Rethinking the traditional crystal chandelier
One of my favorite areas of design is lighting. I like its mechanical and technical aspects, as a true product of 20th century modern design. From the earliest days of Aero, I’ve made limited edition lamps for my store; and now, we also produce a large lighting collection twice a year, with our partners at Visual Comfort & Co. Much of what I do falls into the range of functional modern and industrial modern lights; but each season, we also try to present something surprising that is more formal or traditional in feeling. And, we play with how to use more refined, opulent materials in a fresh way. So it was a natural challenge to think about how to invent a traditional crystal chandelier. Developing something new and original in this category, not just a set of reproductions, took almost three years. The result is the Verona family of lighting.
Like many of my design progressions, the Verona pieces are created from a compilation of sources. I started by looking at examples of grand, classical chandeliers for their different tiers and crystal shapes, as well as their combinations of cut and rock crystal – so elegant. We had already worked with natural rock crystal in some of our lamps, and I wanted to bring it into a more elaborate chandelier concept, both as large-scale, diamond-drop pendants and globes, and as a fixed architectural component. Because it has a more elemental feel, rock crystal is a substance that can seem both historical and modern at the same time.
For a reference point, I was drawn to 17th and 18th century chandeliers from Belgium, Austria, Italy, and the Baltic. Pieces from other cultures beyond England and France are very influential right now in the world of antique furniture, as they tend to be more unique in their interpretations of classic forms. I wanted that uniqueness in my adaptation of crystal.
For structure, I studied a series of earlier, 16th century Italian wrought-iron hanging oil lamps, which gave me ideas for chain-work links, fittings, and more linear armatures. One example had a silk tassel at its base that was an elegant lesson in how to mix hard and soft elements. Sketching through the structure in total detail was so important, because from the beginning, I felt the lights must be beautiful without any crystal on them at all. Every tier, ring, arm, and scroll along the frame had to function as a decorative element on its own, even as it had to be a place where wires and strands of crystal could be attached.
In the end, each light in the group was planned two ways – with and without crystal. This way we could offer both a formal traditional and a more modern, dressed-down variation, within the same stylistic context.
Verona includes five forms: graduating sizes of four, six, and eight light chandeliers, and two different sconces, all of which are distinct in shape and crystal sequence. All have individual profiles taken from mixing and reworking a set of collected details together in different ways. This process is similar to how I develop custom millwork for a home – many careful generations of drawing, combining, rescaling, refining, and then sorting different elements into a unified architecture from room to room.
This is part of my new-traditional approach in design – - to be observant of history and correct in detail, while re-making old forms for these modern times.