When it comes to interior aesthetics, lighting is everything. For a warm, inviting glow, incandescent bulbs have been the go-to choice for decades. But with changes to the light bulb market and a move towards more energy-efficient options, choosing the “right” light to create the desired effect can be challenging. Here’s your guide to choosing the best bulbs for your space!
Incandescent bulbs are on the way out …
“Despite all kinds of technological advances, incandescent light bulbs are still favored by most (especially designers) when it comes to color and light quality,” says Texas-based interior designer Killy Scheer of Scheer & Co. “The color range emitted by incandescents emits light similar to that of the sun or fire, so it’s warm and familiar.”
But in recent years, the traditional incandescent bulb has been catching flak for energy inefficiency. In fact, the Department of Energy is phasing them out — you can expect a ban to take effect later this year. The ban won’t prevent you from using or purchasing incandescent bulbs, but they will eventually be phased out of the market. (You can read more about it here.)
Fortunately, if you prefer the warm, amber glow of incandescent light, there are other options to help you create a similar ambiance in your home. In fact, there are some great options available if you keep a few factors in mind, such as CRI (color rendering index). “A CRI of 100 renders close to that of an incandescent,” says Killy. “The higher the CRI, the better the color rendering capacity.” Here are several ways to replicate the look and feel you know and love.
How to Choose Your Bulbs
When choosing a bulb, consider color temperature, energy efficiency, and lifespan. Selecting a bulb that complements your space and creates the desired vibe is also important. With the proper substitutions, you can create a warm, inviting atmosphere reminiscent of the classic incandescent.
Additionally, some bulbs can be dimmed, making them more versatile when it comes to creating various moods. “Dimmer switches are great so you can change the temperature of the light that’s coming off of your fan or fixture,” says Kaitlyn Tassarotti of Carolina Lanterns, a family-owned South Carolina company. “It’s a great way to achieve ambiance. If someone is hesitant about an LED bulb, they’ve come a long way — they’re not your typical blue tanning bed-looking light! You can achieve that warmer look and then use a dimmer switch.”
As you choose your bulbs, look to these three types: halogen, LED, and vintage-style.
Don’t underestimate halogen bulbs, which have long been a substitution option for incandescents. With a cozy, yellowish light, halogen bulbs are a popular, more energy-efficient way to create a similar look and feel, and they use around 20% less energy. They come in various shapes and sizes, have a longer lifespan than incandescent bulbs, and are easily dimmable.
The market boasts a number of halogen bulb options, including the EcoSmart 60-Watt Equivalent A19 Dimmable Halogen Light Bulb in Soft White and the GE 35-Watt GU10 Halogen Light Bulb in White.
Even more economical than halogen bulbs, LEDs have solid durability. “LEDs are the best alternative to incandescent bulbs,” says Killy. “They’ve come a long way since their introduction, with far more color rendering options.” Energy-efficient (they consume approximately 85% less than halogen lamps) and offering a longer lifespan than traditional incandescent bulbs (they last between 15,000 to 50,000 hours), LED bulbs are a go-to for interior designers.
“When selecting LED bulbs for our projects, I always prefer the warm white options, which give off a glow more in line with incandescent,” Killy tells us. “In LED terms, I recommend 2700 to 3000K (kelvin) for bulbs. The higher the kelvin, the whiter the light, and the starker the feel.”
Kaitlyn adds, “The higher the number of kelvins, the cooler the light blue. The lower the kelvin, the warmer the light. And they’re very low maintenance. For example, I have 12-foot ceilings in my kitchen, and I don’t want to get up there every six months to change bulbs. Having that kind of LED in there, which lasts over 50,000 hours, is [beneficial]. As far as maintenance goes, they don’t run as hot, which is good. It saves a ton on your electric bill.”
“I’ve always liked the GE Reveal LEDs,” suggests Killy. “Phillips also has some great LEDs, and some of the ‘smart’ LEDs are fun with their color-changing options. I tend to prefer frosted bulbs over clear ones for additional softness.”
Wonderfully nostalgic, vintage-style bulbs (often called “Edison bulbs”) are another option for creating an incandescent look and feel. They come in various shapes and sizes and are available with LED and incandescent technology. Killy cautions, however, that vintage bulbs aren’t quite as versatile as the LED options. “Vintage-style bulbs are nice and warm, but they are best for very specific uses and looks,” she says.
Some good options on the market include the Ascher Dimmable Vintage LED Edison Bulbs in Warm White and GE Vintage-Style Bulbs in Warm Candle Light.
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