Choose Your Lighting Style
To assist you in researching the perfect lighting for your home, we have assembled a style guide and classified each fixture into a specific style. Style guides are subjective and many times, even lighting and design experts disagree on classifications. Today, there are many styles available that are an eclectic blend of two or more styles. We hope these explanations and definitions help you select a light fixture or lamp that will complement your home and lifestyle.
Named for the 1925 Paris Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs, Art Deco is a celebration of new materials, mechanical progress, and manufacturing techniques developed in the 1920s. The use of color and geometric patterns was more popular than its contemporary, Bauhaus style, which was more austere.
Look for crisp geometric shapes, especially zigzags, chevrons and triangles, glossy material, polished and lacquered woods, and “streamlined” designs of natural elements like thunderbolt and sunburst patterns.
ARTS AND CRAFTS / MISSION / PRAIRIE
This style was created in response to the The Industrial Revolution in England. Mass produced goods were often poor quality, in comparison to hand made and hand built products. In 1861, William Morris created a firm to hand produce decorative items for the home, including textiles, furnishings, and wallpaper. Morris’s creed was to bring back the joy, honesty, and beauty of handmade objects.
Later in the 19th century, the heavier forms favored by Morris evolved into lighter, more simple designs. The growing exposure to Japanese art and design influenced this style. The sparse approach of Japanese design was in direct conflict with the Victorian interior’s heavy, dense and dark designs. English Arts and Crafts had a direct influence on American Mission style as well as Arts & Crafts designs. Designer and architect Gustav Stickley created his famous “Craftsman” furniture around the same time Frank Lloyd Wright was developing what we call “Prairie style” of architecture on the foundations of Arts & Crafts.
Look for rectilinear shapes, solid material, thick sections and geometric, stylized design elements. Oak is the typical wood that is favored.
CASUAL / LIFESTYLE (Soft Contemporary)
Soft contemporary is a relatively new design term that is defined by lifestyle, rather than an aesthetic school. Based around an idea of a liveable home that is a comfortable haven, the environments and designs are seemingly unstructured and lack rigid design parameters. Homeowners are able to relax and enjoy every room without defined formal and informal spaces.
Look for uncluttered design elements, simple lines, a lack of ornamentation and warm, comfortable color palettes that include earth tones and soft metals like brushed nickel and bronze.
CONTEMPORARY / MODERN
First used to describe any new style after 1930, Contemporary was a response to Art Deco and Bauhaus. Polished metals, typical of Bauhaus gave way to an interest in wood and even plastics as the material developed. Both contemporary and modern both represent new paths in design, Modern more directly relates to the designs of the 1930s through the 1960s. Contemporary covers more current designs rooted in the design history of the last thirty years.
Look for the absence of ornamentation, clean and uncluttered lines, single tone finishes lacking texture, monochrome patterns and an overall lightness of feeling in the construction.
ETHNIC / FOLK / PRIMITIVE
Most of the styles listed here are based on the designs and movements created by formally trained designers, artisans, and architects. Outside this realm is the world of craftspeople who use indigenous materials and techniques that are self-taught or handed down from generation to generation. “Formal” design has long been inspired and influenced by primitive, ethnic, and folk designs and crafts. Shaker furniture, African bead ware, along with Mayan and other Pre-Columbian artifacts have all influenced contemporary and modern art and design, but are recognized on their own merit.
Look for rudimentary, simple manufacturing techniques, irregular and/or limited ornamentation, imperfections, simple shapes, and finishes.
LODGE / COUNTRY
In the late 19th century as America matured, the upper class built country estates and lodges outside the industrialized cities. The desire to spend time away from the city trickled down to the rising middle class masses over time. In the early 20th century, National Parks were developed. In these parks and in wooded and mountain areas, lodges were built. The lodges typically used natural, locally sourced materials often found on site. Simple construction techniques featuring exposed beams, while stone and plaster were favored. High style rustic interiors complemented the outdoor activities, such as hunting, fishing, hiking, skiing, boating and swimming.
Look for rough-hewn woods, stone, iron and other hand forged metals, and heavily textured surfaces. Elements of sporting activities or wild game are also popular. Antlers, birch bark, taxidermy or other animal themes can be used.
MEDITERRANEAN / SPANISH
Spanish architecture reflects the climate of the country. Flat roofs, white, thick stucco walls, cool stone floors aid in the cooling of the home in hot, dry weather typical of the country. Decorative elements found in pattern tiles built into the floor or walls add color as well as visual interest. The close proximity of Spain to the North African coast has brought Islamic traditions to traditional Spanish style. From the time of the Moors, the Spanish have borrowed the bright colors, patterns and rugs from the lands to the South. Renaissance designs from Italy made their way west to Spain, influencing the art, furniture, and design. Ironwork, heavily carved wood, and natural clay products in tiles and vases are typical of Mediterranean and Spanish designs.
Look for intricate, highly detailed wrought iron work in panels, lighting and furniture, leather, silver, terracotta, colorful patterns, ivory, and ebony embellishments and rich earth tones.
Stained glass is a painstaking process that is thousands of years old. Each and every fragment of glass in the overall design is individually wrapped in copper. Then all the pieces of the design are assembled and soddered together, one individual joint at a time. Louis Comfort Tiffany brought this age old technique into renewed popularity in the late 19th century and early 20th century with his designs. Along with John LaFarge, Tiffany is credited with the rebirth of stained glass. Using his designs for lighting, lamps and panels in the home, Tiffany brought what was once reserved for cathedrals and churches into every day life. Tiffany’s designs are inspired by Art Nouveau, Art Deco and Arts & Crafts. Organic and geometric designs with rich, natural colors are hallmarks of Tiffany style lighting.
Look for colorful pieces of clear and opaque glass, set in geometric or organic patterns wrapped in dark, onyx-colored beading. The complementary lamp base or lamp (bulb) supporting devices are typically in rich, deep bronze finishes. Many of the contemporary pieces inspired by Tiffany designs are finished in Brushed Nickel.
Traditional designs are often based on the Neoclassical designs popular from 1750 until the second quarter of the 19th century. Today’s traditional designs may contain traces of Baroque and Rococo era flourishes that gave way to the more streamlined classical proportions of Neoclassical. Based on the architecture and art of Greek and Roman designs, Neoclassical designs are highly decorative but in a refined manner. Traditional has a restrained feeling, lacking superfluous accents and elements.
Look for elegant, gentle curves, and classic lines wrapped in restrained, but noticeable ornamentation. Cherry, mahogany, marble and crystal all complement traditional designs.
Like Casual/Lifestyle, Transitional is a somewhat new design term. Transitional spans Traditional and Contemporary design elements. Taking Traditional elements and softening and relaxing them for contemporary living. These Traditional designs often lose their more fussy elements and are given new materials and finishes in keeping with Contemporary style and tastes. Transitional style creates a more relaxed, inviting room setting that appeals to both traditional and contemporary tastes.
Look for bronze or silvery metal finishes, glass accents with soft diffusers, brighter colors and traditional lines with less ornamentation.
UTILITY or INDUSTRIAL
Also known as Industrial, this design style favors function over flourish. Light output is the goal rather than decorative accent. Simple and straightforward designs that can be used in commercial or residential designs.