Trip the light fantastic with extrovert lighting in your house
Break from the norm and think 'bigger is better' when lighting up your home
Flamboyant as we may like to be in the pub, Ireland is essentially a nation of interior design introverts. We like our big solid pine tables, our comforting country kitchens, and our neutral colour palettes. Interior designers bang on about self expression in the home so we timidly buy multi-coloured cushions, which end up at the back of the wardrobe. Extrovert furnishing just isn't our thing.
There's one exception, and that's lighting. All over the country, oversized pendants hover over dining tables like spaceships from a sci-fi movie. Contemporary chandeliers that look like they've been blown apart from the inside dangle in stairwells and atrium spaces. The rest of the house may be in 50 shades of muted taupe, but when it comes to lighting, we do throw caution to the wind. Not surprisingly lighting is a big part of the interior design show House which takes place later this month. Roisin Lafferty of Kingston Lafferty Design is among those who will be participating. Lafferty feels feature lighting is a great way to add fun and creativity to a space. "The bigger the better!" she says. "Oversized lighting plays on scale and adds drama, as well as being functional. In open-plan spaces, feature lighting can define the different zones and draw the eye throughout the space."
She recommends you select a combination of materials, with a good balance between soft and hard finishes. "Softer light fittings work best in bedrooms and living rooms, whereas metal and glass work well in kitchens and dining spaces."
"It does seem that people can express themselves with lighting in a way they can't in other areas," says Aoife Rhattigan of Restless Design. She agrees that oversized lighting can make a nice statement and has also noticed a growing interest in clusters of lights instead of singletons. You might have two or three pendants tastefully hung at different levels, instead of a single solitary fitting.
"Copper and rose gold are still everywhere, but there's a move towards brass. There's also much more interest in crafty artisan fittings in natural materials like basket weave." She has recently installed an inventive series of pendants created from upside-down baskets. There's an element of humour in the recognisable humble object used in an unexpected way, but the woven willow does lovely things with light and shadows.
On the same theme, the Lightweave woven wood collection from Leo Scarff Design is made from interwoven strips of veneer. Because the lamps are made to order, they can be ordered in a range of shapes and sizes (from €80 for a small pendant). It's also possible that we're moving away from the stark industrial trend for exposed light bulbs. "It's a great look, but we've seen a lot of it," Rhattigan explains. "There's a new generation of industrial-style light fittings. The filament bulbs are still visible but they're enclosed in a glass shade."
Extrovert light fittings aren't confined to ceiling-mounted pendants. Graphic lamps in the shape of a number, a letter, or a word are usually wall hung. As a look, it's straight from Hollywood, but I've yet to discover a cheap way of achieving it. A super-cool Graphic Collection lamp from In-Spaces, shaped like a giant letter 'E' costs €2,624. It's over a metre high and you can use it inside or outdoors.
Floor lamps are another way of having fun with light fittings and range from Ikea's stool lamp (€50) to the horse lamp from Moooi. This piece is the size of a real horse, but wearing a lamp shade on its head. At €4,731 it's the same price as a real horse too, but considerably cheaper to keep. "I don't know that everyone would want a life-sized horse in their living room," says Rhattigan, "but I'd definitely like one."
On a smaller scale, the Smiley floor lamp from Maiden costs €206. Bright yellow, around 43cm in diameter, it sits on the floor and smiles at you. Maiden also stock the adorable giant Miffy lamp (€268) based on Dick Bruna's minimal rabbit. It's 80cm high and made from (allegedly) unbreakable polyurethane. Both lamps are dimmable and come under the category of mood lighting. They create an ambient glow, but won't be of any use if you want to read a book.
"The most important question to ask before choosing lighting is - what do you want to use it for?" says Rhattigan. "Put the lighting where you need it, but don't blanket the entire space in bright light. That can be a very cold look."
"Build the lighting up in layers so you have a mixture of task lighting and ambient light," says Michelle Lynch of National Lighting.
"And don't leave it til the last minute. If you're having work done on the house you need to factor lighting in from the start. We see a lot of people coming into the showrooms with 20 fittings to buy, no idea what they want, and the electrician coming next week." If you're interested in finding out more about lighting, or in getting free advice from the experts, drop in to the interior design event, House, in the RDS from May 20-22.
Roisin Lafferty will be taking the Inspiration Stage and representatives from National Lighting, Hicken Lighting and Wink will be on hand to offer their expert opinion.
See house-event.ie; leoscarffdesign.com; maiden.bigcartel.com; restless.design; moooi.com; hickenlighting.com; nationallighting.ie; kingstonlaffertydesign.com; wink.ie.