Debbie Travis: Mix old-style lighting with modern fixtures

Dear Debbie: My cousin has a very modern minimalist apartment, too sparse for me, but I really like her new lights — she says they are Edison style. I am more of a traditional decorator and I would like to update my chandelier in the dining room. Will a modern lighting choice clash with my floral wallpaper and carved wood buffet?


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This is when decorating can get really fun. There are no rules. If you have your eye on a particular type of light fixture and it’s not in the “traditional” aisle, there is every chance that it will look brilliant in your dining room. Our tastes change over time, they broaden and overlap. Like city and country cousins, what they have in common is good design and there is magic in the mix.

Lighting today is centred on LEDs. Because LEDs are undeniably energy friendly, most incandescent bulbs are disappearing. There is a style, loosely called updated industrial, which offers vintage fixtures in more refined housing. The naked bulb can still be seen within a softer, finished metal framework.

Before you buy a new fixture, ask about the light bulbs: Are they replaceable, what kind of light do they show?

We are seeing chandeliers with arms that radiate in all directions, that bring the future into today. These work in dining rooms or kitchens as shown here.

There are also leaner styles that tout an edgy design in a quieter way. The bare bulbs or tubes can be seen through the metal bars. These can be hung solo or in a cluster at different heights. West Elm has a selection of Edison-style bulbs and fixtures that should inspire you.

And is a good spot to catch up on a few of the latest trends in lighting.

Dear Debbie: Our first apartment is a tiny bachelor and we love it. We are just out of college and want to set up a bit more sophisticated space moving forward. Have you any thoughts on painting and lighting that make a cosy statement in a small space?

Ben and Louise

I understand that you are done with the student digs atmosphere. Always fun to begin with, but you do outgrow banners and makeshift shelves. Light colours will give you a feeling of space, they are airy and appear to breathe more than dark hues.

Why not paint in a pastel shade of your favourite colour?

Shades of pink or terra cotta are warm and welcoming. You can switch to a darker tone for the back wall where your bed is located to visually divide the space.

You’ll want furniture that does double duty, such as a sofa bed with lots of oversized cushions and a good-looking table that you can eat and work at. Invest in pieces that are meant to last, you don’t need much at this point.

Next, think about lighting. Invest in good task light for the kitchen prep area and use a dimmer so you can take control.

Build the atmosphere with one or two up-lights. They are spot lights that sit on the floor and radiate light up the wall toward the ceiling. Position them to highlight a piece of art or a leafy plant, or shelves that hold your favourite books and photos.

Written by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. Please email decorating questions to Follow Debbie at

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