My fondness for beautiful lighting is notorious. Well it is in my family anyway. The evening ritual of switching on the living room lights in our house is an exercise regime akin in its intensity to a round of sun salutation. And there are indications that this obsession is being passed down through the generations. On entering a restaurant with a bright overhead light, my eldest has been known to proclaim in despair “oh, it’s not atmospherical in here, is it Mummy?” (Oh yes, we have our own word for “correct” lighting.) He’s usually right.
But while the overhead light might be practically useless for creating a cozy and inviting vibe in a room, it is an important design feature in any room. Up front and central, it’s impossible to ignore. A beautiful ceiling-hung light fixture can be a stunning focal point, setting the tone for the rest of the scheme.
But to make an impact, your statement light needs to be large. There are few design bloopers more disappointing than a disproportionately diminutive pendant dangling pathetically in a large room. In fact there’s a current trend towards over-sized lighting. To whatever extent you’re comfortable embracing that trend, this is one area of your home where you definitely don’t want to scrimp on proportions.
So you’ve got a statement light sized hole to fill. But what if your budget is decidedly austerity sized? What are your options for making a positive impact on your room design while avoiding a negative impact on your credit rating?
This post is the first in a mini blog series about statement lighting on a budget. In future posts I’ll be looking at DIY options for making or pimping cheap fittings to luxe them up. I’ll also be sharing with you the best light fittings available online and on the high street whose good looks way exceed their price tag. Today though I’m focusing on the magic of clustering.
It’s possible to make a big impact with small inexpensive fittings when you cluster them. A pair (like in my family room below) hung over a table, or an arrangement of three of more hung at varying heights can add a wow factor for a fraction of the cost of a single large fitting. This is definitely one of those design formulas where the end result is greater than the sum of the parts.
There are a number of different ways you can go about clustering lighting.
hide the wiring
If you’re planning lighting in the course of a renovation project, then you might be able to plan for as many pendant light fittings in your ceiling as you want, exactly where you want them. Lucky you!
However what if you’re not doing other work and want to add additional pendants?
When I wanted to hang this pair of copper globe lights over my dining table (above) (they were relatively inexpensive at about £70 each from e-bay), I googled extensively to figure out how I could do this without ripping holes in my ceiling and having to enlist the services of a plasterer as well as an electrician. You might have thought I was trying to unearth Colonel Sander’s secret recipe for all the joy I had finding answers online.
Studying interiors shots for inspiration didn’t get me any further either. The business end of the fittings always seemed to be out of shot. (Just like mine above! Don’t worry though – all will be revealed…)
In the end Mr Around the Houses and I came up with our own solution which I’ll share here in the hope it’s helpful.
How to Hang Multiple Ceiling Pendants from a Single Outlet
Disclaimer: This is absolutely a lay person’s description which would probably cause (at best) confusion or (worse) hilarity were you to relay this to anyone with a clue about DIY and/or electrics.
This solution involves crafting a ceiling box from some thin plywood. (MDF would be fine too.) The box will sit over the old ceiling rose and hide the wiring to the new pendant outlets – so it’s a box but with only five sides, i.e. missing the “lid”.
We picked up our plywood gratis as an off cut from a local timber yard. The box doesn’t need to be deep, just make sure there’s enough depth to house the wiring. Ours is around 1.5cm and did the job. The length and width are entirely up to you and depends on how many pendants you want to hang and how. It could be square, rectangular or circular (in which case you’ll need the edging to be pliable enough to bend into shape). A decent timber yard will cut the sizes that you need for you, though as the plywood’s thin, it’s not hard to do with a little saw.
Nail or glue the pieces together to form your box. Drill holes where you want the pendants to hang from. Use some filler to smooth over any nails and little gaps around the edges, then paint over to finish. You could paint it to match your ceiling, or in a contrasting shade. It’s easier to do it at this stage I think than waiting until it’s fitted to the ceiling, though you will need to retouch to cover the nails once it’s in situ.
Then you need to do the wiring bit. It would be ideal to involve an electrician at this stage unless you know your way around a circuit. Or enjoy living dangerously. I’m going to gloss over this part because I’m (very) not qualified to give advice about electrics. I can however say that it involved:
- wiring the existing lighting circuit outlet into a junction box
- feeding the wires from the new light fittings through the drilled holes in the ceiling box
- wiring the new light fittings into the junction box, providing the connection to the lighting circuit
- quite a lot of fiddling about, some mild profanity and very sore arms
Once the wiring’s completed (and I strongly advise you satisfy yourself it’s working, before proceeding to the next stage), you can screw the box into place on your ceiling. Then all that’s needed is some filler and touching up to cover the screwheads and you’re done. Here’s the “business end” of our pendants.
Flaunt the wiring
Another means to cluster lighting is to use a multi way ceiling rose and make a feature of the wiring.
For an off the peg solution, you could opt for the Starkey Chandelier from Made.com (below). At £149 (plus the cost of bulbs and £5.96 P&P) it’s a stunning choice for the cash. With exposed light bulbs, the fitting has an industrial vibe, but its multiple dangling bulbs mimics the glamour of a crystal chandelier too. It would create a dramatic contrast in a room which otherwise avoids the edgy starkness of an industrial-heavy scheme.
However, for something unique check out the fabulous components at Dowsing and Reynolds. Their easy to navigate website is full of inspo and step by step instructions for creating your own bespoke lighting creation. Choose a multi outlet ceiling rose with up to 9 cable outlets, a fabric cable from the wide variety of colours and finishes on offer, and bulb holder to suit your fitting.
While this approach is ideal for the industrial exposed bulb look, it would work just as well with other styles. You could use this approach to hang multiples of any type of shade. They can hang straight down from the rose, clustered at a variety of heights, or you could space them out around your ceiling using ceiling hooks.
So there you have it: how to cluster your lighting to make a statement bigger than your bank balance.
Have you got other ideas for statement lighting on a budget? Or any successful lighting projects you’d like to share? Do let me know so I can include them in future posts.