The Pros and Cons of Exposed Bulbs

published May 29, 2018
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(Image credit: Amber Interiors)

Exposed bulbs are often a polarizing source of debate when it comes to lighting. Naysayers teeter-totter between a bare bulb’s inability to produce enough light and its tendency to be too harsh, while fans of exposed bulbs are blinded by their luminescent je ne sais quois. Whether or not this look is for you, we got the skinny from those living with bare bulbs, as well as a few options to make them work in your home.


(Image credit: Jessica Isaac)

We toured Lauren Chaidez’s home in 2016, just after she and her husband Danny installed bare bulb pendant lights in their kitchen. Two years later, she still stands by the decision to incorporate Edison bulbs into their decor, stating they are “an affordable way to get a minimal look.”

(Image credit: Petra Gardefjord)

Chaidez went on to address the concerns of those reluctant to use exposed bulbs by advising to only use them in high places. Hanging bare bulbs above eye level will help cut down on any of the undesirable glare they might put off.

Form Over Function

Apartment Therapy contributor Marisa Vitale has lived with an exposed bulb in her kitchen since before we toured her home in 2013 (pictured above). While she admits the Edison-style light is basically useless when it comes to its intended function (providing light), she keeps it around for aesthetic purposes.

(Image credit: La Redoute)

Whether it’s a vintage hand-blown Edison bulb or an interesting new creation, like this beauty above from La Redoute, it’s not always about how much light your bulb puts off, but just the simple fact that it does. We say forget the function, why not put the beauty of science on display with a bare bulb lighting fixture?


(Image credit: Wayfair)

As Chaidez suggested in our first example, placing your bare bulbs up high is a great way to cut down on unwanted glare. Unfortunately, many of the most beautiful bulbs in the world don’t match their counterparts in lumens (light output). If actual light is what you’re looking for, using exposed bulbs in clusters—like this example from Wayfair—is the way to go.

(Image credit: Tessa Neustadt)

It may sound obvious, but increasing the amount of bulbs you have in one place will increase the amount of light they put out. Incorporating organic materials, like the rustic wood used in this chandelier via Amber Interiors, can help with balancing out the harshness of a cluster of these glowing orbs.

Best of Both Worlds

(Image credit: Salva Lopez)

If you love the look of exposed bulbs but can’t fully deal with their exposed-ness, we’ve got some options for you. The bare bulb pendants found in this gorgeous Barcelona apartment utilize the simplicity of two naked bulbs while minimizing their harsh output by directing them upwards. If you can’t quite pull off this maneuver, opting for dipped bulbs or frosted bulbs will also cut down on the glare.

(Image credit: Jess Isaac)

Another compromise is to outfit your bare bulbs with a partial shade, like these metallic shaded sconces from Amber Interiors. These beauties have a swivel neck, providing users with the option of shielding their eyes from the exposed bulb’s direct light. Bonus: the metallic shade is reflective, which means it increases the overall lumens.

Whether you love them, hate them, or merely rely on them to light the way to that secret speakeasy behind the sandwich shop, when done well, exposed bulbs are a trend that we can definitely get behind. How do you feel about exposed bulbs?