maximalist lighting
A project by Katharine Pooley

Bright spark: How to make maximalist lighting work for any home

15 Feb 2024 | Updated on: 26 Feb 2024 |By Kari Colmans

When it comes to interior design trends, there’s no doubt that maximalist lighting is having more than a moment. We quiz the home decor experts on how to light up a room

Whether you’re about to tackle a full-blown refurb, or are just contemplating a seasonal facelift, the adage that less is more really doesn’t apply to lighting any more. And regardless of the style, colour palette, textures, or trends you’re set to embrace elsewhere – be it jewel-toned velvets, cosy boucle, or tonal linens – an intelligent maximalist lighting choice will always outshine any fleeting fashion trends.

Go big and bold in larger rooms

Established more than two decades ago, Katharine Pooley, one of the country’s most respected luxury interior designers, says, “Maximalist lighting can be a fabulous way to add personality, colour and layered texture into an interior.” Named British Interior Designer of the Decade, International Designer of the Year Asia, and Entrepreneur of the Year, among her many accolades, Pooley is recognised globally for her innovative designs and exquisite, award-winning spaces. “I am particularly drawn to chandeliers and pendants with tactile, organic finishes drawn from nature. For a recent project, we chose a turquoise bead chandelier made specially by an American artist. It added a beautiful pop of vivid colour in our clients’ entrance hall.”

maximalist lighting katharine pooley
A project by Katharine Pooley

It seems many are taking inspiration from nature when it comes to showpiece lighting designs, both literally with replica foliage and fauna and in a more abstract way, through fluid structures and organic, sculptural silhouettes. Natural and eco-friendly materials including wicker, rattan, and wood, are also very popular and create a warm and welcoming ambience – before you even flick on the light switch.

“For a recent master bedroom design, I added a very maximalist sculptural wall light above the bed constructed from overlapping individual bronze leaves,” continues Pooley. “It draws the eye and adds warmth and a tactile, sculptural, texture to the wall. In the evening the soft light it emits is very beautiful.”

Entrances are also the perfect place to create a 'wow' design moment, and Pooley loves creating opulent pieces for larger-scale properties. For a recent London home, she commissioned crystal artists to create hundreds of individual crystal leaves which were suspended in front of the main staircase. Set against a bespoke hand-painted silk wallpaper backdrop of pastoral woodland scenes, the effect was nothing short of magical.

“Maximalist lighting looks especially good when layered with other directional and richly tactile finishes,” she explains. “In another property, we installed a simply enormous sculptural chandelier inspired, in part, by the exhibits at the Natural History Museum. In a double-height space, with classical cornice work and ornate plaster columns, the final effect was very smart.”

Deploy colourful accents in period properties

But maximalist lighting choices don’t always have to be showy. If you don’t have a grand entrance reminiscent of an architectural London landmark, or Georgian-standard ceilings, you can still make your lighting shine with the right accent pieces. Notable jewellery designer Solange Azagury-Partridge, famed for her best-selling Hotlips rings, has collaborated with Green Wolf Lighting on a brand-new edition of stunning cordless and rechargeable hand-blown Murano glass lamps – maximalist lighting requiring minimal space.

The five-piece collection is an artistic extension of Azagury-Partridge’s beautiful jewellery, which is featured in the permanent collections of the V&A and Les Arts Décoratifs at the Louvre. Capturing the designer’s signature whimsy and spirit, the limited edition 1,000-piece series takes inspiration directly from nature with its cloud, sun and rainbow symbolism, and was created with Rebecca Marks, founder of Green Wolf Studio, which produces creative projects across interiors, hospitality, art, lighting, fashion, beauty, and publishing (with recent collaborators including Claridge’s, Christie's, Aerin Lauder, Daylesford, Taschen and The National Gallery).

“Lighting is everything. It can transform a space from somewhere harsh, forbidding, stressful and depressing into a welcoming, comfortable, exciting place to be,” says Azagury-Partridge. “I really like the idea of creating little worlds into which you can immerse and lose yourself. Home being the foundation of a happy grounded life. Imagining what goes on behind the door, or the view you might have from the balcony.”

It’s an aesthetic that Azagury-Partridge has embraced in her own home, creating custom pieces designed to bring warmth and atmosphere to otherwise dead spaces. “I’ve designed some neons that sit inside the fireplace. They’re like a modern take of the hearth minus the smoke and flames, which are not allowed in big cities anyway. They give off the same glow and warm feeling. I love pattern and texture and coloured glass, also Murano chandeliers, pictures and sculptures and anything and everything that brings life and joy to my space. Nothing really matches but they all join to create a perfect whole.”

Blend antique lighting with contemporary spaces

Over the last few years, an increasing number of people have been turning to antiques and vintage items for the home. Laetitia Thorp, an interior designer at multi-disciplinary London-based design studio Thorp, has a particular passion for weaving together unique antique finds with contemporary spaces. Renowned for her global, ultra-high-net-worth clientele and broad spectrum of projects, from the finest country homes and contemporary penthouses to sumptuous planes and yachts, Thorp knows what to look out for when selecting an old gem.

“Antique lighting fixtures bring a beauty and elegance into a room that contemporary lighting doesn’t have,” says Thorp. “Antiques have the kind of craftsmanship, complexity of design, and quality that is hard to replicate with contemporary solutions. While there are lots of modern options mimicking the look of antique chandeliers, the quality is just not comparable. This is also true for most pieces for the home – the quality of materials from 100 years ago was far superior to what we’re able to use now.”

Pair of Murano glass petal chandeliers

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Murano glass chandelier

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When thinking about selecting an antique chandelier or lighting fixture for a modern home, it’s important to create the illusion that it’s always been there, advises Thorp. “Having antiques that are fitted to the building like light fixtures helps bring that genuine, authentic feel. A beautiful, antique chandelier always takes the spotlight, so choose contemporary furniture and accessories to complement it.”

Thorp points out that the key is also in the proportions: an ornate antique chandelier will look most at home in a room with high ceilings, whether it’s a new build or a period property. “After all, the most exciting interiors carefully combine antiques of different periods with modern pieces to create a layered, dynamic look that tells the homeowners’ unique story.” She advises scouring Pamono and 1st Dibs for their eclectic range of historic light fixtures, from Italian pink and white petal Murano glass chandeliers to handsome brass billiard pendants.

Placement is key

Louise Haik, interior designer at boutique London-based construction and interior design specialist, Jackson B Ltd, knows how to get a luxurious lighting look for the hundreds rather than the thousands, with her go-to brands including Liang & Eimil, RV Astley and Eichholtz. “A large statement light fitting will work wonders in adding a touch of luxury to any room while creating a huge visual impact and focal point. It also entices you to look upwards, making the space feel bigger.”

If you’re revamping your home without the use of an expert, she advises on how best to place the pieces to make the biggest impact: “Long suspended chandeliers work best over a stairwell, while in a dining room, you should suspend 30-36 inches above the tabletop. In a living room, the statement light should hang over a coffee table.” 

Whether antique or contemporary, glass or metal, inspired by nature or industrial to its core, a statement light can work the room like no other interior piece. Whichever trend you choose – or buck – lean into maximalism, in all its shining glory.

Read more: How interiors became fashion's new frontier