And we’re back with another lesson on how to instill that perfectly imperfect Modern Traditional style into your home that we’re loving so much right now (and all the pieces that come together to create the look). Last week, we covered furniture, and this week, we’re talking lighting, which, in addition to well-worn wood furnishings, is a vital component to the Modern Traditional picture. (Speaking of pictures, we’re diving into art, decor and accessories next, in case you’re itching to round out this style and get to shopping/decorating). Oftentimes, this is where the “Modern” in Modern Traditional comes in, except it’s not modern in the sense you might be thinking. For instance, if your first thought was “modern lighting means lots of glam brass or funky, unexpected materials”, it’s not that at all, at least not for this aesthetic. The lighting here is simple and kind of period-less. If you’re looking at a lamp and you can’t quite peg what era it’s from or what exact style it is, you’ve got the right fixture – put that bad boy in your cart and buy it QUICK.
Modern Traditional lamps and fixtures are masters of disguise, and by disguise, we mean they can slide into any scene/room style and fit right in (without disappearing into the background). This quality makes this type of lighting ideal for the not-quite-minimal-not-quite-country-a-little-modern-monastery look (FYI, we haven’t been able to stop referring to this as “Modern Monastery” since one of you pegged it that in the comments last week…it’s such a perfect name). Nothing here should be too matchy-matchy. Your wall sconce shouldn’t look like it came from the same lighting suite as your table lamp – it’s a mix that seems as if it came together over time. It should look like a time-honored melange of pieces – maybe something you inherited from your grandmother combined with a more streamlined light you picked up recently. You won’t find any fringe à la Modern Victorian here – it’s all about bronze, enameled metal, matte black, ceramic, brass or turned wood (or a subtle cocktail of a few of these). Just simple, honest materials without too much flash. More, well…monastery (see, told you it was the perfect name), less burlesque show.
Something of note before getting into it (that applies across the board with this style) – many of our picks here might feel a tad pricey, but it’s important to remember that, because this look is SO simple – not much fluff or layering – the decor and furniture you choose should be a bit more special. That doesn’t necessarily have to mean $$$, but think about it…you’re spending less on accessories and cheaper filler pieces, so while that $500 sconce might make you sweat a little (both because you love/need it but also because you’re cursing its price tag), without quality products, you could end up with a room that looks more like a cold, sad empty dorm room than purposefully delicate and sparse yet warm. While we wish we could dig through every vintage shop and garage sale in the area to find awesome lighting to go with this style and sell it directly to you guys, we only have so many hands in the EHD office (and storage space). Of course, we love all the picks below, but flushing out the aesthetic with your own finds from flea markets and estate sales or auctions is HIGHLY ENCOURAGED.
Okay, so we thought we’d start overhead with ceiling lights. You’ll want to skip anything that’s too heavy or screams MODERN FARMHOUSE (you know, bulky industrial lights in matte blacks or chromes) and instead, focus in on more delicate lines. The fixture in the photo above is a good example of a traditional candle chandelier that works for Modern Traditional. It’s classic, relatively timeless and doesn’t have too many swags or ornate metalwork. Simple is the name of the game.
Cord pendants are also another perfect pick for ceiling lights in the Modern Traditional style book. The key here is to ensure they are dainty or else you risk it going too Modern Farmhouse, where lighting is typically larger scale and more heavily industrial (read: less minimal and whispy).
In general, the lines of Modern Traditional ceiling lights are basic and straightforward. Silhouettes are clean, and oftentimes, the scale is diminutive. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t put a larger chandelier in your home if you’re trying to implement this aesthetic. You just need to make sure that it’s a well-balanced piece and no individual part of the light is too substantial. Take #9 and #11 for example. These are not pint-sized – they would take pride of place in a foyer or over a dining room table or island, but the parts that make up the whole are slight. If you’re asking yourself “is this thing too intense?” then consider skipping it, and look for something more in line with our picks below:
1. Metal Funnel | 2. Wiley Plug-In | 3. Holloway | 4. Lucca | 5. Crest | 6. Folk Abagail | 7. Industrial | 8. Crosby | 9. The Double Arm | 10. Minimalist Curve | 11. Trapeze | 12. Wood | 13. Bell | 14. Carter | 15. Garrison | 16. Classic Tapered | 17. Enormous Industrial | 18. Seymour | 19. Foto | 20. Marcel | 21. Four-Sided Glass Hanging | 22. Lodge Chandelier Two | 23. Ranarp | 24. Edmund | 25. Vintage French Farmhouse | 26. Berkshire | 27. Hemisphere | 28. Angland | 29. Damen | 30. Black Enamel Adrian
Okay, so moving on to table lamps. These should feel like they’d be right at home in a dusty library (you know the type: sun streaking through gorgeously grimy windows that have been painted over so many times, the layers are starting to peel back from the frame; book spines haven’t been cracked in decades – unfortunately and sadly; and everything smells just musty enough that it’s intoxicating in a good way. Totally Instagrammable – ironic, of course, because if more people had their noses in physical books rather than pressed against their screens, maybe that library wouldn’t be so…forgotten and musty and dusty. But then from where would we get all our vintage lamps??)
There’s also the option of doing something just a little more unexpected, like a retro spotlight, as long as it’s small and doesn’t steal away too much attention from the handmade elements of the room. Putting something like this (as in the photo above) in a pared-back room with classic pieces is just enough “modern” to shake up the traditional, without feeling tryhard. It’s like wearing a fabulous pair of sculptural earrings with a streamlined, easy-breezy white linen suit. You definitely don’t NEED to do that to look stylish, but it could turn a perfectly good getup into something REALLY GOOD that makes you do a double take and think “WHOA GIVE ME THAT OUTFIT NOW.”
Lampshades can be metal, pleated, linen, fluted – as long as it’s not TOO formal or eclectic, there aren’t a ton of rules here. Avoid things like colored blown glass, chrome or anything too mid-century, Art Deco…basically, anything too clearly tied to an era or style. Here are a handful of our favorites:
1. Cecil | 2. Morgan | 3. Antiqued Metal Drum | 4. Cecile | 5. Stand | 6. Astor Brass | 7. Anglepoise Original | 8. Raw Light with Pleated Shade | 9. Wood Square Base | 10. Berkshire Double | 11. Theorem | 12. Ensley | 13. Shiloh | 14. Tripod | 15. Classic Candlestick | 16. Angland | 17. Bella Skirt | 18. Preston Brass | 19. Melissa | 20. Ceramic | 21. William | 22. Beaumont | 23. Sloan | 24. Petite Candlestick
Most of the same rules from table lamps we outlined above apply to floor lamps – after all, floor lamps are basically just elongated table lamps (or maybe it’s the other way around?). Keep your silhouettes uncomplicated and you’re golden, like these 24 options:
1. Griffith | 2. Delavan Tripod | 3. Hugo Barbell | 4. Wright Tripod | 5. Caprani Danish Modern Bentwood | 6. Jordan Brass | 7. Amato | 8. Zenith | 9. Riston | 10. Melrose Bronze | 11. Moresby | 12. Knox | 13. Brass Library | 14. Petite Candlestick | 15. Hand Turned | 16. Preston | 17. Jackson | 18. Nendo | 19. Shaded | 20. 1930s Parisian | 21. Dark Bronze Adjustable David | 22. Paddy | 23. Mulberry Tripod | 24. Black and Brass Handle
Last but CERTAINLY not least are wall sconces. Where we said table lamps and floor lamps should be pretty unadorned, you can have a bit more fun with sconces. If you’re thirsting for just a teeny tiny morsel of personality, here’s your chance. Not to say that these should be flashy (or else you risk getting too eclectic), but feel free to bring in some more warm brass or wood and interesting shapes.
Because the Modern Traditional look is rooted in “less is more” (meaning, nothing purely ornamental, everything with a purpose), swing-arm or accordion arm sconces are great picks for the style. They can easily be moved around to light any particular area you might need without adding an additional fixture. Below, you’ll find a few of these types of light, as well as more traditional options and a handful of unexpected silhouettes (#8 and #11…we see you).
1. Swing Arm Bronze | 2. King’s Point | 3. Petite Candlestick | 4. Ava | 5. Quenouilles | 6. Skal Arch | 7. Eido | 8. Concentric | 9. Vendome | 10. Pivot | 11. Satellite | 12. Modern Taper | 13. Leather Wrapped Linear | 14. Irvine Single | 15. Black Dome | 16. Greta | 17. 1 Arc | 18. Claridge Double | 19. Ritz | 20. Alvin | 21. Terra | 22. Barclay | 23. Architect’s Boom | 24. Morgan | 25. Vintage Barn | 26. Angland | 27. 20th C Factory Filament | 28. Metro | 29. Bayberry | 30. Brass Nook
As always, let us know your thoughts on our picks and if you have any questions on the look in general. Everyone, including us, seems really excited about Modern Traditional, so as we move on to shape other posts in this series, we’d love to hear from you on what other categories you want us to hit. Chime in down in the comments.