Vail Valley HOME: Go beyond illumination with new lighting technology
Creative new shapes and technology mean that home lighting fixtures often do far more than provide illumination. They can be exciting and sculptural works of art.
“Designs are now not only a source of light, but a distinctive feature of an interior design,” said New York architect West Chin.
Chin recently hung a frothy cluster of LED glass bubbles over a dining table in a minimalist apartment on Manhattan’s High Line. The fixture’s a focal point in an otherwise sparely decorated space. In a Flatiron duplex, he placed a trio of mesh orbs over the staircase; when the lights are on, shadows dance theatrically against a paneled feature wall.
Chin’s also a fan of Stickbulb, a lighting component created by RUX studio in New York City. The “stick” is offered in maple, walnut, reclaimed heart pine, ebonized oak or redwood that’s been salvaged from one of New York’s old water towers. Fitted with an LED, the sticks attach to a central metal element and can be configured into various shapes, like fireworks or cantilevered mobiles.
“I’d guess the design process has been affected in the most liberating way with the development of the LED bulb,” Chin said.
At Milan’s Salone del Mobile this April, the Euroluce lighting exhibition halls showcased LEDs and other technology in imaginative ways. Hungarian firm Manooi used Swarovski crystals to craft sinuous fixtures evocative of infinity symbols. Bocci showed fixtures made by injecting soda water into hot glass, then folding and stretching it into pearlescent pendants that looked like giant glowing ribbon candy.
Designer Tom Dixon took over Milan’s iconic old theater, Cinema Manzoni, to show his furniture and lighting. One collection was called Cut; the faceted clear or smoky fixtures, with mirrored finishes and metalized interiors, resembled enormous futuristic crystals.
Start with one statement piece
When planning a room that calls for a large piece of statement lighting, start with that piece first, building everything else around it, said Brandon Quattrone and Mat Sanders, of Consort Design in Los Angeles.
You want it to be the wow factor in a room, they said. If you’re hanging a dining room chandelier, keep the surrounding walls simple, with a minimal piece of artwork or some subtle shelf styling.
Designer Ghislaine Vinas did that in a Montauk, New York, beach house project. She hung Alvaro Catalan de Ocon’s PET Lamp chandelier in an all-white dining space. The brightly hued lights, hanging on colored cords, bring in an element of playfulness.
Other intriguing fixtures new to the marketplace employ modern technology with a nod to classic design. Corbett Lighting’s Theory ceiling fixture is an ode to midcentury Italian design, with horizontal spokes alternating clear glass and gold-leaf iron rods. Calibrated LEDs gracefully cast light up and down. Metropolis’ interconnecting, hand-forged iron cubes surround an LED light source, and the whole thing is suspended on aircraft cables. The piece melds 21st century and modernist design.
The shape of Humanscale’s Vessel quartz crystal pendant conceals a glare-free LED that makes it seem lit from within. The effect would play well in a hallway or over a long table or island.
Restoration Hardware’s collection of forged brass, steel or bronze pendants in drum, funnel or dome shapes has an industrial vibe.
Jonathan Browning was inspired by ’60s French minimalist design for his Aquitaine series, which features slender brass, nickel or bronze tapers tipped with faceted LEDs, suspended on black cord. And a turn-of-the-century Venetian design is updated in the soft curves of Icaro, with fiberglass replacing Fortuny silk, and gold or silver metal-leaf trim adding romantic flair.
At Rejuvenation Lighting, designer Brendon Farrell of Portland, Oregon, has a floor lamp with an elongated linen drum shade perched on a brass stand; the stand is embedded in a white or black oak ball base. And art meets engineering in Contrapesso, O & G Studio’s pendant, in which an LED-lit glass ball is counterbalanced by a small brass or bronze globe. It’s lighting made acrobatic.
It’s a big deal when the governor pops in for a visit, especially if he traveled to the other side of the world to do it.