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This No-Glare Bulb Might Solve Your Overhead Lighting Woes

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While most of the Food52 office is "lights off" during the day (our in-house photo studio demands it, so they can harness natural light from the windows), our work tables are, luckily, very well-lit. To boot, the light is neither harsh nor glaring.

Our office designer Brad Sherman is to thank: When he installed overhead lighting above our desks, he managed to avoid fluorescents while still supplying abundant brightness.

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See those lighting panels above us? Brad's handiwork.
See those lighting panels above us? Brad's handiwork. Photo by Mark Weinberg

His solution—equal parts extreme thrift and supreme elegance, as is Brad's tendency—was to design a custom lighting panel from birch plywood, porcelain sockets, and silver-dipped bulbs called "crown bulbs." The sockets are affixed to the panels in a zig-zag pattern, the bulbs screwed into those, and the whole thing suspended bulbs-down over our work areas.

Besides looking extremely snazzy, the silver caps on the crown bulbs act like lampshades, reflecting the light back towards the surface and all around instead of directly into your eyes. The result is a bright-but-indirect glow, no shades required, and a clean, loosely-industrial look. That the bulbs cast groovy, round pools of light onto the surface is a welcome bonus, aesthetically-speaking.

But the whole contraption is significantly less expensive than a fancy, groovy-looking fixture, which is the whole point.

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Lights on!
Lights on!

to use a crown bulb right away...

For brighter light than an Einstein bulb and none of the painful glare of an incandescent, swap a crown bulb into any existing pendant lights you have that expose the bulb. You can even experiment with using them in table lamps and sconces, removing the shade altogether.

When Life Gives You a Rusty Wok, Make a Lamp

When Life Gives You a Rusty Wok, Make a Lamp by Amanda Sims

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Sofia Porcelain Pendant Light

Sofia Porcelain Pendant Light

$165

Or, if you're in need of simple overhead or wall lighting and don't yet have a fixture, simply mount one of these porcelain brackets and screw a single crown bulb into it.

to DIY overhead panels like ours...

The installation of our panels, which included mounting six of them on the ceiling and hard-wiring the whole contraption, was carried out by a contractor. Brad recommends you let a professional handle that process, and provided his down-and-dirty tips to study up on before embarking:

Photo by Brad Sherman
  • Birch plywood comes in 4- by 8-feet panels from Prince Lumber (or likely your local lumber yard)—he affixed two, end-to-end, to create each one of the large panels that make up our six.
  • Simple porcelain sockets are a few dollars on Amazon, and will do the trick.
  • Brad used six 60-watt crown bulbs per large panel, and recommends LEDs so they don't discolor the wood from heat over time. You can even find dimmable versions.
  • And for the mounting and hard-wiring, he had the contractor "use the flexible BX cable with junction boxes and hang them on the ceiling with threaded knots," which he promises me is language your contractor will understand.

In the event that someone reading would actually like to re-create the exact look (calling all start-ups needing non-garish lighting in your office!), Brad also supplied the CAD drawing. Right-click on the image to save, and enlarge, on your computer.

Do you have a favorite kind of light bulb? Sing its praises in the comments.

Tags: Brad Sherman, Float Studio, crown bulbs