In the past, a central pendant light was often the only source of lighting within a room, but it is now widely acknowledged that the quality of light from a single source is insufficient and results in an all-over general light that is flat and uninteresting. In addition, light from a single central source can also be glaring, leaving everything it does not reach in darkness. This means that too much work is done by one light source alone.
Modern pendant lights are rarely the only light source in a room and come in any number of guises in metal, wood, plastic, paper or fabric. Much like a chandelier, a statement pendant not only contributes to the build-up of lighting effects within a room, but also plays an important part in creating the mood of the interior - it is part of the decoration and reinforces the look of the room. Often, while the same discreet lighting effects can be applied to any style of interior, it is the choice of decorative light that sets the mood and tone. For example, by whatever means the general light is produced in a room, the addition of a modern or industrial pendant light will create a completely different feel to that of the same interior with a traditional chandelier. A pendant light creates a statement, so it often gives the impression that it is doing all the work - yet it is the architectural or concealed solutions that are producing the general light.
While a pendant light can literally be the decorative centrepiece in a room, these days it is not limited to being used in this way. It can be dramatically suspended in a corner or dropped low over a table or kitchen island to provide task lighting. Pendant lights can also replace conventional bedside lamps or wall lights, with the light source suspended low down, at the level of a table lamp, thereby freeing up space on the bedside table. Or using other decorative objects such as a ladder next to a bed - see the VALO industrial wire cage pendant light as an example.
The key with any decorative lighting is to know at the planning stage what the light source is. If it is a bare light source, it will need to be dimmable so as not to create glare and distract from the fitting itself (remember, the eye is always drawn to the brightest point). A light source with a soft shade, however, will need to be dimmed less. Many interesting pendant lights have been created by the play of light diffusing through material. If the shade is dark, light is directed almost entirely up and down, but if the shade is diffuse, like a parchment shade, it may show the pattern of the fabric or provide a soft outward light. If more than one type of decorative light is used in the same space, particularly if one has a bare light source and the other does not, then they should be wired on separate circuits and controlled separately. The light produced by a glass chandelier or lantern that will need to be dimmed will be very different compared with a shaded pendant light that gives off a flow of light similar to a table lamp.