5 Ways To Choose & Use Pendant Lighting In Your Home
Light up your life with these clever tricks and tips from Design Denmark's Bill Carrig
Pendant lights are having their time in the spotlight. They’re bringing their special blend of illuminated magic to kitchen benches (where, it seems, three’s good company), creating bedside ambience (leaving more space on the table for books or eReaders) and play a starring role over dining tables (with larger-than-life solo pendants that steal the show).
But with the plethora of options available, how do you choose?
I regularly visit Denmark on business and so I have first-hand experience of why the Danes excel at designing lighting. Let’s face it, in wintertime, when the sun sets at around 3.30pm, you need the right sort of light to get you through the long hours of darkness. That’s why they outshine the rest of the world in their ability to create environments with ambient light that gives that cosy charm we call hyggeligt.
Pendants play a crucial role in this scene-setting and, over the years, I’ve asked the designers how to make these beautifully sculptural lights work best in different situations. Here’s what I’ve learned:
1. How high to hang it
New Zealanders tend to hang pendants far too high. That’s why I can be a bit pedantic about hanging pendants. In a dining situation especially, you don’t want the light so you’re looking up into the workings of it. Rather, the aim is to achieve an intimate pool of light, to calm the mood. I think between 550mm and 710mm above the top of the table is optimum.
When you’re seated, the bottom of the pendant should be just above your eye-line, so if you’re tall, take this into account. You don’t want the fixture to interfere with conversation. Same goes with kitchen bench lights — install them low enough to create mood, but not too close to the work surface that you bang your head.
2. A shape that suits
Much of this is personal preference but a tall ceiling might suit something long and tubular (such as the Le Klint Carronade), while timber shades, such as the pumpkin-shaped pendant from Tom Rossau, can soften and complement an industrial aesthetic. A circular pendant looks fantastic hung low over a coffee table or oval dining table and if you have a distant view to preserve, a pendant with a horizontal plane (such as the Light Point flat) doesn’t restrict the outlook.
3. Which LED for me?
While LED lights have many, many bonuses (they’re energy efficient, cooler than incandescent bulbs, last longer than your average Married at First Sight relationship and have opened up a world of design flexibility), they’re also not conducive to cosiness. The reason? They tend to have a cool, blue light. Even those labelled ‘soft white’ might not quite do it. Do your research, choose a low colour temperature and before buying, actually get the retailer to show you the LED bulb turned on.
4. Consider the inside colour
Did you know that some pendants are designed with coloured reflectors which alters the ‘tone’ of the light? Denmark’s best-known lighting designer, Poul Henningsen, was a master of refraction; his Artichoke lamp for Louis Poulsen is probably the most recognisable pendant in the world. His PH50 pendant, designed in 1925, has multiple-layered shades so the light is never seen directly as glare, but spills down beautifully.
Speaking in the 1960s, he said painting the inside of the shades, or ‘the reflector’, in red and blue, corrected a flaw of the modern light bulb. Take a look at the difference this makes to different pendants in a showroom. You might use the exact same bulb but, depending on the colour of the reflector, it changes the tone of the light remarkably.
5. Get flexible
The location of a pendant light does not need to be dictated by the position of the ceiling rose. Today’s cables (braided, coloured) are part of the design choice and allow you to loop and swoop the flex to move the light to any area that suits — over a favourite reading chair, the piano or a coffee table.
For true hygge take on a theme, always keep the ambience on the down low. Turn off the technology, light some candles and a pendant or two, and the colder nights of winter will slip blissfully by.
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