TRENDS IN LIGHTING

BY BARRY WALDMAN

Mixed metals are in. Mixed colors and styles are in. Simplicity is in. Antiques and heavy chandeliers are out. Retro styles, like mid-century modern and art deco, are trending but with 21st-century twists. Pendant lighting is in because it frees up floor and table space. LED lighting is replacing Edison-style bulbs. Sorry, Tom, but yours are expensive.

That’s the verdict from Dallas-area interior designers, national manufacturers and consumers— the three groups that determine what is hot in lighting and what is most definitely not.

Hot or not, everything depends on the space and the client. Industrial may be chic for a commercial space downtown, with black pendants and bare bulbs hanging from roof trusses, but maybe not for a family with three kids and a dog in Frisco.

The most obvious trend in lighting fixtures today is the mixing of metals. Whereas 10 years ago no one mixed iron and gold in a sconce or lamp stand, today that is standard fare. As a result, manufacturers are producing pieces with a variety of metals, leaving designers to choose from a matrix of choices, like pewter, nickel, bronze and brass.

Similarly, there are more options when it comes to materials, colors and finishes, says Fran DeLeo, partner at DeLeo & Fletcher Design, a residential interior design firm in Dallas. Because manufacturers are producing a wider variety, designers no longer have to custom order that on-trend look. “We now have options we didn’t have three years ago,” DeLeo says.

Most people want homes they can live in, not just look at. That argues for simplicity, the opposite of antique chandeliers you might find in hotel lobbies. Today, say designers, if they incorporate a chandelier into a design, it’s simpler and cleaner, with materials other than crystals. Bright beads, glass and more organic elements in a variety of geometric shapes comprise today’s chandeliers.

Rather than bulky, multilayered crystalline structures are more streamlined. “People don’t want three layers of drippy crystals,” says Anne Bailey, owner of Phelan’s Interiors in Dallas. “Simplicity—everyone’s tired of ornamentation.”

According to area designers, pendants are more popular than ever. “I love clear pendants over an island in the kitchen because you can see through them and they can be cleaned,” says Bailey. Canned lights are difficult to clean because they are recessed.

Another new trend, or should we say old, is the return of styles from 60 to 70 years ago, designers say. They’re novel to people who weren’t alive in the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, but they’ve been toned down. An art deco light fixture might fit into a home in Miami or New York, but lack harmony with a contemporary North Texas home. There’s more balancing necessary for one retro style to work with more contemporary elements.

DeLeo says clients are more aware of trends because they see them in magazines and online. The immediacy of information allows people in Texas to become familiar with the latest styles in California, for instance, as they’re happening. Trends in lighting may be the most fluid of all the design elements. “Lighting to me is the jewelry of the space,” DeLeo says.

Whether the light fixture is recessed, sculptural or desktop with a lampshade, the light itself affects how the entire room will look. Because of their efficiency, LED lights have largely supplanted traditional bulbs, but designers caution that the color temperature has to be right— too cool and the room will look blue, too warm and it’s yellow. Says Andra Schwenk, owner of SDG Interiors, which serves the metroplex from Flower Mound, “It can go bad quick when the designer doesn’t know what they’re doing.”

Designers work to make their designs last up to 10 years. After that, wear and tear is likely to take its toll. So will lifestyle changes. “If you’re just married,” Schwenk says, “in 10 years you might have two kids, and in 10 more years they will have graduated. Your needs will change.”

A trend by its very definition has a short life-span. For now, these are the trends designers are working with and homeowners are enjoying.

Barry Waldman is principal of Big Fly Communications, a PR/marketing firm for nonprofits and small businesses.