Spot On

By Chandra Orr

January 4, 2008 5 min read


Mini-pendant lights are on the right track

By Chandra Orr

Copley News Service

Mini-pendant fixtures have been favored by designers for years, and for good reason.

These tiny fixtures make a big statement in small spaces - and they pack as much drama as a fresh coat of paint or the latest designer accessories, for about the same price. With their sleek lines and stylish minimalism, the latest mini-pendants instantly modernize even the most dated decor.

"Lighting in home design is increasingly coming out of the shadows and becoming as important as the perfect piece of furniture," said interior designer Aimee Nemeckay of Chicago-based design firm Susan Fredman and Associates.

"Great lighting goes beyond illumination," Nemeckay said. "Great lighting adds interest, dimension and depth, and pendant lights add an element of the unexpected."

In the kitchen, a row of tiny pendants placed strategically over an expansive breakfast bar makes quite a statement.

Blending two or more complementary styles is very much in vogue. Modern mini-pendants that meld sleek metals and bold hues create a dramatic contrast within traditional decor, while antique-inspired fixtures soften the hard lines of stainless steel in contemporary kitchens.

When it comes to mini-pendants, it's all about mixing and matching styles, playing with scale and adding a tiny pop of color. Think long, slender brushed metal posts topped by diminutive Italian Murano glass shades in bold blues, oranges, greens and reds.

"The pendant light offers a measured dose of color," Nemeckay said. "It's a really safe way to start adding color to your world, and it sets the stage for the rest of the house."

Pendants also offer the perfect solution to problems of poor lighting, providing just the right amount of illumination for small spaces.

"Pendant fixtures bring the light down into the human space," Nemeckay said. "And because they can provide diffused light, direct light or task lighting, they are one of the most flexible lighting options."

When combined with the latest monorail or track-lighting systems, pendant fixtures help create layers of illumination for depth, balance and ambience.

"People tend to think of track lighting as a more contemporary option, but you can warm it up with pendant lights for a more traditional home," Nemeckay said.

Monorail systems, which are similar to track lighting, feature a twistable rail suspended from the ceiling that accommodates multiple fixtures using one electrical outlet. Homeowners can configure the system to any position for a custom layout and add multiple fixtures for a range of effects.

Add a row of mini-pendants over an island, install a few directional spotlights to accent decorative elements and include a traditional fixture for ambient lighting - all without cutting additional access holes in the ceiling. Some systems even allow for corner-mounted fixtures.

"One of the keys to great lighting design is to use multiple types of lighting - that's how you achieve the most balanced overall lighting," Nemeckay said. "This layering of light sources creates a warmth not achievable through the use of a single light source."

Rail systems come in a variety of metals, from clean, contemporary stainless steel to softer brushed aluminum and bronze, all of which compliment the latest fixtures.

Taking a cue from Mother Nature, the hottest new mini-pendants combine organic forms inspired by coral, antlers and driftwood and earthy metals like oil-rubbed bronze, brushed copper and pewter.

"Nature is always a great source of inspiration for home design," Nemeckay said.

Look for glass shades in autumnal earth tones like opulent ocean blue, coppery orange and rich amber - which add just a hint of color without overwhelming a room - or shades made of dried grass suspended in resin.

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