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Lighting – Making A Swap
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Lighting – Making A Swap

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Lighting is personal.  You favor dangly chandeliers and teardrop pendants while the previous owner loved his shiny gold and oak fixtures from 30 years ago.  Swapping out light fixtures can be one of the fastest ways to update a home and make it yours.  Going for a modern vibe?  Choose fixtures that are streamlined and simple.  Trying to create the boho feel? Select macramé shades and woody rattan structures.  The swap can be almost anything – a fluorescent fixture for can lights, track lights for pendants, a flush-mount fixture for a ceiling fan – as long as conditions and budget allow.

Replacing Florescent Lights with Recessed Cans

If your house was built somewhere between 1970 to 1990, it is quite possible your ceiling, especially in the kitchen, may have a raised portion housing fluorescent tube lights covered with plastic panels.  If this is the case, you have 2 options for switching to recessed cans.  First option – frame the opening and repair it with drywall, inserting the recessed can lights into the new flat ceiling.  Or a second option – install recessed lights in the old soffit, adding crown molding around the inside of the soffit to finish the look.  Either way the ceiling will require some drywall repair and paint.

If the ceiling has a flush-mounted florescent fixture, the solution is simpler.  The update is reduced to taking down the old fixture and installing recessed cans – all potentially fed off the single wire used for the florescent.

Rethink Flush-Mount Fixtures

The first flush-mount fixture that comes to mind is always the cheap dome-shaped one with the unfortunate nickname.  Although the flush-mount fixture has gotten a bad rap, it treads the middle ground of light fixtures perfectly – it doesn’t demand attention, but it won’t go unnoticed. 

Flush-mount fixtures are sometimes the ideal application.  Not always is there cavity space in existing ceilings for placement of recessed can lights without major construction.  In that situation, a low-profile flush-mount can keep the minimalist look without costly construction.

Flush-mount fixtures may be the perfect swap for chandeliers or pendants in areas where they invade eyeline.  When combined in a kitchen with pendants, they add variety to the look, layer the light, and add style without making the space too busy.

Schoolhouse-style semi-flush mounts set off a white kitchen with a classic look.  Cottage-style fixtures with simple glass and steely metal cages can be mix-and-matched with pendants for a traditional style.  Semi-flush mount mini chandeliers in a bedroom, bathroom or living room add tasteful bling without compromising headspace.

Stick and Stay

Probably the easiest fixture swap is exchanging similar styles.  Track lights for track lights, for example.  Move from outdated to stylish by swapping out chunky track heads for sleek hanging pendants.

A pendant light for a pendant light is also an easy swap.  Even easier?  Replace the shade.  Swap glass shades for metal ones, exchange crystal shades for paper.  And while you’re at it, change the shape – move from teardrop to globe or drum to lantern. 

Bulbs make a difference

Forget changing out the fixture when a simple bulb could do the trick.  The right bulb can take your room from dark and dreary to bright and open with a few twists of the wrist.

First things first – determine the use.  The function of the lighting determines which color of bulb you choose.  Is it a space you go to relax?  Choose a light color that’s warm and snug (around 2700 Kelvin).  Is it a place you perform tasks such as bill paying or vegetable chopping?  Choose a light color that’s fresh and airy (around 4000 Kelvin)

Style follows function, and the variety of decorative bulbs these days are endless.  Vintage-style LED filament bulbs, if they’re exposed, add an elegant touch.  These filament bulbs now come in a range of choices, from the traditional Edison bulb to unique, whimsical shapes.  Filament bulbs are perfect for making a fixture look turn-of-the-century vintage.

If your style leans more contemporary, consider replacing your bulbs with frosted globes.  Frosted globes don’t irritate eyes and are great at achieving a modern look.  Metallic-tip bulbs, the ones that look as though the bottom of the bulb has been dipped in metal, are helpful in modernizing metal fixtures or ones with wooden bases.  Metallic-tip bulbs also reduce glare by reflecting light back towards the fixture.

Switch your swap

No matter the swap you choose, it’s helpful to have the fixture on a dimmer switch.  Not only do they help set the mood of the room, they also might allow you to squeeze another three to four years of use out of your bulbs.

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Senior Editor for Special Sections

Senior Editor for Special Sections at The Billings Gazette.

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