes with white glass, the latter combination giving a contemporary look. Wirz adds many townhome and condominium owners tend to opt for the contemporary feel of satin nickel that looks like stainless steel.

Warm tones and dark hues evoke the traditional or lean toward rustic looks found in a Tuscan villa. The Caspian series by Minka-Lavery, which includes chandeliers and pendants, uses warm-colored glass and a crackled tortoise finish, perfect for a Mediterranean or old-world décor.

While mixing and matching of lighting styles is prevalent, Cameron notes some homeowners want to match the tone of their lighting to other hardware like towel-holders and cabinets pulls. “There are companies that make light fixtures to coordinate with bath hardware. Brushed looks, nickel, chrome and iron are popular.”

Strike a mood

Innovation is found in the variety of chandeliers, pendant and other suspended lighting available today. Cartier says mini-pendant lighting is a great way to add instant color. “Colorful hand-blown hanging lights are found above a kitchen sink, center island or wet bar and peak interest.”

From sleek chrome finishes to deep red or art-glass finishes, pendants are in vogue. Wirz notes mini pendants are commonly placed in multiples over dining tables, islands and in powder rooms. Cameron adds, “Pendants are hot over peninsulas or bar areas.” Likewise, mini chandeliers are popping up all over in hallways, powder rooms and game rooms.

Chandeliers and large ceiling pendants offer similar variety. “Chandeliers can give you a lot of light without being too in your face,” Earl says, noting drum-shade chandeliers in fabrics are used in a variety of settings. “You can go all out with interesting fabric, or select neutral tones like ivory or beige.” Fabric looks in larger pendants are a hit.

In a twist from traditional dining spaces, too, rectangular chandeliers and elongated fixtures (think pool table lighting) are perfect over dining-room tables or kitchen tables, Wirz says. “People will do three mini pendants over the dining room table on a track for some really dramatic looks and even change out the glass with sets provided by the manufacturer.”

Monorail or rail systems, a newer form of track lighting, offer great flexibility because lights can be bent or moved to light specific areas. “Monorails can go anywhere,” Wirz says. “If you move into a condo and the lighting isn’t where you want it to be, you can use a monorail to essentially move your electrical without having to hire an electrician.” In addition to dining areas, hallways and L-shaped areas are perfect for these flexible systems. This means lights can be frequently adjusted and used, for instance, to spread light around a corner or an otherwise dark area.

Wirz describes a nursery in a downtown Minneapolis loft condo she outfitted with a circular monorail system featuring mini chandeliers in motifs that included bumblebees, butterflies, a hot air balloon and a biplane. On the high end, systems by Tech Lighting use bendable rail systems. On the lower end, maker George Kovacs offers systems for less than $200, Wirz says, available in two different color schemes of glass combinations. A typical system comes with six lights, but includes 12 glass sets so mixing and matching without going over budget is easy.

Energy efficient

Decorative lighting is also trending toward energy efficient. Lappin says LED (light-emitting diode) lighting has recently transferred from commercial use to the residential setting. “LED is working its way into pendants,” he says, adding that technological advances have reduced costs down while creating warmer light.

LED lights consume less than a quarter of the electricity of fluorescent but last about ten times as long. Both Lappin and Cameron note regulations in California that require certain percentages of fluorescent lighting in homes has helped increased the popularity of energy-efficient lighting everywhere. Cameron says: “That’s created the need for more decorative fluorescent lighting in sconces, chandeliers, ceiling mounts and pendants.”

Controlling light with dimmers saves energy costs while creating ambience. “When you dim your light by 10 percent, you double the life of the bulb,” Wirz says. “Many people buy dimmers that you can preset so you never have to turn on the full light.” These types of dimmer switch plates, resembling regular light switches, are found at many lighting supply and hardware stores.

Whatever the mood or décor, chances are there’s a light fixture for it today.

Marcia Jedd is a Twin Cities-based freelance writer.


Use these tips to trip the light fantastic and create some drama:

- Use variation in lighting – lots of light or the absence of light - to create drama. (Wirz)

- “Wallwashing”: flood a wall with light by placing flood lights on floors between furniture and walls, or use recessed lighting. (Wirz)

- Recessed lighting throughout the home casts shadows to create a museum-like effect. (Cartier)

- Showcase art or highlight architectural features of the space with focal lighting such as adjustable fixtures (Cameron)

- M.J.

Lighting style

EasyStreet polled the experts featured in this article to find out current trends and what’s dated in lighting design:

What’s In

- Energy-saving lighting, including LED and compact fluorescent, as well as Xenon under-cabinet lighting

- Flexible rail lighting systems

- Fixtures with warm finish tones, especially bronze

- Asymmetry such as two different lamps on either side of the couch as well as mixing and matching traditional with contemporary looks

- Chandeliers: think mini chandeliers, colored crystal and jewelry looks

- Pendants, especially in colored and specialty art glass

- Fixtures with non-traditional glass such as frosted, colored or art glass.

What’s Out

- Formal styles

- Polished brass is out but antique brass is emerging

- Old-style track lighting

- Fixtures with finishes in silver or cool tones aren’t out, just not as popular as warmer looks

- Matching fixtures throughout the space or home

- Bath lighting with glass shades covering the bulb

- Bath lighting featuring Hollywood-style strip lighting with round exposed bulbs

Marcia Jedd is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer. Her web site is www.marciajedd.com.