Think of pendant lamps as glowing stalactites—for rooms outside the cave, of course. Their declarative presence reminds us that lighting is something to show off, not hide. While some pendants send beams upward for a soft, even reflection off ceilings, others shine both down and up to combine direct and indirect light. That luminous blend plays into our natural expectations, says lighting designer Jim Conti. "We have direct sunlight and reflected skylight," he says, "so we're conditioned for that." There's more to a pendant lamp than function, however. "It can pull focus and create a lot of character," says Stephen Horner, a visiting professor at the Pratt Institute. That's true of Tom Dixon's Fluoro design, which beams light from a giant neon sphere. For a bit of subtlety, CB2's pendant lends a historically minded character, paying homage to Thomas Edison's now-trendy exposed-filament bulb.
A version of this article appeared in the September 2011 issue of Fast Company magazine.