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Achieving the ‘California Casual’ Style: Lighting


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Today we are talking lighting, more specifically lighting when trying to achieve the “California Casual” style we have been breaking down on the blog the last two weeks. In case you missed the previous posts, click through to California Casual: On a Budget, California Casual: Furniture, and California Casual: Art to get the gist of where we started. And yes, the style might not be for you (or for everyone for that matter), but today’s post will cover some pretty basic rules that apply to all styles when it comes to lighting. So although you might not be ready to run out and grab a Serge Mouille sconce for your wall, read on as we do have some tips for getting the right light for every space, and a bit more on who this Serge character is.

While shopping online can be daunting, lighting is one of the only things you don’t have to touch, see, feel, and experience in person to confidently click “add to cart”. So, let’s start with the most common type in everyone’s home, table and floor lamps and talk about what makes them work and necessary in just about every space.

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In general, table and floor lamps are one of the easiest and most affordable pieces to add lighting to your home. They are essentially “plug and play” in the fact that you take them out of the box, plug them in and they are ready to go. No screwing them into the wall, no calling an electrician to wire them up to the ceiling junction box, so they can be one of your greatest assets when trying to add some artificial light into your space. But, there are a few things to keep in mind as all lamps are not created equal. Before you start shopping you need to decide what type of lighting you are looking for, ambient diffused light, directional task light, or purely decorative light – as there is nothing worse than having a beautiful lamp that casts a spotlight on your toes and no where else in the room. Typically you will want both your table and floor lamps to have fabric or paper shades unless you are using them as task lighting where in that case it could be a metal shade.

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The diffused shade will not only create an ambient glow but it is the most forgiving on your eyes and the room it is in. When it comes to the “California Casual” style for table and floor lamps you are wanting to look for anything with very simple graphic shapes, thrown pottery bases, wood bases, or metal accents. No fancy scrollwork, no fringe, no extra baubles or pulls, and definitely no bright colors. The lamps of this style are all fairly utilitarian looking in both appearance and function although tend to have a hand made look to them with refined and beautiful shapes. Here are a few of our favorites:


1. Orine Table Lamp | 2. Bella Skirt Lamp | 3. Coleman Lamp | 4. Ceramic Table Lamp | 5. Tripod Wood Table Lamp | 6. Ceramic Cut Out Table Lamp | 7. Ellis Table Lamp | 8. Chet Wood Table Lamp | 9. Modern Home Table Lamp | 10. Morton Table Lamp | 11. Nixon Stick Table Lamp | 12. Gracelynn Table Lamp | 13. Trumpet Lamp | 14. Metal Wood Table Lamp | 15. Alpert Table Lamp | 16. Totem Table Lamp | 17. Tapered Ceramic Table Lamp | 18. Copper Lamp | 19. Wood Barrel Table Lamp | 20. Stick Table Lamp | 21. Aliso Lamp | 22. Bamboo Table Lamp | 23. Teardrop Table Lamp | 24. Harllow Table Lamp


1. Elena Floor Lamp | 2. Mulberry Tripod Floor Lamp | 3. Grasshopper Floor Lamp | 4. Henderson Floor Lamp | 5. Holstebro Style Floor Lamp | 6. Hugo Barbell Wood Floor Lamp | 7. Hektar Floor Lamp | 8. Great Jones Floor Lamp | 9. Racavan Stork | 10. Tripod Wood Floor Lamp | 11. Paddy Floor Lamp | 12. Oak Wood Tripod Floor Lamp | 13. Dual Function LED Floor Lamp | 14. Giraffe Floor Lamp | 15. Kima Floor Lamp | 16. Petite Shade Floor Lamp | 17. Wilkie Floor Lamp | 18. Tripod G5 Floor Lamp | 19. Holmo Floor Lamp | 20. Astrom Task Floor Lamp | 21. Walnut Tripod Austin  Floor Lamp

Next up we are moving up to the walls. Wall sconces are a great addition if you are looking for overhead or at eye level lighting which is great for giving the room an overall glow if you don’t have any overhead lighting that is built in. If you don’t already have junction boxes on your wall, then you can always opt for a plug in wall sconce that you can easily screw onto your wall and plug in just as you would a table or floor lamp. Generally the rule with wall sconces is – they should be hung at about 6′ above the floor or 6-8″ higher if you have taller or vaulted ceilings. Besides the distance from the floor you will also want to hang them about 8-10 feet apart in your room so that it casts an even glow throughout the space and won’t create any dark pockets.

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Now, when it comes to the “California Casual” style the same installation rules apply but stylistically you will find sconces with metal shades, exposed bulbs, or wood detailing on them. They do take some cues from mid-century and industrial design. Choose exposed fabric wires (for plug in options) or thin metal tubing (for hardwired options) with metal shades if you really want to get the look.

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If you have noticed the below sconce popping up in just about everyones homes recently then you’ve been paying attention as the Serge Mouille sconce of the 1950’s has been gaining popularity among the “California Casual” look for some time. His designs were simple, angular, and insect like and although an original will set you back a pretty penny (but are totally timeless and worth the investment) there are quite a few similar look-a-likes coming onto the market as well that can still give you the same vibe.

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Here are a few of our favorites:


1. Crane Light | 2. Cypress Articulating Sconce | 3. Chelsea Double Sconce | 4. Ava Wall Sconce | 5. Nelson Cigar Wall Sconce | 6. Ellinor Black Wall Sconce | 7. 265 Wall Lamp | 8. Workstead Wall Lamp | 9. Concentric Flush Dome | 10. View Wall Lamp | 11. Lodge Wall Sconce | 12. Industrial Sconce | 13. Cylinder Task Wall Light | 14. Enok Metal Wall Sconce | 15. AJ Metal Wall Sconce | 16. Half Dome Wall Lamp | 17. Flynn Single Wall Sconce | 18. Simon Adjustable Sconce | 19. Mantis Wall Sconce | 20. Swing Lamp | 21. Medium Swing Sconce

Next up, ceiling and pendant lighting. These are the lights that typically will be installed above a dining table, kitchen island, in a stairwell or in the center of a living room. Overall they provide a lot of light when they have a fabric or paper shade and can be a great way to light an entire room if you don’t have any built-in recessed lighting. Keep in mind the rule we touched on above about using fabric vs. metal shades as using a metal shade in the wrong area can mean a very concentrated stream of light that might not work best for the space or for hiding those wrinkles on your face.

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When it comes to “California Casual” overhead lighting, the same rules apply to those in the other styles. Anything handmade looking, like the pendant below, anything that is woven like the pendant above, or anything with a large gauzy fabric shade are all fair game. You will also notice a lot of swagging of pendants in this style, which means the light may be installed from a junction box in the center of the room, but then swagged across to hang more in the corner of a room or above a reading nook or similar feature.

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Here are a few of our favorites:


1. Basket Weave Bamboo Pendant Lamp | 2. Open Weave Pendant | 3. Hood Pendant | 4. Edie Pendant | 5. Lodge Chandelier Two | 6. Folk Abigail-Soft Cone | 7. Haleigh Wire Dome Rod Pendant | 8. Mid-Century Long Arm Chandelier | 9. Nelson Ball Pendant | 10. Cord Chandelier | 11. Folk Abigail Angular Cylinder Pendant | 12. Holstebro 3 Light Ceiling Lamp | 13. Beaded Necklace Pendant | 14. Edmund Light | 15. Bungalow Pendant | 16. Hazel Large Banded Cone Pendant | 17. Minna Three Tiered Chandelier | 18. Solleftea Ceiling Lamp | 19. Sinnerlig Pendant Light | 20. Hektar Pendant Lamp | 21. Wood Bead Pendant | 22. Barcroft Angled Pendant Light | 23. Natural Macrame Deja Drum Pendant | 24. Tiered Drum Pendant | 25. Habi Pendant | 26. Beadcraft Chandelier | 27. Capitol Pendant Light

So, which ones out of the mix are your favorites or have you tried? And let us know if you have any questions on the right lighting for the right space.


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81 thoughts on “Achieving the ‘California Casual’ Style: Lighting

  1. These posts have been awesome and so informative. I know you have a crazy busy life and you still take the time to share all this information for free. From one working mom to another, you are killing it and such an inspiration. This blog is my 10 minutes of “me” time and I just wanted to say thank you.

    1. Agreed! And it would be awesome to have this much information on a few different styles. Cali cas. isn’t even mine, but I’ve still learned a ton.

    2. Me three! Thank you… you have such great content and an eye for relevant, useful topics.

    3. EH content is fabulous but it’s not like she is writing this content in her spare time and getting nothing in return. Top bloggers earn a LOT of money sharing their talent and resources with their followers.

        1. Thanks, guys, very VERY much. I also have a great team of people helping me make this blog a success for all of us. xx

  2. How tall should floor lamps be? Most lamps I see out and about look short to me, but maybe my expectations are just weird. (I do seem to be really picky about floor lamps, whereas if I could, I’d buy approximately 80 million table lamps because I love them all.) If it matters, I’m looking for diffuse ambient lighting because there are no overhead lights in my living room.

      1. It’s funny because I wondered the same as I was going over this post and then decided to not give a rule. If its a task/reading floor lamp (with a metal shade) it should be on the shorter side because its function should be to light a particular direction, not ambient and if they are too tall then that directional light will be in your face. But if they are a paper/fabric shade they can be taller. I have a pretty tall lamp in my living room right now and I love the way it looks, so I don’t think they need to be a particular height, just as long as they aren’t so high that you are staring at their bulb when sitting down. xx

  3. I know that if you have nothing nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all, but I have been disappointed in the content on this blog lately. You usually have a great mix of life updates, home tours, styled shoots, roundups, and real projects, but lately it seems like a lot of filler posts and roundups. Is everything okay?

    1. I also hate to chime in, but I have to agree it has seemed very blah lately and I find myself skipping posts which I normally NEVER do…

      1. Seriously. I never comment here (though i read *all* the posts) but if i were the creator of allllll this content and also had a family AND a full-time design business and then have to read unnecessary critical/picky/snarky comments like these I would just want to throw up my hands and quit. Seriously. This is why we can’t have nice things!!!!

      1. Not sure if Michelle’s comment is meant to sound slightly concerning but “is everything ok?” comes across as snarky and rude. Maybe stick to working on your own blog content.

        1. Legit wanted to know if everything was okay. I’m working hard on blog content every day, thanks Alison! Emily Henderson and her team are a real inspiration and I love seeing what they come up with.

    2. That is ridiculous. As a person actually designing their home, these posts have been invaluable. If I want lifestyle, there are plenty of blogs to visit. If I want style, I come here. It’s disingenuous to ask in a comment, “is everything ok?” Her team put effort into a style that is kicking ass on the internet. They see where trends are and they’re responding appropriately. They’re more than ok.

      1. Hey all, thanks so much for your concern 🙂 right now we are finishing up a ton of projects, thus less to reveal. And yes, I also finished a couple massive projects last month (that can’t be revealed yet) I needed to back off a bit mentally/emotionally/physically so we are shooting less right now. Also less of you are on the internet in the summer so we are saving some of these huge reveals til september (plus we have to because the house is in a magazine and they don’t want me to show too much). But I will say that this content is still invaluable to me as a reader and I don’t think its filler content, either. Every time I need a lamp for a client who wants this style (which is everyone, basically) I can reference this post for ideas – our roundups don’t seem exciting until you need that something in particular then we are super psyched that we rounded them all up. This post took 3-4 days to put together by myself and my team, so we didn’t just throw it up there, which I know you know. But point is: 1. I’m going on vacation again next week 🙂 , 2. I’m trying to spend more time with my family because its summer. 3. Stay tuned for some exciting things happening and 4. This blog will always give value, it just might not be what you are looking for on a particular day. But don’t worry, I’m fine and stay tuned because in August (for a big announcement) and september, all the house reveal … And no, i’m not pregnant although lately i’ve been so tired at 3pm that i’m like …. wait … am i ….?? (I’M NOT).

    3. While I completely disagree with Michelle about the quality of the content lately (the California Casual posts have been my favorite of all time!), I’m disappointed with how poorly a lot of the EH readers handle criticism on BEHALF of Emily and the team. It seems as a society, we’re losing the art of healthy debate and dialogue. If someone vocalizes any kind of criticism (even constructive), it’s like the floodgates of melodrama open up and there are cries for censorship, silencing critics, and shutting down the comments section. I dislike people criticizing my style and choices as much as the next person (yes, it’s uncomfortable!), but I truly hate the alternative–not getting honest feedback that will make me BETTER (whether or not I agree with it) and living in a censored, thin-skinned, overly fragile world where anyone who vocalizes any criticism is called a bully (!!). Do you have any idea what bullying actually is? This is a public sphere and the people who actually succeed in this world generally have to grow a thick(ish) skin, know how to handle criticism in a healthy way, dismissing that which doesn’t apply and humbly listening to what can be useful, and proceed confidently in what they love to do without going into hysterics every time someone even dare question what they’re doing or vocalize their distaste for their choices. THESE people will succeed.

      1. YES, Erica. I wrote a long post in this vein a few weeks ago, but I didn’t have to guts to submit it. (Or maybe I did submit it, but deleted a lot beforehand.) Honest feedback is important. When a reader takes the time to weigh their words and write them and put themselves out there, they are not being trolls.

    4. Not sure why you’d think every single post would be in your wheelhouse, every single time?

  4. Is it just me, or does it bother others to have the wiring hanging down the wall on plug-in sconces? I just can’t do that cord. Really limits the ability to have sconces with this “issue” I’ve got.

    1. It’s not just you. I MIGHT be able to handle it if the cord had a cover that were painted the same color as the wall, but in general, I’m not a fan.

    2. It’s not just you, believe it or not, my husband refuses to have the cord hanging and will only discuss a direct wire with me . ? He isn’t a picky guy at all but the line is drawn at wall sconces ??

      1. On a scale of 1-10 it bothers me a ‘4’. I much prefer hard wiring but, you know, in certain situations you don’t want to spend the money on the electrical work or to rip up your wall. I do think that if companies made the wires prettier (wrapped in something nice) it would be an easier pill/lamp to swallow. xx

    3. It bugs me too. I used to have sconces next to my bed and fortunately 1: the cords were the same color as the wall and 2: only about 1-2 feet of the cord showed. But high up on the wall with exposed cords? Can’t do it.

  5. Lighting in the bedroom- what are your thoughts on mixing styles on either side of the bed? Ex-Wall sconce on one side, table lamp on the other. Yay or nay?

    1. I know it can be done, for sure. Check Brady’s post today 🙂 Especially if your room is not symmetrical, sometimes it looks better to have them different.

  6. Another roundup post – I love the roundups! Please keep them coming. I also like the mix of high and low (or, unaffordable and affordable, if you’re me). 🙂

    1. Yes – completely agree.
      Love these California posts. They’re inspiring, informative and incredibly thoroughly researched and thought through.
      Kudos to all EHD team researchers for these posts!

    2. No. No more roundups, lately it has only been roundups after roundups. I can’t even buy anything from these roundups except the ikea pieces. I want real design content for a change. Don’t get me wrong, I love Emily and this blog, but roundups are not the content I’m here for. I want to see real projects, befores and afters, updates in her house and things like that, there has been enough roundups for this month.

      1. I find them useful. I don’t really feel like this is the best way to express this sentiment. It’s really unnecessary/unproductive (and honestly cruel) to be so negative. If you’d like more of another type of content then you can just ask for that. But you’re not the only reader of the blog and other people find it useful. Not every post can be perfect for every person. Moreover, Emily is a person who is just trying to share helpful information. She doesn’t really deserve this.

      2. That’s funny. I love the round ups and think they’re fantastic and helpful — yes I’m not super into bean bags — but the rest of the recent roundups are being pinned and saved for reference. I loathe people who post negative comments online particularly on a free site, but I might posit that it is summer — and this is the time of year people are frequently on vacation — so give the kind folks at EHD a break! (On a side note, could Orlando not get any more hilarious? His Instagram stories are awesome!)

        1. Like some other commenters have mentioned, it IS free for us to read these posts, but its not like the EHD team is writing these posts for free in their spare time. This site is a business and all of the posts, sponsored or not, contribute to that business. I’m a huge fan of EHD and love reading the posts every day, I just have noticed that this month hasn’t had the best MIX of content.

          1. I totally disagree — lately there’s been more actual design content (as opposed to clothes/mommy/wife stuff) than we had seen in a LONG time. Please keep it up!

          2. We love the feedback, guys. I promise. We typically do try to mix it up more, but with the house under embargo I can’t really shoot here and so we are scrambling to finish up a bunch of other projects for the reveals. We don’t post random people’s projects and it just takes a while to actually finish some. Stay tuned. So are you saying I should cancel the epic tissue box cover roundup we had scheduled for tomorrow?? It’s going to be so good!!!!! 397 of the chicest tissue box covers ever!! KIDDING… 🙂

          3. And Michelle you are right, it is a business and you are our consumer so we do care what you think because if we lose readers it effects the bottom line. But there are so many sites that post nothing every day, like ‘4 living rooms with rugs’ and we really try to have our content, be it original photography or not, really still useful and inspirational. But yes, feedback is appreciated and we do need to know how you feel in order to keep you reading and to for the blog to grow. 🙂

    3. Emily Henderson, I love what you said in this thread! I can imagine that I would want honest (but respectful) feedback as well if I were you.

      Incidentally, I have loved the California series because all the images are so pretty! And I know the roundups will be useful as I slowly set up our home.

      Question: Any advice for an over-the-sink pendant? The light above my sink is:
      1) the only kitchen light, i.e. needs to be ambient
      2) the first thing you see when you walk in the front door i.e. needs to be pretty!

      I would love EHD’s “ambient stylish sink pendant” recommendations!

  7. Can you do a post about entrance lighting? I have some horrid track lighting on my new home that I want to get rid off. We have 8′ ceilings and I’m wondering if I can get away with flush mounts instead of having to do recessed lighting.

  8. I know that if you have nothing nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all, but I have been disappointed in the content on this blog lately. You usually have a great mix of life updates, home tours, styled shoots, roundups, and real projects, but lately it seems like a lot of filler posts and roundups. Is everything okay?

  9. I LOVE this series and really enjoyed this post.

    I have been liking the look of sconces lately and you found some great ones, but I also have a DIY tutorial for mounting desk/tabletop lamps on the wall as plug in sconces. A cool option if you find something that you like that but want to use in a unique way (like the ones I found from Target – perfect for our bedroom!)

    It might sound random, but I would really love a post from your team about light bulbs. They can make SUCH a difference in how the light looks – color, brightness, warmth, etc. I would love to hear your go-tos!

  10. How tall should floor lamps be? Most lamps I see out and about look short to me, but maybe my expectations are just weird. (I do seem to be really picky about floor lamps, whereas if I could, I’d buy approximately 80 million table lamps because I love them all.) If it matters, I’m looking for diffuse ambient lighting because there are no overhead lights in my living room.

    1. I just went through this dilemma a few months back. We have nearly 11 ft ceilings, so it was tricky to get one that didn’t look dwarfed by the height. I think the taller the celings, the taller the floor lamp. We also found that a lighter (linen) and larger shade worked better with the high ceilings. So, I guess, the opposite would work if you have low ceilings?

  11. I bought and installed this pendant light from CB2 recently–it’s such a KILLER deal as it’s under $100, is huge, and looks great. I was expecting it to be in your round up but it might be too basic for that as its just a single drum. Would definitely recommend to anyone and everyone that is looking for an inexpensive option. $70!!!!

  12. I love this style and am loving these posts!! Thanks so much for creating such amazing content. It can be so confusing so pull together a home style, and these posts are invaluable.

  13. I was JUST thinking last night I hoped you would write this post! Thank you so much as I’m going lamp shopping today!!! You read my mind!

  14. Thanks for this!

    Cedar and Moss have a bunch along these lines as well including a set of handmade pottery ones 🙂

  15. Great breakdown and roundup of this style! And these are so neutral that they could fit in so many other styles.

  16. wow! thank you for all the time and effort you and your team have put into these detailed CA Casual posts. Even a few minor changes can pull together a room as I have found out from incorporating some of your suggestions. Well done! No wonder you are my first blog to look at each day.

    1. Same here! This is so my style and I’ve been loving these Cal Casual looks. Keep them coming!

  17. Thank you so much for these posts, loving all of them as I’m redoing a condo in this style and already purchased several items you have posted. Love that you cover all price points.

  18. I know this style isn’t for everyone, but this is MY very favorite style, and one I’ve been trying to implement in my home, so these posts have been perfect and timely. THANK YOU! I feel like they were tailored to what I need/want, and I know they will be hugely helpful as I try to update my home little by little. You seriously have been killing it, in my point of view. I’m really grateful!

  19. This is perfect for us right now! We’ve been looking for options to add extra light to our new apartment but we have a small space and so many floor lamps that I’d been looking at have either too big a footprint or provide too little light. That Urban Outfitters floor lamp immediately drew my eye and it’s perfectly in our price range!

  20. Can you tell me where the table lamp from the 2nd picture is from? The one with the big black base but wood bottom. Thanks!

  21. I am designing an apartment and basically want to replicate Amber Interiors everything. But I can’t afford it. These series give me the perspective I need to make design decisions based on my budget. Thanks!

  22. Love love love your blog – the content, your writing style, amazing photos, etc. I wanted to ask about symmetry – your thoughts on whether bedside tables should match, should there be 2 matching lamps on a long credenza … Thanks!

  23. Hi Emily & team,

    Thank you for your diligence in dissecting the casual California style. I’ve recently move to CA and purchased a home – these round-ups have been so helpful to me in defining a look I didn’t even realize I was going for! Keep ’em coming! Home office? Kids rooms?

    Thank you!

  24. Hello-
    Wondering if you might suggest a great resource for where to purchase fig leaf plants like the one pictured in this blog post? Thanks so much! Your posts definitely brighten my day.

  25. I’m remodeling a house, and these round ups have been invaluable. Before your California Casual series, I found it difficult to find sculptural lighting & decor pieces that lent character to a room (I’m obsessed with those ceramic bells & weavings BTW). I also love the mix of low and high pieces you show. It’s great to have affordable options, but sometimes splurging on that one special piece really completes a room. So, THANK YOU! I’m determined to turn my house into a comfy, welcoming, happy home with the help of these roundups. Thanks Emily!

  26. Re the two photos you showed with pendants (ceiling fixtures): to me the fixture seems downright dinky compared the size of the table. Is that part of Cali casual style too? (…JK) Maybe these rooms look different in real life, but I personally would prefer a larger fixture over a table (in fact I’d probably err on the side of having the fixture be TOO big, that’s just my own quirk.)

  27. i LOVE these posts! it is so nice to have all of the links there and all i have to do is click! your blog is definitely one of my faves! keep it up! 🙂

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  29. Lighting can be so expensive and difficult to coordinate. We were having trouble sticking to a budget in our mudroom (where we have 7 total fixtures), so we forced ourselves to get creative. Here is our hack that saved us a bunch of money (and I think it looks amazing)! I think it could go with a lot of different styles (even California Casual if you change the type of lightbulb)!

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