Usually when you talk about decorative lighting fixtures, there’s a pretty strong emphasis on the “fixture” part. After all, most lights cover up the bulb, and standard light bulbs all look the same anyway; it’s the body and shade of the light that define its style. But lately designers have been discarding this notion entirely and turning the parts of a lighting fixture that are normally hidden – namely the bulb and the cord – into decorative fixtures all on their own. These exposed bulb lighting fixtures run the gamut from minimalist and modern to industrial inspired antiques, and offer a unique new interpretation of the classic lighting fixture.
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The most basic exposed bulb lighting fixtures are, practically speaking, little more than bulbs on cords. You can find these either in single strand with only one bulb, or in larger groups (also known as cluster pendants) that hang from the ceiling on individual lines and cluster loosely together. But these are worlds apart from the bare bulb you probably have hanging from the ceiling in your garage or basement; the bulbs themselves are specially designed and often tipped or coated with metal to keep the light they produce from being too harsh or glaring.
And these lights typically aren’t hung from a bare, unadorned wire, either. The cords themselves are decorative, at the very least with a smooth black coating that makes them very bold and very visible. Much of modern design is about strong, simple lines, and the cords on exposed bulb lighting fixtures fill this need and give the fixtures their shape and heft. It’s also not uncommon for these cords to be very bright and colorful, particularly fire engine red, which gives the light a bit more personality and certainly makes it more attention-grabbing.
Exposed bulb lighting fixtures, particularly of the cluster pendant variety, also leave a whole lot of room for you to get creative. Because the cords that support each individual bulb are sturdy yet flexible, rather than letting the bulbs hang in a simple bouquet, it’s possible to arrange the cords in almost any configuration. By hanging each cord individually, you can create a makeshift chandelier; the cords can also be braided, draped, wrapped, or tied around each other or nearby objects (particularly ceiling beams) to create a unique, organic installation.
The trend towards using exposed bulb lighting fixtures was originally a very modern one, but as antique replica light bulbs have become more common and more popular, exposed bulb lights have become a staple of an industrial style. Rather than smooth, chromed bulbs, these antique inspired fixtures use light bulbs that mimic the earliest incandescent bulbs, with bright, intricately wound filament and unusually shaped, often slightly tinted glass bulbs. These industrial style lights also tend to have more elaborate, decorative sockets, but thinner, simpler cords.
You can find industrial style exposed bulb lights in a cluster pendant formation, but while this is the go-to for a more modern look, it’s a bit less common with a more antique style. Instead, these lights are often paired with rugged, factory style parts, like heavy duty piping, wire cages, rope, or even wood pieces; the goal is less about creating a sleek streamlined lighting fixture and more about one that reflects an old fashioned practical functionality. Unlike more conventional antique lights that are designed to be ornate, these are beautiful in their earthy, utilitarian simplicity.
That said, these industrial inspired designs have a very whimsical feel to them. Since we’re more accustomed to windy compact fluorescent bulbs or very standard incandescents, the replicas of 20th century factory bulbs look positively magical, with a warm orangey light that can enhance the old fashioned feel of an industrial style room. They also often have features that seem fanciful to the modern eye, like wire cages on the bulbs or intricate swing arms or pulleys that aren’t strictly necessary outside a turn of the century factory, but that add a really nice stylish touch to the overall design.
What do you think of these exposed bulb lighting fixtures? Do you like the more modern look, or the way it’s been incorporated into an industrial style decor? Let me know in the comments!