Light Fixtures

Written by Beth Hrusch
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The light fixtures that people have in their homes are often an expression of their personalities. This was not always so. Until the twentieth century, lighting was really just a functional consideration. The invention of the light bulb in the nineteenth century made interior illumination possible, opening up new possibilities for human activity. No longer confined to nature's cycle of day and night, people could operate by an entirely new clock--one that they themselves could control.

Light Fixtures As Art

So, for many years, the plain bulb was the standard for homes and businesses. It did the job of lighting up interior spaces quite well, and for a public eager to participate in the scientific progress that it represented, it was certainly good enough. Of course, it was not long before the artistic sensibilities of humans started to long for a more aesthetically pleasing form for this wondrous new invention. This is not surprising, considering the fact that humans have sought ways to adorn even the most mundane of objects since recorded history.

Thus, the first light fixtures designed to be works of art started appearing in the last decade of the nineteenth century. As America moved toward the Roaring Twenties and the emergence of the Art Deco movement, lighting became another medium to showcase this unusual and beautiful form of modern art. Louis Comfort Tiffany started creating stained glass lamps for private and commercial use around this time. His jewel-toned art glass adorned many public buildings, and became the artistic representation of the age.

The Rise of Modern Lighting

The Art Deco movement foreshadowed today's trends in modern light fixtures. Contemporary lighting owes much to this age, when form and function blended seamlessly and curves complemented linear forms. In the first half of the twentieth century, this design aesthetic would pop up at regular intervals, a testament to its enduring appeal.

Today, contemporary lighting takes its inspiration from the styles of the past while keeping its eye on the future. The issue of good lighting has taken on greater importance as people have started using their homes not only as living but also as working spaces. More and more, light fixtures are asked to not only look good but also function well for a variety of tasks. In the home office, for example, fixtures need to direct light to the right places. Task lighting becomes of primary importance.

In other areas of the home, light fixtures will need to create an atmosphere. General lighting casts a glow into a room that illuminates softly without glare. A torchiere or combination of table lamps and sconces can achieve this effect. Depending on the need, incandescent or fluorescent light will be called for, and both can be used in contemporary fixtures. Advances in technology over the years have produced lighting specific to different needs.

Innovations in Light Fixtures

Halogen gas and tungsten filaments comprise halogen bulbs, used in accent and task lighting. Its crisp, white light is soft yet bright. Contemporary light fixtures often use this kind of light, as it illuminates open spaces and complements the clean lines of modern fixtures. Innovations in design are also a hallmark of modern lighting. The desire for versatile lighting that does not detract from architecture has created fixtures with minimalist character. Suspended cables allow fixtures to move to where they are needed, while recessed lighting is buried in the ceiling for unobtrusive illumination.

While the forms of lighting have changed through the years, its purpose remains the same. Contemporary fixtures have come a long way from their origins as the plain light bulb but they still strive to provide bright interior spaces, light the path at night, and give people a better quality of life. New technology and attention to design make modern lighting pleasing to the eye as well as functional. These elements combine in today's fixtures to change the way that people look at their surroundings.

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