- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Electric lighting is a miracle of the modern age often taken for granted. Back in the days B.E. (before Edison), people relied on firelight, candlelight, lantern light, gaslight, torchlight and oil lamps to simulate sunlight in their darkened cabins or castles. Then, in 1879, Thomas Alva Edison changed the face of darkness forever. He developed the first long-burning incandescent light bulb and ushered in the era of illumination.
For most of the past century, homes were illuminated by traditional crystal chandeliers, brass pendant lights or glass ceiling fixtures. Today, however, homeowners can choose from a variety of styles and looks to accent their home decor and shed light on the tasks they perform.
Lighting stores offer a wide array of lighting styles, so there's something to appeal to everyone. Top trends include wrought iron, often in rust or other earth tones; painted finishes; New Age rail systems that feature a bendable suspended track with small, brilliantly colored hanging glass pendants; and the silvery tones of pewter and satin nickel finishes.
"The really fun thing that's out now is the safari theme," says Greenville, N.C., interior designer Lori Bagwell. "We have monkeys on chandeliers, elephants on lights, fans with wicker or bamboo and shades in leopard prints with tassels. That's really fun. People are breaking away from the traditional."
Chad Bradley, vice president of Lighting by Design in Greenville, agrees. "This contemporary lighting is a little bit more expensive," Mr. Bradley says, "but people want certain lighting they have seen when they are traveling, especially out West."
Mr. Bradley says fixtures in such shapes as hot-air balloons, dragonflies and airplanes also are hits with local customers. "They are fancy little things," he says.
"There is a lot more variety than there used to be," Miss Bagwell says. "Lighting should reflect your own personality and how you decorate."
Changing a room's lighting is like adding earrings or a new tie to your outfit. It adds a decorative touch that completes the entire look.
"You see people in a fun outfit, and then you walk in their house, and they've got a safari lamp or a bunny light. And you say, 'That fits,'" Miss Bagwell says.
There are many ways to provide lighting in your home, and each room's function greatly determines the way it should be lighted. Using a combination provides optimum light.
m General: A source of light that provides overall illumination of the room. That illumination can be accomplished with chandeliers, ceiling or wall-mounted fixtures, recessed lights or track lights.
m Accent: Lighting that adds drama and creates interest. Wall sconces, a stained-glass lamp and spotlights are examples of accent lighting.
m Task: Task lighting is used for performing daily activities, such as reading, cooking and putting on makeup. Examples include undercabinet lighting, floor lamps and pendant fixtures over a kitchen island or pool table.
m Natural: Non-electric light that moves, such as sunlight, candlelight and firelight.

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