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Wall Lights, Lanterns and Art

Wall Lights, Lanterns and Art

Wall lights and lanterns can play a useful role in an overall lighting scheme in providing ambient light within a space.

That said, they should not be considered as the only source of light except in areas such as hallways or corridors.  In living areas, dining rooms and studios they need to be combined with other light points such as table lamps or directional downlights. By their nature wall lights provide peripheral lighting and are not ideal for task lighting.

There are a multitude of different types of wall lights but they fall broadly into three categories - Lanterns, Wall lights and what we could call Art Light.

Lanterns, whether in traditional or modern forms, are basically a box with glass sides and front the original purpose of which was to hold a candle shielded from draughts.  The electric versions today follow the same format.  Lanterns are available for both indoor and outdoor use but when selecting for exterior use they need to have the correct IP rating and more than that should be manufactured and sealed in such a way that the weather does not cause them to deteriorate too rapidly.  The cheaper the fitting the shorter the life span.  

We would choose lanterns for garden walls and terraces for the exterior and for halls, corridors and other circulation areas in a house.  They should provide sufficient light in these areas although they might be supplemented by table lamps some downlighting for greater effect.  Lanterns, due to their design will cast shadows and this can appear ugly.  This is a matter of personal preference and it is for this reason we tend to use these sparingly.

Wall lights, in contrast to lanterns, are fittings that are not encased in glass.  The more traditional type will consist of one more arms with a lamp which is shielded by a shade.  There are many decorative versions available and an increasing number of modern interpretations on the classical theme.  In most cases the simpler the form the better and the more elegant.  That said there are some excellent examples of fittings replicated from original designs but these need to be chosen carefully and are best suited to interiors that need to retain the overall feel of the style intended.

As with lanterns they are only suitable for peripheral light in a room.  Such fittings are always behind the occupants of the room and therefore you will be sitting in you own shadow unless the light is supplemented with directional downlights or table lamps.  

One of the most irritating faults we come across on a project is the poor positioning of wall light points.  A light fitting in the wrong place is worse than no light fitting at all.  There are solution to inappropriate light points.  The cable can be left in a box and capped with a blank plate which can be printed to match the walls.  These can then be hidden by pictures.  The power source can of course be used for picture lights but relatively few pictures lend themselves to being lit.

Beyond wall lights and lanterns there are a number of manufacturers creating wall lights that raise lighting to an art form.  Companies such as Catellani & Smith use gold and silver leaf to create beautiful and unusual luminaires. These need to be positioned within a space for best advantage so that they can be seen at their best.  The light emitted will be ambient and useful as background lighting which will need other lighting forms for task lighting.  (Incidentally, gold is an amazing metal in that its ability to reflect light is unmatched by any other material.  The effects can be seen in a striking manner in St Mark’s Cathedral in Venice.)

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