It’s no overstatement to say we’re living in the golden age of lighting. There are more diverse and better-designed options at every price point – lucky us! Even so, vintage chandeliers, pendants, sconces and lamps will always have a place in my home. Why? I’m tempted to rely on a cliché and say they add a certain je ne sais quoi, except I know exactly what they bring to any room: patina, one-of-a-kind craftsmanship and soul.
“Vintage and antique fixtures have an emotional resonance,” says Michael Rosar, owner of Toronto’s Turn of the Century Lighting, a go-to source for residential, film and commercial designers. “They elicit an immediate ‘I love that!’ response, and there’s a quality and character you can’t find in a new fixture.”
So, let’s haul out your dusty chandelier. How many arms does it have? Rosar says that on average, you can expect to pay about $75 per arm – that includes wiring, sockets, sleeves and the all-important Canadian Standards Association (CSA) certification, a hallmark of safety. Depending on your budget and the initial cost, that seems like a reasonable price for refurbishing something you once felt compelled to buy.
That same per-arm price is worth keeping in mind for those of us shopping for antique fixtures online or at markets. If you’re stalking a 20-arm chandelier and the starting price is $500, the math is no longer in your favour unless you truly love the light and won’t regret the investment.
Rosar has a few more important tips for assessing whether a vintage fixture is a fabulous find or a flop:
- Look for quality materials such as brass or bronze that haven’t been altered. “If a fixture is covered in house paint, it could be hiding more breaks or repairs underneath,” he says. “I’ve seen fixtures held together with epoxy or chewing gum.”
- Avoid fixtures with damaged or missing specialty glass; a replacement will be difficult to source and increase the price considerably.
- Consult an expert before purchasing European fixtures, which have plenty of wow factor but don’t always lend themselves to being rethreaded for North American electrical systems.
Finally, and most importantly, resist the urge to try a DIY rewiring job. “Safety is the No. 1 priority,” Rosar says. “Crossed wires can lead to a fire and that’s not only a hazard but an insurance liability.”
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