According to trend forecasters and interior design magazines, 2018 is the year of the statement light.
Higher ceilings and open floor plans have helped pave the way for the trend, which transcends style genres — from rustic farmhouse to modest minimalist. Statement lighting can provide a focal point for a room and set the tone while providing an opportunity to showcase functional artworks.
While good lighting is key to good home design, it has long been considered an afterthought in interior design. Typically, lighting is viewed from a purely functional perspective. It comes in low on the list of priorities for many homeowners, especially when building new and budgets are tight. But for new home builds and renovations alike, statement lighting provides an overlooked opportunity to complete a room and set a lasting impression.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you through the process of choosing the right statement lighting for your home, with tips from local interior design experts.
Choose focus areas
The price point for statement lighting “can be a stumbling point” for those on a tight budget, according to Greg Walsh, proprietor and senior interior designer for MartinPatrick3, a North Loop interior design firm.
Before shopping for lighting fixtures, one of the first things to do is to choose key areas to feature, such as the entryway, dining room or kitchen island — “great rooms where you want something spectacular,” Walsh said. Lower-priority rooms, such as kids’ rooms, can be outfitted with lower-priced fixtures.
Popular opinion holds that a lighting fixture should hang 30 inches above a dining room table. But many interior designers suggest looking at the visual weight and proportion of the piece in relation to the space and scale.
“Statement lighting doesn’t mean just big lighting,” said Carrie Charest Valentine, a stylist with Minneapolis boutique interior design firm Prospect Refuge Studio. “It’s about selecting lighting that is appropriate to your home scale, choosing it like jewelry.”
If an entryway has 8- or 9-foot ceilings, choose a lighting fixture that accommodates different heights of people while suiting the space.
Volume is another aspect to consider.
“Just because a lighting fixture is big, it can be really airy,” explained Victoria Sass, Prospect Refuge’s founder and principal designer. “If it’s transparent, it doesn’t take as much visual space as something opaque.”
Understand your lighting needs
There are two main approaches when planning lighting for a home, according to Walsh — showcasing an architectural element, such as a ceiling or staircase, or making the light itself the main event.
“Sometimes the goal is to make lighting disappear, fixture-wise” by utilizing upward recessed LED lighting, he said. “It’s doing its work by offering lighting. If that’s done well, then the job of big statement piece isn’t about necessarily about lighting. The illumination that it’s putting out isn’t necessarily as functional. It’s more about the ambiance of the fixture itself and how it attracts attention and space.”
Define your space
Lighting can also be used to help define a space. To distinguish a kitchen and living room in an open floor plan, statement fixtures can offer a visual separation.
“We’re currently working with a client who has an open floor plan, and her kitchen, dining room and living room all share the main floor,” explained Valentine, “and so we’re mixing finishes while using different fixtures in each space that help create a distinct look and feel while still speaking to each other.”
Gone are the days of painstakingly matching the metal finishes of hardware and fixtures throughout a room. Today, it’s in style to mix metals.
The same goes for light fixtures. The key is to find pieces that feel related without being too matchy-matchy.
“It’s a little out of the comfort zone for some people, but I tell them not to feel like everything has to match or be in the same finish,” said Lisa Ball of Lisa Ball Design, an interior design studio at International Market Square. “We’ve started breaking those rules. Plus, mixing things up adds interest.
“You want to have some kind of common thread, but you don’t have to feel as limited in terms of style or finish.”
Prospect Refuge recently completed a project that featured a mid-century–inspired chandelier in the dining room and a classical frosted black pendant in the kitchen.
“I like to mix eras so it’s not 100-percent mid-century across the board,” Sass said. “You can pull from different eras and aesthetics as long as they relate to one another in some way.”
Mix up styles and finishes for eye-catching elements and combine unexpected materials, such as wood and crystal, to keep things interesting.
Shop in person
When shopping online, it’s difficult to get a true sense of size and proportion.
“More often than not, people tend to buy undersized lights,” said Ball. “If you aren’t looking in proportion to the size of the room, it can get dwarfed.
“I think it’s important to go see things in person.”
Bring a photo of your space and measurements of the room and tables to an interior design studio or lighting showroom to get direction on finding the right scale for a lighting fixture for your space.
Form meets function
Lighting can also provide an overlooked opportunity to hang a piece of functional art. Designers are making even the most functional lights more decorative.
“I tell my clients to look at it as an investment or piece of art, and to think about it as more than just a functional piece,” Sass said. “Lighting can take a room to the next level and offer an artistic moment.”
More isn’t always more
When picking out lighting, remember that not every single fixture has to make a statement.
“Some lights have to be in the background or serve a purely functional role,” Ball said. “Not everyone can be a star.”