Perfect pendants: Shedding light on why they’ve taken over from our precious table lamps

Pendant lights are plumbing new depths - Giles Kime finds out why.

In 1926, the American economist George Taylor claimed that hemline lengths directly correlate to the health of an economy; low in bad times (the 1930s) and high in good times (the 1960s). I hope that the same isn’t true of pendant lights because they’re descending rapidly.

‘Late adopters might take a while to acclimatise, but, like black walls, painted floors and goatskins, that’s only a matter of time.’

There are all sorts of reasons for this, none of which have anything to do with economic sentiment. The first is that, almost 140 years after Thomas Edison applied for a patent on his electric bulb, we have eventually realised that, in most circumstances, lamps are better at eye level or below.

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It’s a lesson we’ve learnt from all sorts of good examples: the giant shades that are now almost obligatory over kitchen islands, the flattering glow of wall lights on either side of bathroom mirrors (rather than above), the relaxed feel of restaurants and hotels that are lit exclusively by table lamps rather than by dazzling chandeliers overhead.

The result is that pendant lights are beginning to turn up in all sorts of unexpected places previously occupied by table lamps: by bedsides, on consoles and over kitchen worktops.

The other reason is that the choice of pendant lights is becoming more extensive. They have a discreet feel more in keeping with the current mood than a chandelier and they won’t startle you when in close proximity.

Pendant lights have practical advantages, too. Like anything hung from the ceiling (kitchen pans, Serrano hams, bicycles), they free up valuable space on floors, worktops and bedside tables. And, compared to wall-mounted lights, they are easier to fit retrospectively.

light pendant

Late adopters might take a while to acclimatise, but, like black walls, painted floors and goatskins, that’s only a matter of time.