Illumination game: New technology helps brighten world

Elaine Markoutsas
Universal Uclick

Lighting design is brightening the home decor landscape. The advent of LEDs has been illuminating, and it was led to the rethinking of shapes and mixing of materials. Besides offering more versatile design, the smaller light-emitting diodes are attractive because they consume less energy and last longer.

By 2030, LED lighting will account for 75 percent of all lighting sales, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Switching to LEDS just over the next two decades could save the U.S. $250 billion in energy costs.

Leading the innovation is the pendant light, which continues to wend its way through nearly every room of the house. Often a staple in kitchens, where it shows up in pairs or a trio for task lighting over counters, the pendant has grown in size and importance. It is now taking on the chandelier – even with its price tag, as the range may be from a few hundred dollars to just under $4,000.

“Everybody loves the pendant,” say the folks at the LampsPlus catalog, suggesting it could be because of its artistry or its practicality.

“Without a doubt, the pendant chandelier is one of the most exciting types of hanging light fixtures available today,” the Shades of Light catalog states. “A unique alternative to chandeliers, pendants can make a dramatic impact.”

Some even suggest that for millennials, the pendant is simply a hip chandelier. While it may feature crystals or quartz that make it fancier, it’s not as ostentatious as the more glitzy formal dining fixture, a plus for a younger generation, but also for Baby Boomers who are looking to simplify.

Although the discussion could well be semantic, Cecil Adams, creative director for Currey and Company, an Atlanta-based lighting and furniture brand, still holds on to the old-school definition: “To me, a pendant is a light bulb on a string.”

He did concede, though, that usage has pushed the pendant to more creative applications, as well as more innovative designs that cross categories. There is stunning, artisan handblown glass, clear or colored, wavy, seeded or mottled. Fabric that’s puckered or sheer, stretched over geometric frames. Paper that resembles puffy clouds. Wood or steel that’s bent, laser cut or perforated so that light dances through it, as in charming Moroccan lanterns.

The swing to the many uses of pendants is being noticed in Metro Detroit, too.

“On trend are singular or a grouping of multiple mini pendants, which have become increasingly popular in modern and transitional homes,” said Robert Nusbaum, president & CEO of EuroAmerica Design in Troy, which carries Arte Di Murano lighting. “These smaller pendants make a dynamic design statement over a kitchen island, dining room table, an entry way, or a bedside table. When multiple pendants are used, it can take on the look of a chandelier. A single pendant can create a dramatic effect and be used to focus on a task, such as a night light for reading.”

And as we become acclimated to more substantial volumes and shapes, the design envelope continues to be pushed. You’ll find styles that parallel what’s happening in furnishings – so mid-century modern, a hint of art deco, industrial and neo-Chinese, as well as forms compatible with emerging ‘70s looks are among them, and also finishes of the moment, like gold-matte and polished, burnished bronze and copper.

To track what’s trending in pendants, just page through current home design magazines or retail or specialty catalogs like Lumens (, LampsPlus ( and Shades of Light ( You’ll often find handy tips about styles, where to use and how to hang.

Some of the most prevalent directions in pendants include:

¦Seeing the light. Looking though a fixture to its light source – Edison bulbs, LED tubes or candle lights is a favorite in industrial style. Sometimes the dressed bare bulb has beefed up or refined by a textural collar of metalwork around it, as the Hooked/Nude bulb pendant from the London brand Buster and Punch.

¦Out of this world. Movies like “Star Wars” and “The Martian” seem to have revved up interest, but perhaps it’s simply nostalgia for ‘50s and ‘60s expressions of space in galaxies, constellations or satellites. The ‘60s vintage Sputnik lighting by the Italian company Stilnovo is cousins with Regina Andrew’s Constellation collection. Many examples in this genre have 15 or more lights.

¦Thin skins. Isamu Noguchi’s paper light sculptures have been an icon of mid-century design, with simple crafting from handmade washi paper and bamboo ribbing in metal frames. Parisian lighting designer Celine Wright added copper foil as an accent to her Japanese paper lights in sun and moon shapes. Today, paper and fabric, some in a stretchy fiber, are being explored in a variety of looks like cotton candy, folded organic looks like nautilus, or pleated or ruched material.

¦Shaping up. With a palette including wood, stainless steel, resin, and plastics, designers are exploring ways to bend and shape, creating ribboning and ribbing, as in a bell-shaped pendant by the Scandinavian brand Muuto (available thru Lumens), which is finished in felt that hugs its fluted frame.

¦Tiering up. From meshy chain mail to dangling crystals and quartz to mirrored glass (Global Views), these layered pendants beef up volume and offer interesting pairings. A pendant “chandelier” from LUXXU that channels the interior architecture of New York’s Guggenheim Museum, for example, features four stacked gold-plated brass bands, from which dangle graduated strands of black Swarovski crystals.

¦Surface interest. Textures and dimensions are explored with materials unusual for lighting, such as concrete, at Regina Andrew, and laser cutting and perforation, digitally etched metals as well as three-dimensional layering from Tom Dixon. One pendant from Kelly Wearstler resembles a porcupine: It’s an assemblage of thin rods pointing out, with LEDS nestled within.

Detroit News writer Jodi Noding contributed to this report.


¦Jonathan Adler, 800-963-0891,

¦AERIN, 866-647-3330,

¦Arturo Alvarez,

¦Regina Andrew, 734-250-8042,

¦Artemide, 877-278-9111,

¦Baker Furniture, 800-592-2537,

¦Buster + Punch,,

¦Currey and Company, 877-768-6428,

¦Tom Dixon, 212-228-7337,

¦Elk Lighting, 866-344-3875,

¦EuroAmerica Design, 248-649-8950,

¦Flos, 888-952-9541,

¦ Framburg Lighting, 800-796-5514,

¦Global Lighting, 800-326-0725,

¦Hubbardton Forge, 800-826-4766,

¦LightArt, a 3form company, 206-524-2223,

¦John Pomp, 215-426-7667,

¦Kichler, 866-558-5706,

¦Louis Poulsen, 954-349-2525,

¦LZF, based in Valencia, Spain, distributed through Lumens Catalog, 877-445-4486,

¦Northern Lighting, distributed by Global Lighting (800-326-0725,

¦Studio A Home, a Global Views Company (,

¦David Trubridge (, distributed through Lightology, 866-954-4489,

¦Visual Comfort and Company, 866-344-3875,

¦Waterworks, 800-899-6757,

¦Kelly Wearstler, Kelly Wearstler Online Store, 855-295-3559,