Article
The great American architect Louis Sullivan was famous for coining the phrase “form follows function,” a maxim that defined many of his own buildings. Essentially, he meant that the shape of an object (or building) should be based on the function it’s intended to serve.

RLM Lighting Has Come Out of the Barn

Chuck Ross
The great American architect Louis Sullivan was famous for coining the phrase “form follows function,” a maxim that defined many of his own buildings. Essentially, he meant that the shape of an object (or building) should be based on the function it’s intended to serve. This idea is equally important in good lighting design – and it’s the foundation for the increasingly popular category of RLM lighting. RLM fixtures are equally comfortable in both industrial loft and modern farmhouse settings, especially because of the customization options homeowners and small businesses have to choose from.

RLM fixtures are both familiar and easy to spot. They feature metal construction and bowl- or cone-shaped shades that typically extend below the bulb. They’re manufactured in a broad range of colors, but the shades’ interiors are almost always white. Both the shape and interior finish are intended to support the function of directing light downward, with little outside glare. Remember, this was a time when the classic incandescent Edison bulb was the primary electric light source, and those bulbs broadcast light in all directions. With RLM designs, lighting manufacturers were able to focus that illumination only where it was needed.

These, in other words, were the original task lights, and they’ve served that function for nearly a century in agricultural and factory applications. More recently, lighting designers and homeowners have been drawn to RLM lighting’s classic shapes and colorful exteriors, and the fixtures have become go-to choices in both wall-mount and pendant applications.

 So, what do the initials “RLM” stand for? In the early days of electrification, it appears to have meant “reflector light microscopy.” This mouthful of a phrase described the task-light function described above. More recently, it’s come to mean “reflective light manufacturer.” However, a lot of folks just call them barn lights, and pretty much everyone understands that description.

The simplicity of RLM fixture construction is also a boon for custom installations, and a number of manufacturers now have programs featuring interchangeable parts to support a variety of finished designs. This means buyers can create their own fixtures by choosing from various colors, shades, arms, mounts and options for things like cages and swivel connections. This can be a big advantage for small businesses like retailers and restaurants, enabling consistent lighting design, from the front entrance through to bar areas and restrooms.
Photo courtesy of Kichler
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