For anyone who’s just starting to integrate antique pieces into their home, blending the old and the new can sometimes be challenging. That beautiful antique table you’ve been eyeing off, for instance, may look incredible, but finding a spot in the house where it doesn’t clash with your existing pieces may prove more difficult than you imagined.
Much easier to accommodate in most rooms, while still providing a shot of old-school charm, antique lighting has become an ideal solution for anyone concerned about buying pieces that fit with their current decor.
Lighting adds instant character to a home, and is the key to creating mood and ambience. But while modern lighting has made great strides in recent years, many find it lacks the charm that you only get from retro or glamorous antique lights. Indeed, it’s the personality that radiates from antique lighting – from chandeliers to wrought-iron uplights – that has led to their re-entering the spotlight in Australian homes.
For many years, chandeliers were only thought of in terms of grand scenes of Gatsby-era opulence. That association of extravagance means that, for many, hanging a chandelier in a room is an idea they wouldn’t generally consider. The ability of the chandelier to meld traditional style and modernism, however, has led to this most impressive of lights enjoying a fresh surge of popularity.
Emma Holland, from Subiaco Antiques, says one of her most memorable finds was a small vintage Strass crystal chandelier, bought on one of her first trips to the flea markets of Paris in the early 1990s.
“I was young and still designing and decorating homes, so interesting fixtures were important,” she says. “They finished the house and made it easier to sell, when people were looking for a traditional style with all the mod cons of a new home.”
What’s more, a chandelier can be just as effective in a variety of rooms around the house, from living rooms to other more… unusual spots. “I have renovated and built over a dozen homes for myself, and that same charming chandelier has been used in most of the homes,” says Emma. “It has been hung in an entry, in a master bedroom; I once even used it in a bathroom that needed a bit of ‘wow’ factor.
“Twenty-five years later it proudly hangs in a passageway in my new
home,” she says. “I love turning it on and watching the light bounce off the crystal drops and cast rainbows around the room. It brings back memories of adventure and hard work.”
Mark Howard, from Lauder and Howard Antiques and Fine Art, agrees that dramatic lighting is on trend right now. Specifically, he says ‘mid-century modern’ is currently in vogue – that’s to say lighting from around the mid 20th century. The best types of antique lights to invest in, he believes, are uplights from this era, especially wrought-iron uplights from the 1920s and 1930s.
Mid-century lights can even cross from the realm of the antique and into the ‘retro’ category, extending into the 1950s and 1960s, when French art deco lamps with interesting decorative features made their mark. This style of lighting can add a quirky style to rooms in need of personality.
As beautiful as antique lights look, however, they do require extra care, because old wiring systems will often not last into the present day. It’s important, says Emma, to get all antique lights rewired to ensure safety and energy efficency. “And never throw away any parts,” she adds, “because replacing them is impossible.”
Emma suggests adding different light shades, to make the light source softer and gentler on the eyes, opting for warm white globes to complete the effect.
So when you’re next trying to decide on an antique piece
to invest in, it’s worth considering the beautiful range of antique lights out there. When it comes to lifting a room in a way that enhances the decor rather than struggling to mesh with it, the effect can be truly illuminating.