Thomas Edison would be absolutely gobsmacked.
When he patented his incandescent light bulb, that in itself must have seemed miraculous. Fast forward to today, and the myriad options for lighting fixtures — the styles, the technology and the trends — mean you can illuminate your home, inside and out, in an astonishing number of ways.
You even can choose a light bulb Edison probably would recognize, one that uses today’s LED technology but that looks remarkably similar to his Menlo Park invention.
What’s old is what’s new again — but, local lighting experts say, lighting trends can take design into some unexpected areas.
Even in the past 20 years or so, Doug Myers says, the lighting he installs has become “considerably more sophisticated.”
Myers designed and built his first landscape in 1994. Now owner of Fernhill Landscaping in Strasburg, the certified professional landscaper says thinking about a project always needs to be done “comprehensively.” And along with the general uptick in the homeowners’ interest in outdoor living spaces, he says, has been accompanied by homeowners requesting outdoor lighting.
“I’d say about 70 or 80 percent of our projects include it,” Myers says.
And those projects “have become considerably more sophisticated,” he adds. “Probably the largest (development) is switching to LED,” Myers says. “That allowed the installation of the fixtures and the wiring and the layout to be considerably less time consuming and complicated.”
The light-emitting diode bulbs have the added plusses of being small and long-lasting and more energy-efficient than previous bulbs.
Technology also makes possible systems that can rely on remote control via phone apps to changing lighting effects by zone, or to modify the amount of light your fixtures emit — much like using a dimmer bulb in the dining room, for example.
“The trick is to find a good combination of lights and not overdo it,” Myers says. “Different types of lighting have different effects: functional for pathways, or we’ll use grazing lights on the foundation of a house, or to cast a soft light onto pathways; uplighting for trees. There’s more of an emphasis on ornamental lighting.”
The well-lit home
Finishes, bulb styles, materials and shapes all jazz up indoor lighting. Susan W. Lytle, of The Lighting Gallery in Lancaster, just returned from a buyers’ show in Dallas and says that, unlike some years, current trends can work well with most local projects.
“Sometimes the trends don’t really ‘hit’ here,” Lytle says, but what she saw at the Dallas show should find fans here.
Finishes in dark bronze and an antiqued brass/matte gold — “like a dulled gold” — are seeing a comeback, as is a “resurgence of black finishes,” she says.
She still sees Edison bulbs (think old-fashioned filament bulbs to picture the style) on the upswing, especially since they’re more easily and affordably available in LED.
New bulb shapes, too, help update a room’s look if you can’t go all-out on new fixtures. Instead of a typical candle bulb, for example, try a small tubular bulb or one of the new “lipstick” shapes: an elongated bulb with an angled-off end.
Orb-styled hanging fixtures and wood lighting fixtures or accents carry over in popularity from recent years, Lytle says. A few years ago, she adds, opaque glass on hanging fixtures was the trend, but that’s now evolving to clear glass — often “seeded” with tiny bubbles that makes the glass appear handblown — and exposed bulbs that make the most of the new unusual shapes and light qualities of different bulb designs.
The size of hanging fixtures is getting bigger too, she adds. Instead of a group of several smaller hanging fixtures over a kitchen island, for example, homeowners are beginning to opt for two or three larger pendants to light an area.