- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Dr. Leah Lazar of Ellicott City, Md., always dreamed of having crystal chandeliers in her home.

When she was growing up in Budapest, her family displayed many beautiful light fixtures. Today, although the chandeliers hanging in her home are larger than those her family owned in Hungary, they remind her of her childhood.

In the dining room, Dr. Lazar has a replica of the crystal chandeliers that grace the Palace of Versailles near Paris. The two main hallways in her home contain crystal chandeliers modeled after those owned by Maria Theresa, queen of Hungary and Bohemia and the eldest daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI.

“There is a lot of workmanship to them,” she says. “They are beautifully put together. They are very artistic. They are pieces of artwork. You can just ordinarily light your home or make it special. This makes it very elegant.”

Chandeliers can add a festive element in any home. The branched, decorative fixtures hold a number of bulbs or candles while suspended from a ceiling. Although they traditionally are used in foyers and dining rooms, many people also use them in other areas of the house instead of standard lights.

“It’s becoming a major trend to see chandeliers everywhere from kitchens to bedrooms to bathrooms,” says Joe Rey-Barreau, associate professor of design at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. “I’ve seen crystal chandeliers in the master bedroom and closets of a large house.”

Chandeliers allow people to be creative, he says. He considers the elaborate light fixtures to be a type of decoration.

“It gives you light, and it acts as a piece of jewelry,” he says. “It’s like dressing up a house.”

When looking for the right chandelier, it’s important to bring house plans with dimensions while shopping, says Sandy Fentress, showroom manager and buyer at Maurice Electrical Supply Co. in Northeast. The measurements of the rooms, including the ceiling height, must be taken into consideration to choose the proper size chandelier. It also is helpful to have the dimensions of the table over which a chandelier might hang.

After determining the proper size fixture for the room, Ms. Fentress talks to her customers about their personal preferences. Styles range from traditional to contemporary, and chandeliers are made from many different mediums, such as brass, wrought iron and various shades of crystal. Referring to photographs of the room may help a homeowner decide what would look best in the setting.

Paging through magazines is a good way to get creative ideas for the types of chandelier a person might buy. Further, estimating the budget for the chandeliers also is essential. Depending on the size and medium, the fixtures can cost $50 to $50,000.

“People spend a lot of time and money on fabrics and paint … but most people do their lighting last,” Ms. Fentress says. “A lot of times, people don’t have any money left in the budget or they are tired of selecting things. Sometimes, it doesn’t get nearly the attention it should. … Lighting adds a very important touch and warmth to the rest of the house.”

Jennifer Signora of Potomac enjoys the chandeliers in her home because they remind her of special moments shared with family and friends. She purchased many of her hanging fixtures at Burgess Lighting in Fairfax. An antique brass chandelier about 4 feet wide hangs in the dining room, as does a matching one in the tearoom.

She also has an 8-foot-wide brass chandelier in her foyer, which is lowered on a pulley. A matching chandelier hangs in the side foyer. In addition, a 3-foot-wide wrought-iron chandelier is displayed over the kitchen table.

“I like them because you can dim them for a festive occasion or make them bright for a practical occasion,” she says. “They are the centerpieces in the rooms. People’s eyes are drawn to them.”

Dimming the light on a chandelier is one of its significant features, says Dan Blitzer, continuing educator for the American Lighting Association in Dallas. Although a chandelier cannot effectively light a room by itself, he says, it’s meant to be that way. If it was bright enough to illuminate everything, it would have a glaring effect.

“If it’s comfortable, the room will feel dim,” he says. “It also extends the life of the bulbs.”

Supplemental lighting usually is necessary for activities such as reading. Accent lights might hang from the ceiling, spotlighting artwork or items on a table. Lights also could be mounted on a sideboard.

Although do-it-yourselfers could install a chandelier, it’s a better idea to hire a professional, says Murray Feiss, chief executive officer at Murray Feiss Lighting in New York City. If it hangs over a table, the installer should ensure diners are able to sit down and stand up without hitting their heads on the fixture.

“You’re dealing with electricity and liability,” Mr. Feiss says. “We always say, ‘Have a licensed electrician to do it.’”

Further, cleaning the apparatus isn’t as difficult as it may seem, he says. Some chandeliers lower on a pulley; otherwise, a stepladder is needed to reach them. Because most of today’s homes have air conditioning with filter systems, the fixtures usually don’t become very dirty. Most chandeliers can be cleaned with a feather duster. If it’s a crystal fixture, it can be sprayed with water and ammonia without being wiped. When it dries, it shines brightly.

“There’s something very glamorous about a chandelier,” Mr. Feiss says. “The light is given off in a different way. It has an elegant look. You think of the Palace of Versailles.”

Although homeowners may like their light fixtures so much they’re tempted to swing to and fro from them, Ira Phillips, chairman of the board at Quoizel Inc. in Goose Creek, S.C., does not suggest treating them like jungle gyms. Once the fixture is attached to the ceiling, however, customers shouldn’t worry about it crashing to the ground, the chandelier manufacturer says, unless it’s part of a movie plot.

“If you remember ‘The War of the Roses,’ they were hanging by the chandelier for quite a period of time,” he says. “Those things don’t normally happen; only in Hollywood. It’s not recommended to hang on the chandelier.”

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