Home & Garden

The modern chandelier blends art and efficiency

The gradual phaseout of incandescent bulbs for more eco-friendly options is pushing the lighting industry to evolve.

The work of blending artistry and efficiency is especially active around the prima donna of household lighting fixtures: the chandelier.

With the 100-watt bulb out of production since 2011 and others (40- and 60-watt bulbs) to follow in 2015, the design renaissance is swirling, with LED bulbs rolling in as one of the industry’s favorite muses.

“LEDs are opening a lot of options for lighting designers,” says Justus Efird, owner of Efird’s Interiors in SouthEnd.

One of the biggest advantages of LED lighting (aside from the fact that it lasts longer and uses less energy than incandescents) is the miniature size of the bulbs. Designers can hide hundreds (or thousands) of bulbs in a sleek fixture.

In traditional chandeliers, the bulbs are often exposed or screwed in beneath a globe or shade. Replacing those incandescents with clunky spiral-shaped compact fluorescent bulbs wouldn’t be a good look.

LED lights, on the other hand, give you better options for creating a new generation of lighting products. LEDs also give off less heat than incandescents.

“You could make a chandelier out of paper and LEDs wouldn’t burn it,” explains Terry McGowan, director of engineering for the American Lighting Association. “You could never do that with an incandescent bulb. It’s opened up a lot more choices for consumers.”

But it can also take some time to get used to the color variations between bulbs. Incandescent bulbs tend to give off a warm pink glow that is popular with consumers, while LED and CFL bulbs emit a cooler blue-white light, according to McGowan.

To upgrade the efficiency of an existing chandelier, swap halogen bulbs for incandescents. While halogens are less efficient than CFLs and LEDs, they last longer than traditional incandescents while giving off light of a similar color.

Modern Lighting Design Store and Efird’s Interiors are among the local places to shop for chandeliers. You’ll also find a selection of energy-efficient designs at Home Depot, Ballard Designs and West Elm. While it’s possible to spend thousands of dollars on a luxe chandelier, there are lots of less expensive (and equally fabulous) choices.

“The selection is incredible,” says Liza Branch, owner of Modern Design Lighting Store.

Branch suggests investing in fixtures that provide timeless appeal for areas like the dining room and foyer. Add drama in an unexpected spot such as the powder room, but opt for a more affordable fixture that can be swapped out when trends change.

A chandelier can be a room’s focal point, but it shouldn’t be the singular lighting source in a room.

“Chandeliers are designed for ambiance, not as task lighting,” Branch explains.

Simple hanging fixtures with drum shades in neutral colors are a popular look, especially with unexpected materials such as wood and matte gold (instead of brass). Hanging a cluster of smaller pendants or a sleek tangle of metal filled with LEDs is also an up-to-date look.

One of the biggest trends is mixing design styles. Don’t be afraid to install a metallic chandelier over a farm table or pair a glass table with a rustic chandelier.

“A lot of people are having fun being their own designers,” Branch says.