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Sunday, August 08, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
Antique and retro fixtures highlight home's past or add style to new house
By Debra Prinzing
When they recently renovated a 1918 Craftsman bungalow on Queen Anne, David and Monica Stephenson knew they wanted period-appropriate lighting. "A few of the home's original fixtures were still here, but most had been replaced with 1960s, 1970s and 1980s lights," David Stephenson said.
The couple rejected commercial-style recessed can lights and instead chose Mission-style antique brass sconces with opaque glass shades. The wall fixtures complement the dark, oil-rubbed bronze hardware used throughout the home and cast a soft glow rather than directing the harsh pools of light often associated with ceiling cans. "In a home of this vintage, it would have looked out of place to have a large number of can lights in the kitchen," Stephenson said.
Whether you're adhering to your home's historic character or paying tribute to a classic architectural genre, the lighting you select does more than just illuminate a room. If well-chosen, it will reinforce the era of an older home or give a nod to the past in a newer residence. Luckily, the marketplace offers countless reproduction lighting styles from Victorian to midcentury modern and every decade in between.
"Lighting is extremely important it either makes or breaks a house," said Julia Valcik, who with her husband, Jeff Valcik, recently renovated an 1898 Victorian home in Seattle's Queen Anne neighborhood. "This was a labor of love," added Jeff Valcik. "Over the years, this home had been destroyed. Even the turret had been removed, so we turned it back into a Victorian."
The Valciks relied on the design assistance of Marva Lougee, manager of Antique Lighting Co. in the Greenwood district, which represents more than 50 product lines, including ALC custom lights and fixtures with glass shades hand-blown by local artists.
"We end up in our client's homes, not just to sell them a sconce for a wall or a chandelier for the ceiling, but to help them create a look, a feeling and to make it useful," Lougee said. The Valciks' foyer is illuminated with two "Rivendale" lamps embellished with Czech crystals and inspired by 1800s-era originals. The parlor, which the couple restored to a proper turn-of-the-century mood with a "coal burning" electric fireplace, has an intricate Victorian-style ceiling fixture and open-bulb sconces above the mantle.
"Seattle is filled with older homes, but many have contemporary furnishings, so we try to get a sense of the client's home and furnishings," Lougee said. Ceiling heights, room sizes and wall colors also help determine the best fixtures for a space, she added. Fixtures should feel harmonious with the rooms they occupy, which means not too large and not too small.
"We also ask clients, 'What do you use the room for?' " Lougee said. She recommends task lighting for kitchens and bathrooms or ambient lighting for living rooms and bedrooms.
Victorian, Arts and Crafts, Colonial Revival and Art Deco are just some of the popular periods that can be complemented by reproduction lighting. For people in Seattle, lighting from later decades is often perfect "especially if you're living in apartments built in the 1950s and 1960s, that retro-space-age look," said Chris Migdol, manager of Rejuve, a reproduction lighting store in Seattle's Sodo district.
Rejuve is a spin-off of Rejuvenation, a Portland lighting manufacturer and retailer that opened its first local outlet earlier this year. The company allows customers to select from among 12 finishes (such as antique copper, bronze gilt and polished nickel), customize the length of a pendant lamp and vary the number of arms on a light with multiple glass shades. Rejuve also features a line of "period basics," which Migdol describes as lighting that encompasses " 'Leave it to Beaver' and schoolhouse-style fixtures," ideal for 1940s- and 1950s-era homes.
The Stephensons worked with JAS Design-Build, a local firm that specializes in renovating and remodeling homes built from 1890 to 1920. For their kitchen, they selected wall sconces from Rejuve and globe lights from Portland-based Schoolhouse Electric, hand painted in vintage green.
According to Joe Schneider, JAS principal, good reproduction lighting serves a home's modern needs as well as fits its period style. "It's one of those signature things like trim details, windows and hardware that can reinforce the era of a home," he said. "If you do a very traditional project but bring in another lighting element, you're not playing by the rules you set up."
Lighting experts and designers recommend doing your homework before you choose reproduction lighting. Some tips:
Choose a feeling. "Do you want lighting to be historically accurate or do you want something that helps to bridge an older home with contemporary furniture?" asked Rejuve's Migdol.
Take measurements. The average clearance of a chandelier or ceiling fixture hanging above a dining-room table is 30-36 inches. Migdol recommends cutting out a cardboard circle and hanging it from string taped to the ceiling. That way you can sit at the dining table and see how well varying lamp lengths work for your room and furniture.
Explore your options. When shopping for a fixture, take along your blueprints, drawings, fabric and paint swatches, advised Lougee of Antique Lighting. You'll have a better sense of how everything will work together.
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