Whether you’ve just moved into your first home or the house of your dreams, it’s not complete until you have chosen the right fixtures to fill it full of light.

To accomplish this, it helps greatly to consult a good lighting professional. Some homeowners believe that they will save money at a large chain- or bargain-store. You may be surprised to learn that a good lighting center staffed with knowledgeable professionals offers competitive prices, combined with the excellent advice that only experienced staff can give.

Because of the dazzling variety of lighting options available, it also helps to become familiar with the three basic styles of lighting fixtures and the effects they will produce.
Being able to describe your goals as “traditional,” “transitional,” or “contemporary” will move you quickly to making decisions that suit your home best.

Almost anyone can guess at least a few elements of “traditional” lighting: chandeliers, ceiling fixtures, wall sconces. There are two main questions to be answered when choosing “traditional” lighting—“what tradition?” and “how traditional?”

Perhaps you wish to follow the architectural style of your house closely: Colonial lighting will lead you in one direction, while Victorian leads in another. Pulling a strict “traditional” look together may well involve some research into the period and visits to antique stores as well as the lighting center.

Traditional” lighting is usually produced by companies that have researched materials and manufacturing methods of the period. Some fixtures are copied directly from historic originals. Lines and details definitely hark back to earlier times, and there is a stylistic coherence from piece to piece.

“How traditional” is a question that only you can answer. You may prefer strong suggestions of a particular period or culture without strict line-for-line adherence to style. Rather than your home “being of” a specific period, you would like it to “feel like” it. Your large enclosed porch reminds you of your grandmother’s house, and you want the porch to “feel” as comfortable and welcoming as hers did. For other rooms, you may want another look entirely.

The mahogany dining room furniture insists on something crystal to keep it from darkening the room excessively. Again, “traditional” lighting may be just what you need to bring the room together, and you finally have the perfect reason to look at historically-accurate crystal chandeliers.

Then again, some houses and decors suggest that all rooms need a uniting factor. In a situation like this, “transitional” lighting is worth exploring. “Transitional” pieces gently suggest certain styles or periods without insisting on them. This is the style equally deserving of the names “classic” or “eclectic.”

Those two words may seem to contradict each other—how can something be a “classic” and yet the “eclectic” product of many styles? “Transitional” lighting accomplishes that by taking the best from a variety of styles and uniting them in a single piece. A good “transitional” lighting fixture reminds you of many things, yet stands on its own, never so assertively that it cannot be combined with other styles of lighting.

Contemporary” lighting styles suit many situations—the perfect choice for a high-tech kitchen or the definition needed in a room that possesses little of its own. Its reinterpretations of “lamp,” “ceiling fixture,” and “wall-fixture” are best approached with an open mind and a sense of humor. A huge three-armed floor-lamp swoops across a substantial space and yet provides excellent reading-light.

Color becomes an integral part of lighting, not just the choice of a shade. The best “contemporary” lighting makes a strong statement and, like a toddler, can take over the room if allowed. Allowed a strong role in décor, however, it brings strength and coherence to a room, along with a hip, edgy feel of “fun.”

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