Q: I'm planning a contemporary design for the condo that I'll soon be moving to. The choice for the dining-room lighting is perplexing, since it seems a waste not to hang a fixture from the outlet in the center of the ceiling. I'm afraid, however, that a chandelier will look old-fashioned. What do you think?
A: You don't even have to hang anything from the outlet. Even if you're unable to install recessed lighting in the ceiling you can still choose what's known as a surface-mounted fixture. This can be a simple down-light in either a single- or multiheaded array. It will certainly look contemporary, and it may even have fashionable industrial styling.
You should be aware that such a direct light will generally illuminate only the area right below it, so you'll need additional lighting in the room.
Don't forget that a simple up-light can be very effective in a situation like this. Placed on the floor near a tall plant, it will draw attention to the foliage and to the shadow patterns it casts on the ceiling.
But before you invest in such a multifaceted lighting system, take a look at a few of the ceiling-suspended fixtures that are capable of illuminating most of your dining room.
A round table like yours calls for a circular fixture, perhaps like the one shown. This Italian-designed fixture, now manufactured in the United States, makes use of three halogen lights to illuminate the whole tabletop. It also spills light into the rest of the room by means of the two glass discs.