To most of us, the term chandelier conjures up an image of a giant explosion of crystal suspended in a large entrance lobby of a majestic house, complete with marble columns and a grand staircase. Today, the modern equivalent can be found in large office receptions, public conference rooms, atriums and theatres or as decoration in the central core of a stairwell. They are still large and still used to make a statement, but are now interpreted in a more contemporary style with delicate structures and energy-efficient light sources.
Among the more unusual (and some might say outrageous) chandelier designs to emerge in recent years are those by German designer Ingo Maurer, who has produced Birds, Birds, Birds using coloured wire, dove feathers and low-voltage light bulbs, and, more recently, a creation using smashed crockery suspended from a wire structure. These huge works of art are more akin to light sculptures than chandeliers, and the price obviously reflects this.
A more modest approach is taken by Britain’s SKK Lighting, which interprets the chandelier theme using a collection of mineral water bottles suspended from circles of steel, and Delft-based Droog Design which produces works by a number of young Dutch designers. Among Droog Design’s collection is a surprisingly simple idea but one that is likely to make you stop and look twice – a collection of light bulbs, each individually suspended on a wire and then pulled together to form an outward splay of light.
Those wanting a more traditional approach will enjoy the Venice range, designed by Patrice Butler for Italian manufacturer Foscarini. It includes three very individual creations – Passion, Paris and Joy – which use coloured blown glass and beads attached to a burnished metal support topped by a small incandescent bulb. Each is approximately a metre in diameter. More recently, the company has worked alongside British designer Tom Dixon to produce the delicate Lightweight chandelier range. Dixon has come up with four different designs using a structure of lacquered metal topped by diffusers in blown satinised glass. The delicate frames all have strong shapes and are offered in bold colours. Lightweight will be on show at London’s Spectrum exhibition, where Foscarini’s UK agent Catalytico promises a number of the new products from Italy.
Fontana Arte, also from Italy, offers the low- voltage Lenticchia fitting which uses a central ceiling rose with seven jack sockets to suspend seven curved stems. Sanded pyrex glass diffusers hang from the stems, giving the impression of old-fashioned weighing scales. Side on, this fitting is a bit alien-like, but seen from below, the sanded glass with light blue © “blobs” provides a decorative circle of light. Also from Fontana Arte is model 006/5, a height-adjustable fitting with chromium-plated stem. This supports five glazed blown glass shades which project light upwards. The glass diffusers are available in white, black, blue, yellow, pink, red and green and it is these vivid colours that give the fitting its character. Single and twin wall fittings are also available.
A more delicate option is the Bornebusch chandelier by Jakobsson, where the designer has taken inspiration from the elderflower. The tiny, clear glass shades house halogen capsule lamps which alternate each side of the double metal rings to create circles of light. There are three sizes of fitting, the largest being three metres in diameter with an incredible 164 light points. Available in polished brass or a chrome-plated finish, this stunning display is available in the UK through Elementer Lighting.
Pendant fittings can provide a decorative alternative to the chandelier, if used in numbers. The classic Artichoke light, designed by Poul Henningsen for Louis Poulsen, has been used to good effect at the House of Industry in Copenhagen, where a number of pendants spiral down inside the stairwell. The Artichoke is made up of scale-like segments suspended by three steel wires and can be obtained in glossy white or clear lacquered copper. It is height adjustable and comes in three sizes, the largest of which has a span of 840mm. It is clean and crisp Danish design.
Other manufacturers worth looking at are Ve-Art, which produces colourful sculptured glass chandeliers and Quattrifolio, for more delicate structures. German company Rodust & Sohn Lichttechnik (RSL) also has a number of designs in its catalogue, including the light ladder which can be used to create light structures, spiral cascades or central chandelier arrangements. Many companies, including Marlin Lighting and Lucent Lighting, will also carry out custom designs.
This month’s Euroluce fair, held in Milan, unveiled many more innovative and exciting designs. For those not fortunate enough to attend, a visit to Spectrum at the end of this month and Hilight in November should enlighten you.