Exposed bulb lighting fixtures are hugely trendy right now, with everyone from homeowners to restaurateurs rushing to incorporate these unique, industrial-inspired lights into their decor. But as stylish as these sleek, minimalist fixtures are, they have the distinct disadvantage of being visually a little glaring. Even lights that feature antique replica Edison bulbs, which have a softer, orangier glow than contemporary models, can be a little difficult to look at. So if you love the look of exposed bulb lighting fixtures, but would actually like to be able to look directly at them, we’ve got a few ways to tone down the style while still keeping the bulb visible.
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One of the most popular ways to subtly tone down an exposed bulb lighting fixture is to simply enclose it in a wire cage. This can be as simple as a few metal pieces, but the design is usually a nod to turn of the century caged factory bulbs, where the metal is designed to prevent the bulbs from accidentally being broken. At their most basic, they cover from the base of the bulb socket down to about an inch below the bottom of the bulb, and may or may not have a layer of clear glass between the bulb and the cage.
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The bigger and more intricate the cage, the more the bulb inside will be obscured and the more cage-like the fixture will feel, giving it that practical, industrial look and feel that’s so popular right now. But even lighting fixtures with cages that are very ornate or even intentionally whimsical don’t ultimately cover up the bulb particularly well; they only block the bright light of the filament in small strips. That means the look of the fixture stays very industrial, but that the light can still be a bit harsh.
Placing a simple glass cover over a bare bulb is another way to significantly alter the appearance of the fixture and subtly tone down the intensity of the light. Blown, tinted glass is an especially popular option, with broad bulbous shapes that mimic old oil lanterns, gas lights, and candle covers to give the fixture a more elegant, antique look and feel. Soft sepia tones or light, tea-colored tints are especially popular for creating that aged look and feel, but these types of lights can range from crystal clear to a whole rainbow of colors.
The darker the color of the glass, the more heavily obscured the filament in the bulb will be, though anything but clear glass will usually mute the light enough so that it won’t hurt your eyes. That said, because the glass is translucent, you’ll still be able to see the decorative filament of an antique light bulb through it, so you still get a similar impact, even if the bulb isn’t technically exposed. Plus, the color and style of the glass shade can significantly alter the overall appearance of the light, making it a little easier to customize this very minimalist style to your space.
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You can also use metal shades to cover an exposed bulb lighting fixture. From a distance, even a relatively small shade will keep half or more of the bulb covered, reducing the impact of the bright filament. Choosing a metal shade will also give the fixture a more rustic, industrial style. As with wire cages, these shades usually cover the bulb from the bottom of the socket down, and come in a wide variety of styles and finishes. Weathered or oxidized metal shades are great for a very rugged decor, like a log cabin, while cleaner, riveted metal is a better choice for an industrial loft or farmhouse.
The bigger the shade, the better the coverage of the bulb and the less you’ll see of it; how much of the bulb you want hidden depends on how much the bright light bothers you versus how much you want a decorative antique bulb to show. Even the biggest metal shades will still typically leave the very tip of the bulb exposed, though, just to give you that hint of its antique style while keeping your eyes shaded from the harshest light. Larger shades are a great option for exposed bulb lighting fixtures you intend to hang over a table or kitchen island, since from most angles they’ll look like ordinary pendant lights, but the decorative bulbs will be visible to anyone who sits underneath them and happens to glance up.
What do you think of these slightly less exposed exposed bulb lighting fixtures? Is it worth adding a shade of some kind to help tone down the light, or is the simple style of the basic bulb more important? Let me know what you think in the comments below!