Even if you didn’t know it was called an “onion light,” you’ve almost certainly seen it before. Walk through any historic New England neighborhood and you’re bound to see one brightening the door of traditional cape or two. A glass lantern with an encircling metal cage, the onion light often sports a large carrying handle and has a utilitarian, Paul Revere-ish charm about it.
The light was actually created during the early 1800′s as a sturdy portable lantern that hung on the side of a house or barn when not in use. They also became popular in the marine and railroad industries. Early examples didn’t include the wire cage, but it was added to the design to protect the glass globe, or “onion.”
Having “hang-ups” today about its front-door-only stereotype, the beloved onion light has shed convention to take on new lighting roles, both indoors and out.
Here are four ways to showcase traditional onion lights in a new way:
One – Sconces
Wall-mounted onion lights, originally designed for outdoor use, make perfect wall sconces in traditional or modern settings. Already a wall-mounted fixture with a backplate, its design naturally lends itself to take on a wall sconce roll indoors without the need for modification.
In comparison to some other lantern styles, Colonial in particular, onion lights tend to be compact and vertically oriented. This makes for an easier installation in areas with tighter constraints, such as a paneled fireplace surround. Also, most onion lights utilize A-base light bulbs, which depending whether the fixture design has a canopied “hat” or not, provides an even, non-directional glow. Many other lantern styles are designed to use C-base candelabra bulbs which alternatively mimic the upward light created by candles.
Two – Pendant Fixtures
The best and most popular application for classic onion lights is as a pendant to provide ambient lighting in a room. Because pendants become visual focal points in a space, the classic onion light design holds up as something worth drawing the eye to.There are several manufacturers who make onion-style pendant lights. Or, you can create your own by having an existing fixture refurbished by a lighting specialist.
Task lighting need not be humdrum shaded fixtures. Pendant onion lights illuminate all the good that goes on in the kitchen below, designed by Pinemar Inc. and T. Keller Donovan. When you’re selecting a chain length, just make sure you have enough clearance between the countertop surface and the bottom of the fixture; 28 to 34 inches is standard.
Although subtle, the onion pendant steals the show in Gable Building Corp.’s elegant Boston bathroom. A pendant fixture on a lengthy chain lights a staircase by Whitten Architects, but also aligns with the surrounding windows so you can see it from outside as well. Su Casa Design‘s onion light hung over a dining table is a wonderful low-key chandelier.
Most onion lights are available with a clear, seeded or optical glass globe.The clear glass is the most traditional way to go. Nick Paternostro of Yale Appliance + Lighting adds that seeded glass offers the extra benefit of texture and does not show water spots from rain on any exposed fixtures. Optic glass offers a little more formal look and can create interesting reflection patterns.
Three – Decorative Accessories
Onion lanterns are an unexpected accessory on a shelf or fireplace mantle. Here, a collection of lanterns in a bevy of styles, onion included, make it a memorable space.
Four – Offbeat Uses Outdoors
Still a staple on the porch, this onion light fan is cool in more ways than one. An onion light pendant fixture fixed to an arched garden door lights up a stone pathway designed by Timothy Lee Landscape Design.
When you’re selecting a new onion light, decide whether you want your fixture to patina, or darken, or maintain its original pristine appearance.
Most quality onion lights are made of either copper or brass. Some manufacturers offer their metal finishes in their natural, unprotected state, or with an already antiqued finish. Brass will darken and take on a bronze-like appearance, while copper will eventually turn a verdigris, or green color.
Antiqued finishes, whether indoors or out, will continue to darken over time. In contrast, black finishes are typically painted on or powder-coated. As these finishes are added topically, they will eventually flake off to expose the underlying metal, especially if used outdoors.
If you live on or near the coastline, the sea air will speed up the patina process, with noticeable changes in just two or three months. For purposes of durability, brass is recommended for marine locations by both Paternostro and Anna Williams of Barn Light Electric Company.
Prices for onion lights vary greatly, from $50 to around $450. As the adage goes, you get what you pay for. The less expensive fixtures are usually made overseas using lower quality materials.
American-made onion lights are generally constructed of high-quality materials like brass and copper and are worth the investment.
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A kaleidoscope of color and pattern, the suzani is a decorative tribal textile from the Central Asian country of Uzbekistan. Made as part of a bride’s dowry, suzanis were traditionally used as decorative wall hangings, bed covers, table cloths, and prayer mats.
Suzani is derived from the Persian word suzan, which means “needle”. They are made on a light-colored cotton or silk base which is heavily embroidered with colored silk thread. Popular motifs include moon roundels, flowers, fruit (typically pomegranates), leaves, and birds. Suzanis are usually made in two or more sections and stitched together to create a finished piece.
Suzani fever has woven its way into our homes and hearts. As a traditional wall hanging, a suzani creates a spectacular alternative to a headboard, such as Paige Morse’s bedroom design shown below. Likewise, suzani bed covers and throws offer an artful bedroom focal point.
Some designers repurpose the textile by cutting it and creating new forms. Suzanis are installed on upholstered seating, like the settee above or as bold throw pillows, as seen in Jessica Helgerson‘s living room design.
With size limitations and (understandable) hesitation to alter hand-embroidered textiles, an alternative of fabric printed with suzani inspired patterns allows for greater design flexibility. Wide-width fabric allows for upholstery of larger furniture pieces such as sofas, chairs and headboards to achieve a similar look.
Colorful and ever so global, suzani style celebrates the beauty of life through traditional pattern. Be bold and check out some favorites below:
I couldn’t resist to go out in style…..
*Marla Mallett sells antique and contemporary suzanis
Global color authority Pantone recently announced Radiant Orchid #18-3224 as Color of the Year 2014. Laying last year’s winner Emerald to rest, Radiant Orchid skips across the color wheel this year from the greens to the purples.
Often described as “magical”, “romantic”, “tender”, “exotic” and “charming”, orchid is also associated with ingenuity. Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, says of Radiant Orchid, it “encourages expanded creativity and originality, which is increasingly valued in today’s society….An enchanting harmony of fuchsia, purple and pink undertones, Radiant Orchid inspires confidence and emanates great joy, love and health.”
While Radiant Orchid is a beautiful color, it is quite feminine and probably not one to garner wide appeal to the general masses. Unlike 2012’s hit Tangerine Tango, I wouldn’t expect to see the design market overly bathed in hues of orchid. Rather, touches of this intense color as within schemes, such as chairs, pillows, rugs, or painted feature walls will be more likely. However, a few bold designers have more readily embraced this deep, sensual color in full force. Check out a few favorites: