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Randall Whitehead

Professional Lighting Expert

Best Decorative Lighting & Best Decorative Solar Lights

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When designing the lighting for your home, you should start by learning the “language of light.” Don’t be intimidated. There are only four words to learn: decorative, task, accent, and ambient. All electric lighting falls into these four categories. Once you have these terms down, then working out the lighting for any of the rooms in your house becomes much less overwhelming. There is no one light fixture that can give you everything you need to illuminate a room properly. The trick is using a variety of light sources to create a flexible, inviting space. This is what is referred to as “light layering.” These categories are also referred to as the four functions of light. Here is a list of what they are and what it is that they do:

These are what I like to call “architectural jewelry.” Their only purpose is to look pretty. They add sparkle to a space. Chandeliers, exterior lanterns, and candlestick-type wall sconces fall into this category. They should not be used as the work horses for lighting a space. When they are too bright they can visually overpower the other elements of the design. Subtle is the way to go when thinking about decorative lighting.

Lighting by which you do work, such as the under cabinet lighting in the kitchen, reading lamp next to a chair, lighting in your closet, and lighting at the bathroom mirror for applying makeup or shaving.

Lighting used to highlight objects in a space. This adds depth and dimension to an environment. Recessed adjustable fixtures, track lights, portable uplights and directional landscape lights all fall into this category.

This is the gentle fill light for a room. It softens shadows on people’s faces and fills the volume of the space with a warm glow, as if the room was being filled with the light of a roaring fire. Ambient light comes from illumination that is bounced off the ceiling. Such sources as opaque wall sconces, torcheres, pendant hung indirect fixtures, and cove lighting can be used to create the ambient light.

The Bottom Line
By layering these four functions of light together, you can create an environment that welcomes visitors into the space, while providing usable light for day-to-day activities. Getting a feel for these terminologies will get you on the right path to understanding how light can work for you.

The Best Decorative Lighting:

Light fixtures such as chandeliers and table lamps work best when they are used to create the sparkle for a room. They alone cannot adequately provide usable illumination for other functions without overpowering the other design aspects of the space. Think of them as the “supermodels” of illumination. Their one and only job is to look fantastic. For example, a dining room illuminated only by the chandelier over the table can create a “glare-bomb” situation. As you turn up the dimmer to provide enough illumination to see, the intensity of the light from the decorative fixture causes every other object to fall into secondary importance. The wall color, the art, the carpeting... and especially the people are eclipsed by this supernova of uncomfortably bright light. No one will be able to appreciate any of the other elements in the room, no matter how beautiful or expertly designed.

By its very nature, any bright light source in a room or space immediately draws people’s attention. In the best designs, the decorative light sources only create the illusion of providing a room’s illumination. In reality, it is the other three functions of light (task, accent and ambient) that are actually doing the real work of lighting up the space.

Another common example of poorly done decorative lighting is the overuse of table lamps and wall sconces with translucent shades. Filling a room with translucent shades makes the room look like a lamp shade showroom. It is partly because translucent shades, such as those made of linen or parchment can draw too much attention. When incorporating this type of decorative fixture into a lighting design, consider using an opaque shade. This will help direct the illumination downward over the base, the tabletop, and across your lap when you’re reading.

Still, filling a room with only table lamps to provide the main source of illumination is just bad lighting design, as it uses only one type of light. The other three functions of illumination must come into play. This is “light layering”, where a number of light sources are blended together to create a comfortable, inviting and flexible environment.

Now that you have a handle on what part decorative light can play you can take a look at what I feel is the best the market has to offer.

Find the best decorative lighting to create the right atmosphere in your home or your yard. Choose the best decorative solar lights for your backyard or the best decorative light selections for the living or dining room.

Best Decorative Lights by Randall Whitehead

The Best You Can Get

  • Ingo Maurer - Oh Mei Ma Pendant

    Randall says: This beautiful paper pendant appears to float in the air. It comes in two sizes and the paper can be ordered in white, silver leaf, or gold leaf. It takes one 300 halogen bulb, which is included.

    • White, silver leaf, or gold leaf paper
    • 300 halogen bulb included
  • Dform - Basket Saucer Pedant

    Randall says: This is one of many designs offered by Dform of pendants and sconces made of wood. The thinly sliced natural material creates a luminous glow when turned on. The Basket pendant comes in four diameters (30”, 36”, 42”, and 52”).

    • Comes in 4 diameters (30”, 36”, 42”, and 52”)
    • Interlocking die-cut wood veneers that are hand-assembled
    • 60-watt household bulbs or screw-in compact fluorescents
  • Taller UNO by Global Lighting - Trio 2 Sconce

    Randall says: This Mondrian inspired sconce comes in two sizes and four color options. The fused colored glass design is timeless. The fixture can take up to a 100-watt household bulb, a screw-in compact fluorescent, or can be ordered in a hard-wired compact fluorescent version.

    • 2 sizes available
    • 4 colors options
    • 100-watt household bulb or compact fluorescents
  • Ivalo - Silvus Wall Sconce

    Randall says: This inventive company has taken LEDs (light emitting diodes) to an entirely new level. These block shaped fixtures can be grouped together to form larger scale installations that are limited only by your own imagination. They are available in non-dimmable and dimmable, along with pulsing and color-changing LEDs options.

    • Dimmable option
    • Powder coat or automotive paint finishes available
    • Pulsing, non-pulsing, or color changing
    • LED - white, blue, green, red, or mixed
  • Oggetti - Mandala Sconce

    Randall says: These art glass sconces are available in six varieties. All of them are stunningly beautiful. All the shades are glass mosaics composed by hand in Venice, and signed by the artist, Alfier Birello. No two shades are exactly alike. They take two 40-watt tubular shaped incandescent bulbs.

    • Model 76-12
    • Hand made glass sconce in Venice
    • 6 glass sconce patterns to choose from
    • Satin nickel finish
    • 40-watt tubular incandescent bulbs

You will be happy with any of these

  • Boyd Lighting - Palos Verdes Pendant

    Randall says: This classic design fits many interior styles. It can be ordered in various finishes and lengths. It comes in two sizes and takes either four 75-watt household bulbs or and be ordered with a hard-wired 40-watt circular fluorescent bulb.

    • Model 10035
    • Bronze or aluminum finish
    • 75-watt household bulb or 40-watt circular fluorescent bulb
  • Scott Architectural Lighting - S2085 Pendant

    Randall says: These clean modern pendant fixtures would do very well over a kitchen island to draw guests into what has become the new gathering space for casual entertaining. They are available in two sizes. They can take up to a 100-watt household bulb and they are also available in a dimmable hard-wired fluorescent option.

    • Dimmable option
    • Brass, chrome, or standard color finish available
    • 100-watt household bulb or dimmable hard-wired fluorescent
  • Schmitt Designs - Moso Bamboo Pendants

    Randall says: Proving that green design can also be alluring, this is the one pendant on the ten best list that is only available in a hardwired compact fluorescent version with a strong nod towards sustainable design. The warm color temperature of the bulb enhances the warm colors of the natural bamboo material, which is available in an end grain veneer and a vertical grain veneer. It is also shipped flat to minimize the cost of packing materials. It is also Energy Star compliant.

    • End grain or vertical grain bamboo veneer choices
    • GU24 base compact fluorescent bulbs only!
  • Fine Art Lamp - Pickfair Pendant

    Randall says: This more traditional fixture is a pleasant and versatile departure from the standard crystal chandelier. The look is evocative of the movie sets from the 1930s and 1940s. It can accommodate three household bulbs up to 100 watts each.

    • Model 507942ST
    • Soft gold leaf finish
    • Frosted seeded crystal coupe
    • A-19 medium base - 100-watt bulbs or screw-in compact fluorescents
  • Le Klint - 172 Pendant

    Randall says: This is one of many styles offer by LeKlint that harkens back to Danish design of the 1960s. These hand-folded sculptural pendant shades were designed by architect Poul Christiansen between 1969 and 1978 and have been in continuous production. The material is a color stabilized white PVC which is washable and anti-static. This model measures 13” in diameter by 12” high and takes a 100-watt household bulb or a screw-in compact fluorescent bulb.

    • 2 sizes available
    • Danish made
    • Color stabilized white PVC
    • 75-watt household bulb for the 13” diameter and 100-watt household bulb for 17.5” or a screw-in compact fluorescent bulb

Related Articles

With the best decorative lighting, you'll add the best chandeliers, exterior lanterns and candlestick-type wall sconces that dress up your home. You can even choose the best decorative solar lights for outdoors. Always the best price, these best decorative light recommendations offer subtle lighting that sets the right tone for your home decor.