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Rentals come with their fair share of design challenges, but boob lights might be the one of the most ubiquitous. That’s because they’re practically the cheapest lighting fixture you can buy at the home center — essentially just a domed glass shade with a tiny bit of metal trim. Every New York City apartment I ever lived in had at least one, if not multiple.
Even if you’re not a decor enthusiast, the glow these flush mounts give off is harsh and not great for doing much of anything. The solution, other than just living with bad lighting? For as long as I’ve rented, it’s been taking the boob light down, stashing it for safekeeping, and installing another light until you move.
Well, all that just changed with the launch of Tulip, a no-tools retrofit lightning shade that essentially slides right over the dreaded boob to make it look infinitely more stylish. And it all started with— forgive the pun — a lightbulb moment at a party that Lori Smyth, a career residential builder and designer, had about a decade ago.
“I was at a graduation party in a college apartment, and the overhead boob light was a buzz kill to say the least,” says Smyth. “In an effort to uplift the energy of the evening, I grabbed a pair of (clean) red boxer shorts and snapped them around the terrible ceiling light (boob light) in the middle of the room. The mood change of the room was audible and instant.”
Recently, Smyth’s son put this hack to work in his apartment again, and it became a permanent fixture (at least for the two years he lived there). A quick gut check on social media — where #booblight has 846.4K views on TikTok — made Smyth believe they were onto something, so she began prototyping designs for a similar shade-like accessory that would be a cinch to install, interchangeable, and affordable. With two utility patents now in place and lots of fine-tuning, Smyth arrived at Tulip, which takes its name from the flower (her favorite), since some of the designs look almost like tulip bulbs.
The process of getting a Tulip shade over a boob light does appear to be straightforward. All you have to do is apply double sided tape (included with every purchase) to the Tulip’s ceiling mount, which you then press into place centered around your existing fixture. The shade then connects to the mount via three magnets, so it’s a snap to setup, and you don’t need tools or an electrician to get the job done.
“Once your ceiling mount is installed, you can change your shade like you change your clothes,” says Smyth. Because of how quickly a shade can be changed, the idea is that you could swap your lighting seasonally or whenever the mood strikes.
Right now, the debut line features three styles — Drum, Gem, and Lamp — each of which currently comes in two different colorways. “Currently, all the fabrics are locally hand-woven and dyed in Nepal, meaning each fabric run will have slight variations and a bespoke feel,” says Smyth. In the future, she hopes to add new shapes, fabrics, and patterned offerings to the mix.
Pricing starts at $135 per shade, and everything you need from start to finish comes in the package. Purchase a Tulip bunch, and you can get a discounted rate for two shades.