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    Decorating Book Review

    Chandeliers by Elizabeth Hilliard
    Bulfinch Press

    The real estate agent has asked us, "Are there any of the fixtures in the house you're not leaving?" Without a moment's hesitation we answered: "The chandelier."

    We found our chandelier in New York's Greenwich Village when driving by Eileen Lane's, a shop specializing in Swedish Biedermeier furniture and antique alabaster light fixtures. We knew we wouldn't find anything quite like the honey-colored alabaster fixture (with twelve arms holding candle cups) again.

    Many times the first item your eye is drawn to in a dining or living room is a chandelier; it can be a starting point for a decorating scheme. Minimalism may not be deadin home decorating, but it's lying low and the inclusions of a chandelier, whether it is from wood, brass, glass or crystal, has found its place once again. Today even the most sleek houses and apartments are featuring chandeliers as centerpieces of pared-down rooms.

    ABC Home in New York, a very popular emporium for decorators and their clients has been carrying Murano Venetian glass chandeliers on their main floor for a decade or more. There are few places within your home where you couldn't find a place for such a beauty.

    Chandeliers are evident in paintings by van Eyck, Vermeer and Dou but the first reference found to 'schanderliers' was in a 1714 London advertisement. Since around 1700 they've been made on the Venetian island of Murano. Historic examples (usually brass) of this decorative and useful object were found in places of worship but simpler forms were found made of wood, tin or wrought iron in modest households. More elaborate forms were made from precious materials, such as gold and silver in addition to cut-glass and lead-crystal versions. Contemporary designs might be made from porcelain, plastics, straw hats or paper such as the inventive materials used in Jo Whiting's, Marta Baumiller or Ingo Maurer's work. Glass artist Dale Chihuly's elaborate chandeliers are focal points in public spaces.

    Pieces by early American settlers are rare today. In the early twentieth century, antique iron examples were reduced to scrap metal due to the introduction of electricity. Those that remained were used for wartime production of armaments so the occasional piece found is rare.

    Hilliard's book contains more than two-hundred photos of elaborate fixtures rarely seen: an electrolier in a Scottish house called Ardkinglas, a Murano molded black glass with clear drops and one example with tulip-shaped flowers of crimson and gold glass. There's a colored glass and gilded chandelier decorated with glass fruit, gracing a kitchen design with flair and bathrooms are not exempt from their charms.

    Chandeliers is a fascinating history of the craftspeople, social context, styles and provenance of these central points of illumination. The book has a thorough look at contemporary chandelier design as well

    . Hilliard doesn't overlook decorating or care tips once a choice of a chandelier is made. There's a directory of shops, manufacturers (such as Preciosa Lustry, Period Lighting, Framburg, Schonbek or Barovier & Toso) and designers to choose from.

    You might remember the scene from The War of the Roses with Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas ending their marriage (and their lives) atop a chandelier, a last bitter division of marital spoils. Did the audience wince because of the demise of the Turner and Douglas characters, or because that beautiful object was lost?




    ©Tam Gray for SeniorWomenWeb
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