Chandeliers can be traced backed to medieval times (1066-1485) where they would be found in churches, monasteries, and other gathering halls. These earliest chandeliers simply consisted of 2 hand carved wooden beams connected in the shape of a cross, perhaps in deference to Christianity. The beams would have a spike on each end upon which candles would be secured. Once lit, the whole assembly was hoisted from it’s center lashing to the desired height by a rope suspended from a hook in the ceiling. This “fixture” provided greater light than the usual candle-lit wall scones which illuminated just a small, specific area of a room. The internet abounds with examples through a long history of geographically specific chandeliers; iron armed milk painted Gustavian chandeliers from Sweden, elaborate multifaceted crystal chandeliers from France or Russia, or hand forged and polished brass chandeliers with flint glass shades from American just to name a few. Candles were the source of illumination until approximately 1840, when many chandeliers were converted to gas and the hybrid “gasolier” was born. In 1890 Nikola Tesla invented the AC generator, and modern electricity was born, paving the way for the chandeliers current incarnation around 1910.
Having dispensed with a little history, lets talk about one of my favorite chandeliers on the market today. While Holly Hunt represents several lighting designers, I vote for the “Paris Round” chandelier from the eponymous Holly Hunt Studio collection. Eight squarely extruded arms radiate from a simple central sphere and are capped by small urn shaped candelabra bulb holders set within an uber-clean wagon wheel. Quite simply, it’s a study of circles and squares in juxtaposition, and it’s masterfully done. The entire hardware armature (visible only from below) is surrounded by a rice paper shade with evenly spaced exposed metal struts for stability. Typically, I dislike an exposed bulb, so I opt out of the chandelier category; but here it’s the best of both worlds. Ambient, soft overhead lighting that highlights beautiful metal work, and bulbs hidden by a diffusing shade… perfect. It’s available in polished nickel or antique bronze, with a variety of drop lengths. Holly Hunt is a “to the trade” only resource, but the sales staff at any given showroom can connect you to a designer/architect familiar with HH’s signature style. In New York, the Design and Decoration building at 58th street and 3rd avenue has it’s own designer referral service which is also very helpful.
Holly Hunt 979 3rd Avenue New York 10021