Of all the elements that affect the ambience of a room, none is more pivotal than lighting.
Proper lighting can warm a room, adding a glow that makes people want to linger. Poor lighting, such as lights that are too bright, can make us anxious and uncomfortable in the glare.
Beyond its mood-enhancing qualities, good lighting is essential: It saves us from bumping into furniture or tripping on the area rug. And we need it for reading and doing basic tasks, such as cooking.
It also can be used to show off our treasures or even serve as a decorative focal point.
Style aside, the most illuminating approach to bringing function and mood together is balance -- a combination of light sources that may include recessed or track, table and floor lamps and, increasingly, some sort of hanging fixture.
Many people associate chandeliers with elegant hotels or old movie palaces, where massive baroque things dripping with crystals rival those in Versailles.
It doesn't have to be so. But even modern formal dining rooms seem to demand a fancy fixture over the table. The most popular choice is a simple, traditional, multiarmed and candled chandelier of, perhaps, brass and glass, or of tasteful metals decorated with crystals to refract the light.
Style certainly is one reason that hanging fixtures are getting more hang time. They're moving from breakfast and dining rooms to living rooms, libraries, bedrooms, baths, entries, hallways and even outdoors under enclosed porches or in gazebos.
Suspended light fixtures may bring sparkle to a space, along with a dash of color and even sculpture that help define architecture or evoke romance. From the rich to the exotic, the dynamic to the quietly compelling, aimed at the ceiling or pointed down -- even though they're more light-catching than light-giving, they shed a lot of light on style.
Until recently, we really haven't seen a lot of chandeliers or, for that matter, pendants. No, we're not talking about necklaces or earrings, although the new pendant lighting certainly is as much an accessory for a room as jewelry is for clothing.
Pendants refer to hanging lights, a single one, a pair or clusters that can stand alone or be grouped. They represent one of today's hottest lighting styles. Some companies have designed them to be part of track systems (which make them easy to install). These orbs can be teeny, simply dainty halogens dressed with vivid glass shades or even beaded "hats." Because they're small, they can be placed over objects -- spotlighting a small end table, for example, or a pedestal that holds a piece of art -- without overpowering them.
Renewed interest in pendants and chandeliers has inspired design and material choices: metal (brass, stainless steel, wrought iron, bronze, copper); glass (American or Murano, hand-blown in bright colors, muted pastels or escavo, the textured frosted glass that's supposed to look as if it were just unearthed from a ruin); wood (natural, painted or gilded); even fabric (cotton, linen, silk). Combinations expand the style possibilities.
And the price range is considerable: from about $50 to tens of thousands of dollars.
Baccarat commissioned French designer Andree Putman to design a lighting collection that includes a contemporary chandelier, a simple, cone-shaped shade edged in dagger-shaped prisms, that sells for about $4,000.
Also at the high end are the silk fabric, tasseled lamps of Mariano Fortuny, a Venetian designer known for his artistry in textiles.
Some hanging fixtures can soften a stark or clean-lined room. Resolute's paper shades are reminiscent of the Japanese art of origami, with their folded shapes that may be elongated or crimped like playful hats. Light passing through the paper creates a filtered glow, adding another dimension. They're also attractively priced, from $75 to $350.
In small spaces such as entries, powder rooms or above kitchen islands or counters, glass shades add punch. Their shapes, from simple globes to cones to cylinders (with or without wiggles that suggest art as much as utility), can be arresting. These lamps can be accentuated by suspending them from skinny cables, which sometimes are twisted, adding another element to the design.
Some pendants come in ethnic styles evocative of Moorish bazaars or vintage European streets. Hung in a foyer or powder room, they add Old World charm.
Shades, incidentally, play a key role in the pendant/chandelier story. They can add significantly to the design. Translucent shades cast soft shadows; opaque shades, pools of light. Color, especially through glass, may create an almost kaleidoscopic effect.
Among the more unusual chandeliers are the Murano glass fixtures that are part of the Venexiana collection of VeArt, a division of Artemide. They're a riot of color, like some exotic sea anemones with multihued tentacles. They sell in the $3,000 to $5,000 range.
Robert Sonneman also has introduced an unusual selection of elegant but playful pendant lamps for George Kovacs. His Bijou design resembles a court-jester hat, but its beautiful, mica-tone glass shade with metal strands that hang from a single sphere and scroll up into acrylic balls the size of marbles, are undeniably Hollywood glamorous.
The Bijou style comes 24 inches high with a 6-inch glass shade or 26 inches with a 10-inch shade in gold or silver finishes, for $560 or $625.
Pub Date: 6/22/97