Sedate or ostentatious, chandeliers long have served as a rooms focal point, most at home over a dining table. But they are not limited to that application, and these days are not at all relegated to traditional brass light fixtures with candlesticks or classic sparkling crystals.
Like candles, the glow from chandeliers can be mood altering and romantic (especially with dimmers). The hanging fixtures can add sophistication even glamour as they lend weight to dead air space.
Many of the newest chandeliers will steal the design show with big scale, exaggerated proportions, an emphasis on architectural or sculptural form, a pop of color or obvious decoration. Its about the light, but so much more. Expanding the palette of materials, and fusing them in fresh ways, has spoken more to the end user because of what interiors and product designer Laura Kirar calls the evolution of the public.
People know a lot more about design, says Kirar, whose eponymous firm, Laura Kirar-TRU Design, is based in New York and Miami. They are paying a lot more attention to whats going on internationally. The scale has been pushed a lot. Taste has become more eclectic. Its much more about personal style quirks.
Indeed, exposure in magazines or home shows on television and shopping on the Internet has given traction to not only expanded lighting styles but applications. Consider the smaller pendant lamps, which often are hung in multiples over a kitchen island, for example. Now were seeing a curious outgrowth: The pendant cubed or further replicated, smaller scaled lamps massed together into one giant piece for an impressive effect.
In fact, Kirar did just that with the creation of her Caviar Cluster for Arteriors Home. A simple round shape over the light source, which has a screen-like mesh flared shade, she designed single pendants in 6.5-inch, 10-inch and 14-inch diameters. Kirar took all three sizes to create a cluster of eight, which measure 30 inches in diameter and is four feet long. Its both familiar and edgy.
Globes are popular, pleasing shapes. With some orbs, you see all the way through clear glass to the light source, down to the filaments. Others look through framework of the sphere metal or wire, some resembling bird cages.
Overlays also lend intrigue, with even shells forming doily-like lacey patterns over spheres. Decorative grillwork in metal or perforated materials (wood or metal) can have widely different effects. When the shade is translucent, the light glows within; with holes in the surface, which also add texture, the light dances, creating interesting shadows.
A new collection at Currey and Company taps into retro 1950s style with a large-scale dramatic fixture called Dado, which sports vertical slats in varnished fruit wood over coarse linen shades.
Supersizing has been a theme in lighting design for some time. The concept seems to really have taken off with The Big Shade, which perhaps is rooted in hotel and restaurant design. The light source is hidden behind an oversized suspended lamp shade, usually clean-lined, simpler in white or off-white fabric. Or the shade is transformed into an explosive graphic with blowsy florals or geometrics. One manufacturer, Seascape Lamps, specializes in modern lighting with bold hued or patterned shades, which can be custom designed.
Another modern take offers the shade interpreted in metal; especially beautiful, in, say, polished nickel with its warm, reflective qualities, exemplified by a gleaming model, Pipe, from the manufacturer Global Views.
From the shade style a hybrid has evolved: the more embellished shade-plus. This is curious, as the simple form is tricked up, combined with things that dangle mother of pearl discs, metal links that resemble jewelry, and crystals. Combinations can be subtle and arresting, as in a fixture with a rectangular shade called Mimi from Horchow. Like a waterfall, faceted crystals rain down from within a golden organza shade, striking a balance suitable for minimal or traditional interiors.
Hanging elements can create a kinetic, even wind-chimey effect, if caught by a breeze in an entry.
A 1930s necklace inspired Laura Kirar to fashion a skinny (9 inch diameter, 27 inch long) multilayered piece composed of hundreds of cast metal leaves and resin beads, suspended from brass and bronze chains. Amber light shimmers within the tangle of foliage.
Even traditional chandeliers can change personality simply by taking on color orchid, for example, in a classic glass style from Cyan Design for Horchow. New York jewelry artist Dorian Webb ramps up her lighting design with breathtaking chandeliers from her high end company Viaggio. Her Tutto Tutto exquisitely juxtaposes colorful Venetian glass and semiprecious gems in an astonishing 9-foot long piece that trails off like a kite tail. The designer sees it as the perfect solution for two-story foyer spaces.
Lighting as art is not unprecedented. Just think of glass artisan Dale Chihuly, who has created some massive pieces, such as the mega scale, 30-foot tall waterfall chandelier of blue and limey green hand-blown glass that looks like a jumble of squiggles and hangs in the rotunda of Londons Victoria and Albert Museum.
There are free-form, dimensional fixtures that resemble entwined ribbons (one from Italart in purple and hot pink). Other lighting assemblages are crafted from clusters of small parts, such as flower petals made out of hand-cut capiz shells. The Lotus flower chandelier is available at Viva Terra. Another chandelier channels artichoke leaves. The Karlo, from Nuevo Living, is crafted from stark white powder-coated steel.
Creating decorative shapes out of metal is another style that is expanding the contemporary category.
And then theres a trend that some are calling rough luxe. The folks at Currey and Company are saying that humble is the new grandeur, and theyre citing the teaming of natural materials such as rough hewn or reclaimed woods with coarse fabrics such as burlap. Often large scale, the pieces translate well with interiors furnished in whats known in the trade as Belgian modern, a look that Restoration Hardware has adapted as a new signature. Its characterized by casually comfortable furniture with pale wood frames and natural linen upholstery, which has an elegance about it because of its scale and form.
With more unconventional models from which to choose, the comfort level of mixing it up with installations that reflect the opposite of what one might expect is inching up. Baroque with a twist and twinkle of crystals or shimmery metallic accents might shine in a modern, very neutral loft. And just a single repetition of color from a hanging lantern, in a sofa, a throw, or even flowers, can be powerful.
Whether your taste trends to Baccarat crystal, spare, smooth and clean-lined shapes or a bit of both, consider a new chandelier as central illumination or as a supplement.
Attention always is drawn to pieces that are illuminated, says Kirar. So the lighting is always important. Often its like the sculpture in a room, a grand feature. A chandelier is one of the grounding elements, where the eye needs to rest, the touchstone of a room.
Laura Kirars Caviar Cluster globes are composed of brown nickel and smoke glass. The piece measures 48 by 30 inches, takes eight 60-watt bulbs and sells for $2,749. Its also available in polished nickel with clear glass.