Learn Lighting Lingo

From elegant chandeliers to simple modern pieces, lighting has evolved from being a way to brighten a dark space to becoming a decorative statement for the home. Whether redecorating or building a brand-new house, making the proper lighting choices will add function, personality and a special flair to any room.

No matter which room or what type of space, there are many choices and options available to fit every need. A local ALA showroom is the best place to view the many different styles, sizes and shapes of lighting fixtures that are available to deliver the ambient, task and accent lighting necessary for your project. Knowledgeable, professionally trained lighting salespeople are there to answer every question and help shoppers make the best choices for each unique space.

Make the most of the shopping experience by taking some time to learn lighting terminology before visiting a lighting showroom. To begin, let’s talk about the different types of lighting fixtures.

Hanging lights are called chandeliers or pendants (not “pendulum,” a typical mispronunciation). Traditional chandeliers can be elaborate in design, chain hung and have arms (such as a crystal chandelier) where modern chandeliers and pendants may have a cleaner silhouette and are hung from single rods, wires or chains.

Mounted ceiling lights are called flush mount, semi-flush mount or recessed lights. These types of fixtures are an excellent source of ambient lighting and perfect for areas of the home that see a lot of activity such as kitchens, foyers and living rooms.

A wall-mounted light is called a sconce (pronounced: skons). A common mispronunciation for sconce is “scone,” which is a popular type of English baked biscuit and has nothing to do with lighting.

Portable lamps are just that - table or floor lamps that are portable. They can be easily moved around from place to place, giving great flexibility and myriad interior design possibilities.

Track lighting has the light sources mounted on tracks. Track lighting is known for its versatility as its individual fixtures can be moved, swiveled and aimed in any direction along the track.

Exterior lighting is any type of fixture that is used outdoors. They are specially constructed and finished to withstand all kinds of extreme weather.

Look up to see a showroom’s inventory of ceiling fans, which are usually hung in an overhead display. Today’s fans feature beautiful designs that can be used anywhere in the home. There are also ceiling fans made expressly for outdoor use.

Today, indoor lights of all types can be used anywhere in the home. Long gone are the days of specific lighting made for specific rooms. Many lighting showrooms arrange their lighting by style, rather than by room. Sconces may be grouped together on a wall or chandeliers hung together in a special area of the showroom. Most likely, there is not an area in a showroom that displays “kitchen lights” for example, because the placement of lights in the home is limited only by the imagination.

For the latest in lighting selections, tips, and trends, visit your local ALA-member Showroom.

Photo by Currey & Company.