When designing a space, lighting is key. It sets the mood, creating an overall feeling – warm or cool – and is one of the first elements experienced. Different types of lighting help to create these warm or cool feelings. For example, LED lighting is harsh as compared to the warm glow vintage bulbs, like the Edison bulb, emit. This warm glow helps accentuate the surrounding décor as it plays off of the colors and hues that are present and emits feelings of comfort.
Designers have gone Edison bulb crazy, loving its nostalgic appeal and paying homage to a more simplistic, industrial time. They incorporate Edison bulbs in myriad design styles and spaces, including residential and commercial, adding an eclectic flair.
JUST WHAT IS THE EDISON BULB?
“Antique filament light bulbs, Edison light bulbs and vintage light bulbs all refer to carbon or early tungsten filament lamps. Most of these bulbs are reproduction of the wound filament bulbs made popular by Edison Electric Light Company at the turn of the 20th century. They are easily identified by the long and complicated windings of their internal filaments, and by the very warm-yellow glow of the light they produce.” (1)
INDUSTRIAL DESIGN AND ITS IMPACT ON THE EDISON BULB
Industrial design integrates exposed beams, pipes, ducts, utilitarian objects and a neutral color palette. The style embodies metal light fixtures with exposed Edison light bulbs – today’s take on “vintage lighting.” This current day interpretation mimics the concepts of minimalism and exposure which are at the core of industrial design.
Although the industrial design style may be on its way out, its Edison bulb element remains popular and has taken off in its own right. According to Capital Lighting, a national lighting retailer, “vintage lighting is by far one of the hottest décor styles of the decade.” (2) Just look at Restoration Hardware’s lighting selection – it’s entirely based on industrial lighting and the incorporating of the Edison bulb, in many shapes, sizes and forms.
THE EDISON BULB
An effortless, natural flow comes to mind when looking at vintage light fixtures. That’s in part because, “vintage lighting often puts a greater emphasis on the…exposure of the bulb rather than the structure surrounding it.” (3)
And, “by utilizing the bulb as a primary element of the light instead of hiding it away, it leaves open the possibility of experimentation with the look of the bulb itself in addition to the fixture. With the structure fading into the background and the bulb becoming the focal point, the inclusion of an Edison-style filament bulb finishes off the design for a beautiful, complete piece with a coherent visual language.” (3)
In her NY Times article, “When Out to Dinner, Don’t Count the Watts,” Diane Cardwell brilliantly explains the overwhelming popularity of the Edison bulb: “The filament light is now so ubiquitous that it has prompted a backlash among those who deem it overexposed — a badge of retro cool that is fast becoming the restaurant-design equivalent of the Converse All Star…They remain a go-to design element, like wheatgrass in a box some years ago, for their casual air and winks at history.”
We love the exposed Edison bulb, and it is the star. However, it’s the surrounding fixture that completes the look. These fixtures often showcase the bulb’s design using transparency (glass) or with the use of soft, black matte metal, gold, brass or copper that help dramatize the bulb, creating a vintage look. Often, the rounded, cone-shaped fixtures are used to convey a simple, modern look.
▸ WHY USE THE EDISON BULB?
- It creates nostalgia
- It comes in a wide range of styles
- It adds flair (the exposed filament)
- It is an alternative to LED
▸ WHEN TO USE THE EDISON BULB
- To add an eclectic design element
- To create a focal point or a “wow” piece
- To emulate candlelight
▸ WHERE TO USE THE EDISON BULB
- The ceiling (pendants/chandeliers)This is typically the first place people consider when lighting a room and is a wonderful way to set the tone for design.
- Accent wall lighting (sconces): Use them in the entryway or hallway, as sconces or as lighting for a reading nook.
- Outdoors: Vintage lighting can enhance any outdoor area with the same level of sure-footed confidence that it can an indoor room. In fact, it often pairs well with more rustic style patio or deck furniture.
WILL THE BULB EVER BURN OUT?
As current trends have predicted, vintage lighting and the exposed Edison bulb are still going strong. The appeal of nostalgic design is still ever-present, furthered along by the fact that Edison bulbs have been modernized to be more energy efficient (they are still not as efficient as LEDs however) and longer-lasting. Their warm hue has become even more appealing as design trends have embraced softer colors and warmer metals like gold, brass and copper, as opposed to silver and like-metallics.