In the hot summer months, a ceiling fan can be critical. It can help circulate air, cool a room and lower electricity bills.
But is it a design no-no?
"Most designers want the fan to come down and a light fixture to go up," said Shannon Woodward of Interior Magic in Chevy Chase, Md. "I prefer it, too, but I have to work with them. Sometimes they are a necessary evil."
Older, outdated ceiling fans can be an eyesore, but it's possible to choose one that is both functional and design-conscious.
Woodward, who started working with her mother as an interior design duo eight years ago, said her clients who insist on a fan have plenty of options to pair with their tastes and preferences.
Traditionalist? Woodward suggests choosing a classic wooden style. Have a more modern taste? Try chrome. Palm leaf fans, Woodward said, can add texture to a room and pair well with natural woven carpets and window treatments.
Another safe bet for almost any design concept, she said, is to make the fan vanish. Pick a fan with blades that match the color of the ceiling, or try clear, Lucite or acrylic blades. For a recent client with contemporary taste, Woodward paired Lucite side tables with Lucite fan blades for a sleek look. Woodward also recently installed a modern fan with Lucite blades in her own bedroom.
"Make it decorative, make it attractive or make it disappear," Woodward said.
Consider three or four different styles, she said, and narrow your choices from there.
Elisa Park, Home Depot's buyer for ceiling fans, said that despite some designer misgivings, ceiling fan sales are not slowing down. Like Woodward, Park said design trends have helped homeowners incorporate fans into their decor, rather than bemoan their existence.
"Fans are a great alternative to regular lighting," Park said. "There have been lots of introductions of new designs and updated finishes."
One of the newest trends, Park said, is the double ceiling fan -- two motors and sets of blades attached to one mount. The style works well for large spaces and often has a contemporary look and shape.
Another popular trend, Park said, is installing a patio or porch fan. Outdoor fans are the most popular type Home Depot has sold in recent years.
"Outdoor living is a growing trend across the country," Park said. "A fan gives a nice breeze when you're resting on a porch."
Home Depot works with a team of designers when vetting merchandise, Park said, and store associates can offer design tips during the selection process.
"We'll ask some basic questions," Park said. "Is your home traditional? Or if a homeowner is renovating, for example, we'll ask about their door hardware. Is it a metallic finish? We'll pair a design with what they have."
Other stores to consider besides Home Depot? Fanimation, the Modern Fan Co. and Shades of Light all have a variety of fresh designs.
Park said to make sure you choose a fan that is appropriate for the size of the room it will be used in. Fans under 52 inches should be used in small- or medium-size spaces, 52 to 58 inches for larger rooms and 60 to 70 inches for great rooms.
Although the process often varies by model, installation can be a do-it-yourself project, Park said. However, she has seen a growing number of Home Depot customers who would prefer to hire an electrician to do the project -- often because the electrician can finish other home improvement projects during the same visit.
"We have customers who love to come in and pick out the fan but either don't have a ladder or are not confident in their electrical wiring skills," Park said.
If you do want to try DIY installation, remember: Proper installation is key. If you're worried you won't do it correctly, Woodward said, call in a professional.