In a New Light: Centro’s Fresh Approach to Illumination in St. Louis

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By the time one is in a position to purchase a home, most of us have suffered through a seemingly endless parade of bad rental light fixtures: the ever present globular frosted glass dome with a metal nipple protruding from the ceiling; humming fluorescent tubes trapped in a utilitarian ceiling panel; lifeless track lighting placed seemingly at random to (inevitably) highlight a room’s worst attribute. It’s enough to sour someone on the concept of lighting entirely.

Luckily, the experts at Centro Modern Furnishings have curated a selection of Italian, German and Dutch fixtures so undeniably enticing, it’s sure to make even the most hesitant home decorator turn back toward the light. And with good reason. “It’s a bit like the final dressing on a room,” explains Centro co-owner Todd Lannom. “Like the necklace you put on before you go out to dinner to really set off an otherwise subtle outfit. That last piece can really make a room come alive and be memorable.”

In a New Light: Centro's Fresh Approach to Illumination in Saint Louis

Moooi MESHMATICS Pendant by Rick Tegelaar.

Memorable, as it turns out, is an understatement. The latest class of fixtures are more akin to “illuminated art or sculpture,” as Lannom (accurately) muses, than anything you might’ve encountered in the hardware store. Uninhibited by the technical constraints that once limited lighting designers, current visionaries can make light bend to their will—sometimes literally.

“As technology has grown over the past 20 years, moving from incandescent bulbs to compact fluorescents to LEDs and LED replacements, lighting designers and manufacturers are able to be a little more creative with the fixtures they produce and present, mainly due to the size of a light bulb,” Lannom explains. Gone are the days of designing glass domes with openings large enough to fit the cartoon-style light bulb that lives on in our cultural imagination. “With LEDs, [which are] smaller than your pinky finger, they can create a totally different way of thinking about illumination,” Lannom says.

The effect is particularly stunning with open-air pieces like the SPOKES collection by Foscarini, which uses repeating lines and gentle curves, and MESHMATICS by Dutch brand Moooi, which use LEDs to create their ethereal aura of light.

In a New Light: Centro's Fresh Approach to Illumination in Saint Louis

Foscarini SPOKES Pendant by Studio Garcia Cumini.

This falling away of constraints, it seems, has unlocked even more directions for the already-inventive design houses Centro stocks. But other logistical challenges create their own divine moments of inspiration. “Most of our brands are Italian or Dutch or German, [so] many of the homes that people are living in in those countries are traditional inner-city apartment buildings or flats with courtyards. Many of them have very high ceilings, plaster walls … they’re not able to move electrical boxes around the way we can in America,” Lannom explains.

“One designer we’re all big fans of here at the store right now, Michael Anastasiades, designs a lot of light fixtures for [Italian label] Flos, and one of the solutions he’s created is the STRING LIGHT. [There’s a] power cord that carries the low-voltage electricity to the LED cone or sphere of the fixture, [and] we help design a layout in a room and then the cord becomes part of the architecture in a room—we can make it cross ceilings, turn corners, go up walls, come back down and then go to a point there it’ll eventually drop down over a dining table, end table or over bedside tables, even if there’s no electricity in the ceiling. There’s nothing else like it on the market— it’s a brand new typology for lighting. You’re almost drawing through the room with an electrical cable before it hangs down where it needs to be.”

In a New Light: Centro's Fresh Approach to Illumination in Saint Louis

Flos STRING LIGHT Pendant by Michael Anastassiades.

These sorts of artful solutions are particularly welcome in a city like St. Louis, whose historic architecture can pose all types of interesting opportunities for Centro’s design pros. “Probably our favorite challenge is to work with someone who has a traditional room and help them incorporate modern lighting into that home,” Lannom tells us. “[Modern] light fixtures can hold up in traditional settings beautifully and can even look better in a traditional setting—because that juxtaposition really creates interesting tension in a space, and people notice it.” And just like with that metaphorical statement piece of jewelry, isn’t getting noticed half the fun?

Images courtesy of Centro Modern Furnishings.

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