Bright ideas: These lighting trends are transforming rooms in 2020
An industry expert on the big themes, shapes and bulbs
A fresh paint job and good lighting might just be two of the most dramatic, and quickest, ways to instantly change a room's mood and look. And both types of interior updates can easily be done (and undone later) whether you rent or own your home.
To help you start thinking about how you can change up the lighting in your favourite rooms at home, we spoke with IDS Toronto's Managing Director and Head of Content, Karen Kang, to find out the commercial lighting trends that are influencing residential spaces, the most interesting lights in the market right now, and the new technologies and Canadian designers to keep an eye on.
The next big themes
According to Kang, there has been a "return to glamour" of sorts when it comes to lighting, although modern-looking designs (think: very clean, geometric shapes) haven't really gone away. "We've been seeing lots of beautiful, custom light fixtures; richer tones. [Designers and manufacturers] are treating lighting almost like jewelry pieces for either your home or commercial spaces," says Kang. Lights already often double as art pieces in some restaurants and hotel lobbies, and there's a movement toward custom-looking, grand lighting in homes as well.
In Canada, Kang notes that natural materials like wood are currently quite popular for lighting, especially when combined with modern, geometric shapes.
Finally, what Kang calls a "diffusion of light" or "washes of light" are also being used in communal spaces such as workplaces in order to create a playful mood or add drama. New LED lights, which can be set at a certain temperature or level, can offer even, diffused lighting in a space (as opposed to lighting that's hyper-targeted) that offers decorative and not just functional benefits.
The newest bulbs
"A trend that we're seeing both in residential as well as commercial applications is what I call functional lighting," says Kang. "There's been a lot of research and [new] technology around the lighting that can imitate natural light within your home," Kang adds. Scientific studies have shown that certain types and colours of lights can affect mood, eyesight or how you rest, and in recent years, there have been a number of new innovations when it comes to LED lighting in particular. For instance, lights that can potentially better well-being by influencing circadian rhythms, and lighting to set certain moods — for example, hues to help with productivity, or create a restful feeling.
"They're really playing with the actual temperature of the light," says Kang, who mentions that architects and builders are working with bulbs that "literally can sense the time of day, and imitate all the various stages of [natural] light during the day."
Plant-focused lighting is another emerging trend. "Another thing that we've been seeing in Milan, but also with some of our decorators, is lighting that is also good for growing plants," says Kang. As we are bringing greenery into our homes, "light bulbs that are conducive to helping plants or natural materials grow within an interior space" are becoming increasingly popular, notes Kang.
The must-have shapes
Glamourous, gold-coloured lamps and lighting hardware have been trending, according to Kang. As are loose strands of lights combined with flexible materials like LED tape or leather, floor-specific lighting, and designs that almost resemble "light art." "[These pieces] look like a squiggle or a modern art piece, but it's an actual light," says Kang, mentioning the work of Toronto design studio Anony.
At the same time, notes Kang, some makers like Toronto's Hollis+Morris are "turning to natural materials like wood and leather to encase the glass" in their lights, and studios like Lambert & Fils in Montreal are experimenting with colourful hues and playful shapes that push against convention. Kang also loves Vancouver-based ANDlight's Vines series, featuring 1950s chrome lights that have been stacked to create a modernized, "vertical chandelier".
Truc Nguyen is a Toronto-based writer, editor and stylist. Follow her at @trucnguyen.