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Is Cord Swagging Back?? And Are They Part Of The Sculpture (+ It Can Actually Be A Really Affordable Trend)

The majority of the time I’m scrolling through Instagram, I’m both inspired and simultaneously kinda bummed. I know that’s likely the most common feeling on that particular app. There are just so many cool new things happening design-wise that are simply so beyond 99% of people’s reach financially. I don’t want to dismiss the artistry/time it takes to not only make the designs and products happen but also the experience/schooling it takes to know how to create them. But last week, Emily was mentioning how cord swagging (with pendants and chandeliers) felt like it was back and how actually awesome it is visually. Now depending on the price of your fixture, nearly anyone who wants to swing in on this swag trend can! HECK YES!

But why is it cool, Em and Jess?? Well my friend, it effortlessly creates a lighting sculpture which automatically gives your eye something to stare at as well as takes up a large amount of visual space (and potentially physical space too). Aka it looks very cool with the right amount of swag and cord material. The material part is important too. Not to mention, if you have a junction box in an annoying place that doesn’t properly center over say…anything, this is the perfect solution. So to recap, it can be affordable AND might solve a design agony. Is it all of our birthdays??

styled by bek burrows | architecture by blackman creative | photo by adam gibson | via the design files⁠⁠

Aside from the breathtaking views of nature, this vintage pendant was expertly swagged over to the left to be what looks like a perfect reading light for the bench while also lighting up the whole room. It also helps to visually balance the room so that there’s enough “weight” in front of the white windows and your eye doesn’t focus solely on the darker, natural french door on the right.

Hot Tip

Consider the height/length of your swag if it's a directional light fixture. The lower you go will affect how much the fixture will light up your whole space. But going low looks super cool if you only need to light a small area.

design by felipe hess | photo by filippo bamberghi | via trendland

This is a perfect example of creating a simple sculptural moment and playing with a low height. Plus notice how the curve of the swag contrasts all of the straight lines in the space (well, except for that incredible wine storage moment). I’m not a huge MCM (mid-century modern) gal but this space is really speaking to my heart. Also, is that a drawing of a flower on that cement post?? Stop. I get it, you’re perfect.

design and photo by rachael jackson

Then here we have the colorful, DIY joy of Rachael Jackson’s ORC reveal. See how she wrapped her probably undesirable-looking cords in a rainbow pattern due to her beams likely making it very hard to conceal them in the first place? It’s playful, draws your eye up, and really gives a sculptural, artistic feel.

Now while this can be super affordable, like everything else in this world, there are ways to dive in and spend all of your money too. I’m unfortunately a pro at finding these ways first. Never have I seen an expensive, full/overpriced item I didn’t immediately gravitate towards. But enough about me and more about these BIG TIME cord swagging fixtures.

If you look at Amanda Gunawan‘s beautiful neutral, minimalist home, it would be totally pretty with a simple single pendant. BUT instead, she chose to install that insanely cool multi-pendant fixture with extra-long swagged cords to create a real piece of art. It gives the space so much more movement and accentuates how high the ceilings are! Very cool and noooo jealously here…

design by chad dorsey design | styled by jenny o’connor | photo by stephen karlisch | via vogue living

Here’s the same fixture but in black and with fewer lights (three vs five). Sure this room could use some more dining chairs for everyday use but there is no need for any more decor. That light is graphic, bold, and is nearly impossible to look away from! I also love how the cords are asymmetrical so it doesn’t look uniform and keeps those eyeballs moving.

design by bos studio | sara mathers | photo by helen cathcart | via architectural digest

This is a maximalist dream and my oh my is it a beaut. A canopy look is VERY cool, and if you are technically inclined you could DIY or take it to a lighting shop and have them turn your individual lights into a single, large pendant.

Both of these Apparatus fixtures are sculptural pieces of art but what makes them work so well together is that one is thicker with less arms and the other (with the swagging cords) is visually lighter with more “arms”. So remember to mix up “the weights” when mixing ceiling lights.

design by workstead

Another way to bring in “the swag” without the cords coming out of the ceiling is to have it come out of the fixture itself like this one! That way you still get the sculpture look but with it being a little less intense:)

design by courtney bishop design | photo by katie charlotte

But what if you want to up drama and happy to have a beam or horizontal pole hanging from the ceiling?? Baby, you can just wrap that puppy up! I love how Courtney Bishop wrapped these macrame corded pendants around that pole. Sure this is in a restaurant but think how pretty something like that would look in our outdoor dining area?? Actually, my dad and his girlfriend did something like this with pendants like this one and it looks really great.

design by cynthia zamaria | photo by robin stubbert

Of course, it can look awesome inside too:) It really adds just a ton of texture to a space, right??

Side note. I want to talk about cord material. You really want to stick with fibers or a very simple but pretty rubber one. Chains can be cool buuuut are tricky and can easily look not great. Places like World Market with this one and this one, Etsy with this shop or this shop are great options. But don’t forget to check out your local lighting shop. Back when I live in New York, I went to this lights and parts shop and had them make a lantern pendant I had bought into a working light fixture for like $40 (back in 2013 FYI)! They had a ton of material options and it really turned out special.

design by stef claes | photo by eric petschek

Now let’s go back to the inspo, and see the power of a simple double pendant light. I love how Stef Claes took this extremely classic Noguchi pendant but doubled it up (in different sizes) and decided to swag it over the dining table. Not sure if placing the junction box to the side of the table was intentional but regardless it makes it so much more interesting than if it were simply right above. It’s something you might want to think about if you are renovating and want to do things a little outside of the box.

design by flack studio | styling by joseph gardner | photo by anson smart | via architectural digest

This room is perfection to me and those lights are a big reason why. Not only are they just freaking cool but they are different shapes, hung at different heights, and with that simple cord swag, lightly fills in the upper ceiling space so it doesn’t feel too empty and forgotten about.

Hot Tip

Got really high ceilings? Consider adding some length to your cord so it can swag a bit. That way you have a simple but impactful piece of art above you. Two birds, one stone.

Lastly, you might have a wall junction box that you could take advantage of for your ceiling purposes. Sure it might have been meant for a sconce, but it can be a really cool way to have a slightly unexpected cord swag that you can then take up to the ceiling like in the photos above.

I’m actually thinking of doing this in my very dark and uninteresting hallway. It has a sconce but it’s practically butting up to a doorframe. Very weird. So my thought now, after Em brought up this idea/trend, is to put the “ceiling plate” on the wall and then have lots of cord length to have a cool pendant sculpture on the ceiling. It will not only brighten it up with multiply lights but it will look so much more interesting. I’m pretty excited about it:)

Hopefully, you might be too and are a little inspired to put some swag in your home:) But what are your thoughts? Do you agree that a cord can add a sculpture element to a room? Do you like it?? Let’s chat.

Love you, mean it.

Opening Image Credits: Design by Reath Design | Architecture by Bestor Architecture | Photo by Laure Joliet

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2 years ago

I think I’d only swag a light if it couldn’t be placed where it’s needed.
Some of the pics look nice, like the ones swagged to the side in lieu of a floor lamp or fixed sconce, but many reminded me of streets with a tangle of power lines.
Mmmm….. don’t think this is my thing.

2 years ago

It’s renter friendly! I’ve been adding hooks to ceilings in every rental I’ve lived in. Swoop that plug-in lighting and never worry about hardwiring.

2 years ago

My dining room area has a round tube sky light perfectly centered over the table. It’s great during the day but too dark at night and of course a lighting fixture would look so much better. Our options are to hardwire something off center, put a swag in that just plugs in, do a rustic branch with lighting on it, or a big arc floor lamp and I just really can’t decide!! I could do something like one of these but I’m not sure if I really like this option!

2 years ago
Reply to  Dena

Ooooh, rustic branch with lighting!!!😊

2 years ago

The only one that looked weird/bad to me was the dark walled bathroom. The cords looked messy like the electrician forgot a step and left with the tall ladder. Fav was the macrame lights in the restaurant. Super pretty

Dana Walch
2 years ago
Reply to  Susan

That was my favourite!

2 years ago

I wish I could pin those photos 🙁 Those are amazing inspirational ideas!

2 years ago
Reply to  Menglan

ah, are you getting an error? i can have our web folks look into it!

emily jane
2 years ago
Reply to  Menglan

me too! (but was sure it was an issue on my end so didn’t ask -thanks for mentioning it!)
Caitlin -For awhile now the ‘pin this’ circle has been missing..?

2 years ago
Reply to  emily jane

I’ve noticed this too! It makes me much less likely to save stuff because I’m lazy.

2 years ago

Ah! The macrame swag!!!! Like there is a party with streamers in your house all the time, but cooler!

2 years ago

Jess, thanks for calling attention to this design feature. It provides that “wow” in so many applications.

2 years ago

I think they look stupid unless the rest of the room is absolutely perfect and drop dead gorgeous architecturally, in which case it elevates from tacky to quirky

2 years ago
Reply to  Rupali

Absolutely – what a great observation and comment.

okay, i gotta say i’m usually not a fan of the swag. i think it looks sloppy (though i do understand the need for it sometimes), but i think there are definite exceptions. i like the lead picture, but i don’t know if i consider that dining room light situation swagging since there are multiples that are not assymetrical. if that makes sense. i like the macrame one (the courtney bishop design one); they remind me of hippie hemp necklaces. 🙂
I have to say that i absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE the one (I don’t know if it’s considered swaggy, but whatever) the one by jessica helgerson design above that GORGEOUS kitchen island from Emily’s design risk takers post from a few days ago. that was insanely beautiful and sculptural.

those weren’t supposed to turn into links. oops.

2 years ago

Gotta say that I’ve never seen the cord swag as anything more than an inexpensive solution to a electrical problem but a few of these are making great design statements. Thanks for opening my mind to other options!

Betsie Eikenberry
2 years ago

Hi! Is there a link for the very first picture? I’d ok to see the rest of that house if it’s available!

Betsie Eikenberry
2 years ago

Never mind. I just saw it at the bottom.

2 years ago

Woah The coming out of the fixture one is pretty cool.

Also that first image is beautiful!!!!!!!!! Drop that next to a beach and you’ve got my dream home.

Sarah L
2 years ago

1) YES to Canal Lighting and Parts!
2) This post comes at a perfect time for me- when we reconfigured our kitchen it moved the table about a foot over and now the flush-mount fixture isn’t centered when the rest of the space is intentionally and delightfully symmetrical. I was looking at a swag situation and this post gave me the confidence to go that route. My only concern is the cord- it’s a busy kitchen so I’m thinking a fabric-wrapped cord would be a terrible grime-dust accumulating situation- would it be crazy to do this fixture with a chain swag? The junction box is maybe 18 inches away from where the light would hang from.

Ellen G
2 years ago
Reply to  Sarah L

The author mentioned that chains had an “awkward” look. I think you could wrap your cord with hemp, and then paint the cord. The paint gives it surface slickness so you can dust it with a Swiffer type duster.

2 years ago

I inherited a bizarre swag situation in my current home- 2 story built in 1968. You enter in the first floor, in a long narrow room, to face 2 symmetrical outlets installed 1 ft from the 7 ft ceiling on each side of the room. The outlets are wired to the dimmable switch by the front door as entry lights. The OG owners had 90’s swag lights plugged in at eye level in each one – Ummmmm. yikes. . I got a long faux Noguchi rice paper hanging lamp for the one furthest from the door in a nook- and it’s OK. I was going to do the same for the one near the door / stairs/ landing zone, but it looked too bizarre. I how have a kinda wacky table lamp plugged in there in a sad attempt to try to make the surrealism of the outlet placement look intentional. There are a lot of bad swag ideas in late 60’s-70’s homes. Please spare a thought for those of us who don’t swag by choice. LOL.

Ellen G
2 years ago
Reply to  kk

Could you try a smaller rice paper lamp in the swag near the door. I think the proportions would complement each other.

2 years ago

Might I suggest a follow-up posts with swag lighting recommendations for every budget? I’d be all in for it, anyone else?

2 years ago

I definitely wouldn’t consider this a ‘trend’. In Europe it is mostly born out of necessity; where the fixture is normally placed in the centre of a room, whereas you might want it to be placed centre of a zone. Thus, swagging comes into effect. This is something we have always done in our home and have always seen in other homes! When you are not ‘trying’ to make it look cool, it tends to just ‘work’!

Ellen G
2 years ago
Reply to  Sarah

Good answer!!!