Many of the out-there designs springing forth from European (and even some smaller American) markets may seem the equivalent of haute couture. Sure, they’re interesting to look at, but wherever would you put them? Nevertheless, their very existence exerts an inexorable pull on the lighting continuum, drawing consumers’ “safe” aesthetics ever closer to the cutting-edge.
Indeed, more and more showrooms find fresh, modern designs a great way to make a statement in an increasingly competitive business.
“‘Traditional’ is probably 99 percent of the lighting industry,”says Yaacov Golan of Atlanta’s C Lighting . “But in the end, it’s what we introduce to the customer that sets the trends and the fashions.”
When C Lighting moved from San Francisco to Atlanta in 1999, all of its 3,000 square feet were dedicated solely to contemporary offerings. Now, housed in a brand new, 12,000-square-foot space, the showroom is slowly adding traditional and transitional looks to its merchandise mix to promote what Golan sees as a move toward design fusion.
“In Europe, everyone mixes [styles],” he says. “They have what their grandparents left them, yet they feel comfortable with the design of their [own era]. Here, people worry about it: ‘My house is too traditional, I just can’t.’ But that’s changing. Contemporary can be minimal, but it can also be soft, romantic and warm.”
For its part, St. Louis’Metro Lighting  chooses to emphasize that minimalist appeal with a separate, Spartan contemporary gallery. “Most showrooms can’t have a huge dedicated area [for modern looks],” says General Manager Matt Gagnepain. “But when you do have the space, they sell themselves.”
While Gagnepain finds Metro’s modern looks most popular among urban hipsters inhabiting the lofts being developed as part of St. Louis’ downtown revitalization campaign, Golan says C Lighting’s most loyal customers actually tend to be Baby Boomers.
“They’ve had their big house with traditional, heavy furniture, but now they’re moving to a condo and want to make it lighter and more comfortable,” he says.
No matter whom you’re selling to or how you woo them, showroom owners should follow C Lighting’s lead and keep an open mind when it comes to modern design, says Ryan Stewart, Communication Manager at contemporary lighting manufacturer Eurofase .
“Today’s design trends blend contemporary and traditional,” he says. “Building modern elements into a [classic] vignette helps sway customers and sell that ‘it’s okay to be modern’ idea.”