In recent years, it seems that Australians have become obsessed with ceiling-mounted halogens. While the clean white light they give off is desirable some of the time, in many homes it borders on feeling like a floodlit sports ground.

Instead, consider incorporating a blend of pendant, floor and table lights in your home. Not only do they afford greater flexibility and allow you to create dramatically different moods, they look just as good switched off as on.

Price and practicality

Having a number of table lights on hand is good for variation and creating intimate areas of light without breaking the bank.

Floor lights tend to be far more expensive and imposing, so select them with particular care.

Changing the shade on a central pendant light can completely transform a room and is probably the cheapest way to achieve a dramatic effect. Unless you’re replacing existing versions, wall lights can be a costly option as they often require difficult wiring and plasterwork.

Stylistically, the range of lighting is enormous, from handsome task lights to show-stopping chandeliers.

Be sure to know the required function, size and location in your home before you shop – it’s easy to be seduced by a beautiful fitting that is inappropriate for your needs. Most fittings accommodate a range of lightbulb wattages.

Future focus

Not so long ago, ‘organic’ was the buzzword in lighting. Natural materials such as twigs, timber veneer, rattan and even antlers dominated, but now design has turned full-circle and embraced the machine aesthetic.

Metal is a big trend in lighting with shades in all conceivable variations, from soft folds of aluminium to stainless-steel mesh.

The sculptural exuberance of Enrico Franzolini & Vicente Jimenez Garcia’s Glow floor lamp uses folded sheet steel to create an intricate geometric form.

Alex Taylor’s Fold lamp for Established & Sons takes a more industrial approach to sheet metal, while the refined soft curves of the ’60s-inspired ‘I Do’ light won the Indesign Lighting Award at the 2007 Launch Pad exhibition in Sydney for its designer, Keith Melbourne.

Many light bases consist of fine metal rods, which precariously support futuristic shades that bear no resemblance to the cloth ones of the past.

British designer Ross Lovegrove has produced a light for Artemide called Aqua Ell, with a shade made from hydro-formed polished aluminium that looks like a vortex of gleaming water.

Rodolfo Dordoni’s new Ray designs for Flos feature a large glass drum shade supported by fine chrome rods – the elegant stand of his ‘Ray F1’ recalls the low tables and chair bases designed by Charles & Ray Eames in the early ’50s.

Ikea has created a winner with its Kulla range. Made entirely from powder-coated steel with a three-position dimmer included, the quality is very high and the price incredibly low.

The Twiggy floor lamp by Marc Sadler for Foscarini is made from a lightweight glass fibre-reinforced resin that allows the arm to bend under the subtle weight of the shade, and is possibly the most beautiful arc-shaped floor light since Achille & Pier Giacomo Castiglioni’s famous Arco lamp in 1962.

Material gains

Clear glass remains important, with the visible bulb becoming the essential feature.

Recent creations have played with echoing the shape of the bulb, perhaps in homage to Ingo Maurer’s and Achille Castiglioni’s designs of the ’60s and ’70s, which took this idea to extremes (see Castiglioni’s ‘Lampadina’).

Coloured fabric or mesh-wrapped cords have been embraced by many designers, as seen in the Fold lamp and the Metalarte ‘Metalab PX04’ pendant.

While bright fabric-covered cord isn’t easy to find in Australia, orange plastic cable – which is readily available and cheap – can give tired fittings a modern facelift.