The Modern Chandelier Trend That’s Making Everything Else Seem Dated

17 Feb.,2023


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Glitzy metal chandeliers have ruled for years. But now fixtures crafted from plaster—earthy, subtle and sensual—are emerging as a new go-to for interior designers.

IN THE INTERIOR DESIGN WORLD, a new kind of chandelier has taken hold: fixtures whose metal components are coated in quietly arresting, matte, white plaster. The humble material—once the darling of rococo mirror frames and highly ornamental ceiling medallions—is showing up on chandeliers with few flourishes but lots of style, making a statement without being gaudy.

“I have used plaster lighting quite extensively,” said Los Angeles designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard. The pieces “add great drama and sophistication yet don’t overpower a space.” Cate Dunning also admires their subtlety, and recently installed a six-armed version by Currey & Co in a client’s dining space to give the eye a spot to rest in a pattern-filmed room that might be characterised as grandmillennial in style. Said the partner at Atlanta interior-design firm GordonDunning, “I love that plaster chandeliers introduce a new texture without adding another metallic finish.”

When creating a line of light fixtures for furnishings retailer RH’s Contemporary collection, New York designer Ryan Korban looked to the plaster creations of European sculptors Serge Roche and Alberto and Diego Giacometti, who collaborated with French decorator Jean-Michel Frank on chandeliers in the 1920s and ’30s. “Because of the simplicity in colour and material, they add a level of architecture to a ceiling and blend beautifully within any space,” Mr. Korban said of the pasty white style.

Indeed, Mr. Bullard has installed plaster chandeliers everywhere from drag queen RuPaul’s primary bedroom, which Mr. Bullard describes as “an ode to Dorothy Draper,” to American sportswear designer Tommy Hilfiger’s Palm Beach living room. “A pair of abstract 1940s chandeliers bring a freshness to the Palm Beach palette,” said Mr. Bullard, referring to the classic tropical elements of rattan chairs and potted palm trees.

New York designer Gideon Mendelson installed a pair of 1950s vintage, French, half-moon-shaped plaster fixtures in his Sagaponack, N.Y., home and relies on the style to bring “casual sophistication and texture to a space,” he said. Indeed, the dusty organic finish can help relax a formal room. Said Ms. Dunning, “It works for us specifically because it adds a more modern or ‘off’ element to a more traditional space.”

Nashville designer Sarah Bartholomew likewise toned down the stuffiness in an “architecturally intricate” wood-panelled room with Stephen Antonson’s slightly industrial Alexander model. “The white pops against the warmth of the wood walls,” she said. In a recent project, Chicago interior designer Summer Thornton hung a plaster chandelier—in which “floral blossoms” conceal the bulbs—in her client’s family room. The clean lines and chalky texture were, she said, “a welcome contrast to the velvet-adorned, traditionally shaped furniture and antique rug.”

Then there is the matter of the light they throw. Indianapolis designer Heidi Woodman goes so far as to say that plaster chandeliers cast an “ethereal” glow when illuminated. “Because plaster seems to absorb light—as opposed to metal, which bounces light—it provides a softer hue,” she explained.

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