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Style Advice: A Guide to Specific Light Settings

Grand Light restores lighting fixtures from every era in every application. Our restoration specialists understand the subtleties that distinguish one setting from another: here are a few tips for creating settings that are authentic and aesthetically pleasing.

Federal: Lighting from this period takes on two distinct appearances: fixtures made from tin, iron or wood had a simple appearance while those made of silver, brass and pewter looked elegant. Characteristics of the hand-crafted Federal, or Colonial, era lighting include S-shaped curves in the fixtures’ arms, hurricane glass shades and candles (the main source of light before kerosene and oil). Look for examples of these lights in early-American public buildings, plantations and Colonial-style homes.

Victorian: This era is known for its ornate, yet functional lighting fixtures. The fixtures from this time feature Art Nouveau influences–curved lines and floral designs–with geometric balance. Victorian lighting was originally made for several light sources, including kerosene, oil, gas and electricity. These lights typically use a solid connection to the energy source at the ceiling: chain suspensions are rarely, if ever, used for Victorian lighting. The most common material used is brass: iron is used as well, but not as frequently.

Arts & Crafts: This style developed in the early 20th Century, and it is defined significantly by Mission-style square glass shades and tubing. Linear shapes in hammered iron and copper show why the style is also referred to as “Craftsman.” Oak woodwork is present in some pieces, specifically with a rustic appearance as bases and frames for Art Glass table lamps.

Art Deco: Fixtures made during this era are dynamic and modern-looking, relative to the post-Depression period and mid-20th Century. Common materials used during this time were lacquer, stainless steel, inlaid wood and aluminum, which were shaped into steppes, sunbursts and artificial curves. Compared to the hand-crafted look of Federal and Victorian lighting, Art Deco fixtures appear rigid and geometric. They are opulent, like Victorian styles, but to a different end.

American Vintage: These fixtures, made in the early 20th Century, tend to borrow traits from several of the aforementioned styles. As a result, the term “American Vintage” is used to identify pieces that do not fall into a specific style, rather than to define a particular one.

Gas Fixtures: Before electric lights were developed, gas fixtures were commonly seen in homes and on street posts. These were powered by various oils derived from food, then coal and kerosene. Gas lights were used up through the early 20th Century, when electricity became a reliable energy source. These fixtures were connected to the ceiling by solid piping that ran the gas to the light: chains were not likely to be used for hanging gas lights.

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