Pendant Lights: An Introduction

Suspended from ceilings by rods or chains, pendants bring light down to the places we need it, and they do so with attention-grabbing grace we can’t help admire, even after the electricity is turned off.

Simpler than a chandelier with its multiple outstretched arms, a pendant is little more than a bulb hidden under a shade swinging on the end of a cord. Yet there’s a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and styles, ranging from 4-inch-diameter mini cylinders to massive 30-inch domes. Some wash light over a big area, giving your foyer or stair landing a welcoming glow. Others focus bright beams onto one strategic spot: a sink or cutting board on a kitchen island, a family photo on the living room credenza.

A pendant’s purpose is often defined by what its shade is made of. Glass ones, whether colorful mouth-blown Murano flutes or industrial-style ribbed globes, as well as most fabric-covered drums throw off ambient light. Shades fashioned from enameled or hand-hammered metal, for instance, confine light in a downward path.

Pendant Anatomy

Mounting strap: Anchors fixture to outlet box in ceiling.

Canopy: Decorative cover hides electrical hookups.

Nipple: Threads into mounting strap.

Hanger Loop: Connects chain to nipple.

Chain/Rod: Shade must hang at least six inches from ceiling to be considered a pendant.

Socket: Powers bulb. Porcelain sockets stand up better to heat than metal ones.

Shade: Controls direction, spread, and color of light.

Washer: Supports shade. Threads onto outside of socket.

Bulb: Wattage should not exceed capacity on fixture’s label.

Read the full article for information on differences in quality, how to install, pendant light care, design ideas and more.

Article source: This Old House