When it comes to making your house feel like a home, the best investment you can make is in pieces that will remain timeless. As fun as trend-hunting is (and we do love a good trend), the smartest buy is always one that will allow you to grow and change with a piece, rather than feel like it’s dated six months later. I’ve never been a whiz with electrical work, so I tend to change my main lighting once – right when I move in. Hiring an electrician who will do reliable work can cost more than it should here in New York, so I like to measure twice and cut once when it comes to lighting. Julia and I have been pondering a new pendant lamp for the living room, but haven’t been able to find one that feels quite right yet. Although that perfect find is still eluding me, I kept coming back to the same 5 categories of pendant lamps that always feel timeless in a room: metallic, glass, basket/woven, industrial and paper. No matter the stylistic details and variations, these main categories pop up time and time again in homes across all styles. Sometimes it’s nice to have the basics gathered in a single place, so today I’m sharing these five categories with examples I feel are worth investing in. These are pieces that won’t have you regretting a purchase a year later – they’ll grow with you for many new homes to come. xo, grace
*What’s your go-to pendant lamp? I’m always looking for newbies to bookmark, so if you’ve got a favorite, let us know below!
Click through for all 5 pendant styles (and 20 different options) and WHY they’re our favorites after the jump
Have you ever heard anyone yell, “If I see one more brass lamp I’m going to lose it!”? Nope. That’s because most basic metal finishes (brass, nickel, copper, bronze, silver) are timeless. Used sparingly and simply, these materials will give you a piece that blends well with almost any interior and will stand the test of time. As long as you properly care for them (clean, dust, etc.) they will not only last stylistically, but they’ll last long enough to be handed down to other people in your family. Simply put, you can never go wrong with a simple brass pendant. It’s the little black dress of lighting.
Glass lighting can be tricky, because you’re dealing with a mostly exposed bulb. So I find these lights are the most timeless when given a bit of shading from the glass, in the form of a smoky glass or even a milk glass. That tiny bit of opaqueness will make the bulb seem less harsh without taking away too much light. When going for something that will last a lifetime, simple is best. While it’s tempting to get something dramatic and multi-colored (there are some fantastically dramatic ombre glass pendants out there), you’re going to get the most bang for your buck with something simple like these basic styles here.
Woven lights are too often overlooked in homes and written off as somewhat retro or 70s-themed. But I find a woven or basket-style lamp to be incredibly neutral and appropriate for a number of home styles. Sure, a heavily textured woven pendant will work in a more rustic or country style, but a dramatic unbleached woven grass pendant works well in the most minimal modern interiors, too. I think of these as the tweed jackets of the design world- they may not be the coolest kids on the block, but they always work.
Paper and paper-like pendants will always remind some people of college. We all had a paper lamp or two that we plugged in and hung from a cord somewhere, but paper lamps don’t need to remain in the dorm. When looking for a new bedroom light, we actually ended up going back to a trusty white paper pendant in a dramatically oversized style. The look is clean, simple and surprisingly modern. Noguchi’s paper lanterns and pendants are always my favorite, but you can pick up similar styles at stores like Pearl River Mart and even most big box stores. If you want something that will truly last a long time, consider investing in a Nelson Bubble Lamp. Though they’re not actually paper (they’re a plastic derivative) they have the look and feel of a thick paper and give the same light-weight feel.
I have a love/hate relationship with cage lighting. When it’s done well, it’s beautiful and timeless, but when done poorly it can feel alternately too busy and too stark. A single cage light in a HUGE space can feel reminiscent of a construction sight, but when used in a simple row (like over a dining table or above a bar) they can be incredibly elegant. The key is to focus on high-quality materials and cages they have some visual interest. I prefer the thicker brass models to the super-colorful plastic models you can find in stores, but the thin cages painted white also have a nice simple feel. The bottom line is to stick to styles that have more substantial cage architecture and that are made of higher quality materials. Grouping too many together can feel busy, so stick to small numbers in a row or at staggered heights.
Images above, top to bottom: Mini-Pendant Light with Gold Cage Shade $320, Antique Brass Mini-Pendant Light $102, Gold Cage Pendant $79.95, Threshold Industrial Pendant $30, Room Essentials Industrial Pendant $18,
Atomic Topless Industrial Guard Pendant $125