I’ve mentioned elsewhere that reclaimed industrial furniture is starting to make a big comeback in the design world. Maybe the most widespread and universal example of this is the resurgence of the light bulb pendant. The decorative equivalent of a bare bulb on a string, antique models sport beautiful sockets attached to long cords, often with old fashioned bulbs. But this look has also been appropriated by the more modern-minded in the form of cluster pendants.
What Is A Cluster Pendant?
Like light bulb pendants, cluster pendants are made of a bulb, a socket, and a cord. But rather than having a decorative socket, often modern versions have decorative bulbs. And rather than sporting only a single bulb, modern cluster pendants are composed of many multiple bulbs, each on their own separate cord and allowed to hang in a bundle – or cluster – forming a sort of casual globe-style chandelier.
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When you think of a single bare bulb on a cord (either in your basement or in an antique lighting fixture) typically it’s one that’s hanging straight down from the ceiling. But with a modern cluster pendant composed of several independent bulbs, you have a whole lot more opportunities for customization. The lengths of the cords can be varied, or rather than being left to hang loose, each cord can be attached to a wall, draped, pinned, fastened, braided, or tied into just about any position, creating a draping, spidery style you won’t find in any other type of light.
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The notion of a decorative bulb might seem strange. In antique designs, it typically means using antique glass and an old fashioned filament type, so the decoration mostly comes from the shape of the actual lit part inside the bulb. For more modern fixtures, bulbs can be blown into different shapes or even coated with a thin layer of chrome to create a much more chic, modern appearance. Not only does a chrome coating create a shiny, reflective modern surface, but it also acts as a sort of built in shade, to help moderate the brightness of having a fixture made entirely of bare bulbs. Cluster pendants made with CFL type bulbs often swap the traditional helix swirl for more unique, decorative patterns.
Of course the biggest drawback to cluster pendants made with unique bulbs is that any non-standard bulb is going to be a little difficult to replace. And I’m not even talking those weird shaped appliance bulbs you find yourself hunting down every few years. Often these bulbs are unique to the light’s manufacturer, and can only be replaced by re-purchasing them FROM the manufacturer or a dealer that carries their products specifically. Because bulbs can last a long time (dare I say, sometimes longer than some companies?) if you plan to have one of these fixtures for a long time, it’s probably wise to buy a few rounds of replacement bulbs ahead of time.
Another drawback (for some, at least) is that looking at a bare bulb can be a little harsh on the eyes – and might be a little bright for your room. If you know you’re sensitive to looking right at lights, though, you aren’t out of luck. Cluster pendants also come with small shades, either built around the bulb or occasionally built inside it, designed to soften and filter the light while getting the same sleek, bare-bulbed look. These shades are usually small and unobtrusive, like simple domes, and sometimes nix the problem of the difficult-to-replace bulb all together by giving the light its shape and simply using a smaller, standard bulb inside.
I don’t know about you, but personally when I think of a bare, exposed bulb, I think of that lonely bulb in the garage or attic hanging on a basic wire. But for all the ways that cluster pendants differ from that basic, utilitarian eyesore, perhaps my favorite is that the wires are anything but basic, and often come in a rainbow of colors. Red seems to be the most common, but I’ve seen models in green, pink, blue, yellow – every color of the rainbow, sometimes all at once. This adds some lovely flair to what’s ultimately a pretty simple, minimalist pendant light, and is especially daring when you separate the bulbs rather than letting them hang in a cluster.
What do you think of this unique modern lighting style? Are these cluster pendants from Zuo Modern and Nuevo Living an adequate answer to antique or industrial style light bulb pendants or other exposed bulb lighting? Let me know what you think in the comments below!
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