Unique lighting adds interest for a ceiling that invites a look up


Light fixtures are an oft-overlooked part of home décor, but savvy interior designers know that they can be some of the most important elements in a room.

Not just for seeing when it gets dark, lighting can be the spark that electrifies the overall interior atmosphere.

“You can walk into a space and see the lighting and sometimes you don’t even notice it,” said Julia Buckingham, creative director and founder of Julia Buckingham Interiors, Chicago. “And then you walk into a space and you’re like, oh my gosh, that fixture illuminated the room. It created a beautiful moment for the space.”

Lighting the way

Ms. Buckingham calls lighting the “jewelry of the home,” but said many people neglect to add the proper accessories to pull their room together, especially in new-construction homes in which the contractor just threw something with bulbs up.

“Nobody knows quite what to do with the ceiling,” she said. “A lot of times people are very reticent for the ceiling to become the focal point. It’s a missed opportunity to have some fun!”

Design by, and images courtesy of, Julia Buckingham Interiors.

Although can lights are often necessary to illuminate a large space or dark corners, they do not do anything for the aesthetics of a room. Adding decorative ceiling fixtures to the mix can do a lot in terms of design.

Lights can be used to define separate spaces in an open-floor plan or add texture and interest in an area that is flat and one-dimensional. A large fixture hanging from the ceiling adds another layer to a space to draw the eye away from always looking at the same level.

“Lighting has become integral to a design project,” Ms. Buckingham said. “You just add an additional layer to make a space feel more three dimensional.

“It’s about layering, it’s about texture, it’s about adding something dramatic,” she said.

Bright ideas

The chosen fixture and the way it is positioned in the room sets a mood for the whole space, so it is important to think about the overall theme or vibe. Scale and shape should be considered as well.

Design by, and images courtesy of, Julia Buckingham Interiors

Ms. Buckingham usually goes for something large and unique to light up her spaces.

“I always look for something that is a little bigger than was anticipated, because that’s the best way to go,” she said. “People often make lighting too small.”

A mix of chandeliers, pendant lights, multi-tiered pieces and multiple fixtures rather than one all add even more texture and interest, and using vintage or colorful fixtures make for one-of-a-kind spaces.

Ms. Buckingham installed three vintage theater lights into a Chicago-area home for an unexpected touch, and has a multicolored blown-glass piece in her own Scottsdale, Arizona home that “looks like a little basket of candy.

“I just like things that are unusual and that nobody else has, and that people comment on, and really have the opportunity to be unique,” she said.

“Sometimes it’s kind of a surprise. It’s the idea of creating that little tiny bit of luxury in a space by adding the right illumination and the right piece. It is like adding a bangle to your wrist or a beautiful bauble to your finger.”