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on January 05, 2016

Apartment Lighting Project: Antique Light Bulb

In my apartment, there is a simple pendant light fixture hovering over the kitchen sink and bar. It has a frosted glass shade and an exposed light bulb. There's nothing offensive about it - WHEN it's not turned on. Generally, the light stays off. Over the months, I've tried different light bulbs. At one point I even had a compact fluorescent (CFL) light bulb surrounded by a light-diffusing piece of parchment paper held to the pendant with one of those green rubber bands from Whole Foods. (I liked it. My wife? Not so much.) Finally, after writing a blog piece on antique light bulbs, I had an ah-ha moment.

A Quick Primer on Antique Edison-style Light Bulbs:

  • Antique light bulbs are the vintage looking exposed bulbs with the intricate, warm filaments you see in restaurants, bars, and hotels.
  • They lend a rustic feel to a room and are also popular in DIY light fixtures that involve wood, metal, or glass.
  • Some people call them edison bulbs, but, if you want to be really technical, "edison" refers to just one type of antique light bulb.
  • Since they are considered decorative or novelty light bulbs, incandescent edison bulbs are not affected by recent legislation regarding light bulb efficiency.
  • They are available in a variety of shapes, sizes and filament styles, and even offer an energy-efficient LED version.
  • Some antique light bulbs have clear glass envelopes, and some have envelopes that are tinted.

My Kitchen Pendant Lighting Options

An antique light bulb among several different types of light bulbs

Here's my experience with trying other light bulbs in the kitchen fixture:

Frosted Halogen Light Bulb: The white light bulb actually looked great in the pendant light. But, when you turned it on, it created a terrible glare. It was too warm for task lighting and too bright for general light.

CFL Light Bulb: CFLs aren't generally used in decorative pendant light fixtures like this and looked a little weird when turned off. It washed out color but did provide some task lighting, which might not be a terrible thing above the sink.

Antique Light Bulb: Ultimately, I chose a medium based, Victorian shaped, nostalgic smoke tinted antique light bulb. The bulb looks good even when turned off. It draws the eye and piques the curiosity. "What's up with that light bulb?," people might ask upon arrival. That's a good thing. Turned on, it looks like this:

Antique Edison Light Bulb over apartment sink, turned on

Oooh... Ahhh... Yes, it is lovely. And the miracle of it all: My wife walked in the door after I did this, saw the amber light and playful filament I'd angled just right, and said, "Huh. I actually like that." And that's what it's all about, folks. Now how about a close up of that antique light bulb?

Close up of Antique Edison Light Bulb

Can anything else compare? If you just want an aesthetically pleasing light bulb that gives off warm light without causing a glare or giving you a migraine, antique light bulbs are the way to go. We now have the pendant light on every evening, and the apartment becomes warmer and cozier than before. This has got to be the least expensive way to significantly alter the feel of a home space. A single light bulb. Who would have thought?