Monday, December 12, 2011

The Dining Room Fixture and Tiffany Shades

When we first moved into the Tiny Bungalow, this was our dining room light fixture.
I didn't like it from the moment I laid eyes on it and it was one of the many glaring "errors" in the home.  The swooping arms, faux frosted candles and a brushed nickel finish that should have been outlawed back in the 1990's were all wrong for this house.  It has since found a home, appropriately, in my sister's ca. 1980 suburban ranch.  What I always liked and what always seemed right for the room was a fixture that hung low, like one of Stickley's "shower lights".  In most versions, the light fixtures hang from a series of chains, just above the surface of the table, lighting the table surface but not so much the room around it.  In traditional Craftsman homes, these artistic fixtures that provided concentrated pools of light, leaving many parts of the room in elusive shadow, was a defining characteristic. 
Our fixture is a variation on the shower light idea and was manufactured by Rejuvenation.  For years, it hung in the dining room, slightly off-kilter with the bubble wrap still protecting the base and finial.  It looked ridiculous but still better than the brushed nickel nightmare that was there before.  A key element of the fixture has also been missing until now.  In Stickley's version, the light shades were typically well crafted min-lanterns or hand blown art glass by a company like Tiffany or Steuben.  Ours had $2.59 frosted shades from the Home Depot.     
Several months ago, when I started contemplating the dining and living room renovations, I started looking for hand blown shades that would be more appropriate for the room.  Many of the light companies these for a small fortune.  When it came down to it, I wanted something that was artisan-made, preferably by a local artisan and something that I could afford.  Shelling out another $600.00 for shades was not in the cards.  I eventually came across Redington Glass Furnaces while looking online.  It was perfect.  Jay Redington's studio is a short drive north to Wisconsin and from the selection on his website, it seemed that he could do just about anything I wanted. 

I was very curious about how the shades were made and Jay was kind enough to let me come up and see his shop and see his work.  It was remarkable.  In an unassuming shed of a building, just outside a small town in Wisconsin, he creates all sorts of amazing things.  The shelves of art glass lamp shades would make anyone with an Arts & Crafts style home drool.  He also makes all sorts of tiles, vases and other household items.  He learned his trade by working at a local museum.  In addition to the objects he makes, he also is commissioned for restoration projects.  Notably, he recently manufactured the glass that was installed at the horizontal mortar joints in Frank Lloyd Wright's Park Inn Hotel in Mason City.    There are several videos online so you can see Jay in action.
The glass shades that we chose are the blue trumpet shades.  I finished installing the fixture yesterday and the final product looks great.  The glass is a favrile glass; an iridescent glass invented by Louis Comfort Tiffany.  Jay was great to deal with and if you are in the market for shades like these, I couldn't recommend is work more.   
As I mentioned earlier, the shades allow a bright concentrated light on the surface of the table but leave a lot of the rest of the room in shadow.  Items on the table look great but this has created a sort of dilemma for me.  I still want some ambient light in the rest of the room.  To accomplish this, hope to install crossbeam lights.  For now, we are using area lamps.
The shades are individual works of art so the color and shape have slight variation from light to light.  It creates the perfect centerpiece in the room.  Once I complete the painting above the picture rail, adding  additional glues and golds, I think it will be perfect. 


Anonymous said...

Wow those shades are the jewels of the room! That fixture looks 1,000 times better than the previous one! That's so cool you got to go see the glass blower work. We have a couple of similar glass shops over here in Madison. I've been learning to make my own stained glass for some craftsman styled cabinet panels. We'll see how they turn out!

Stephen Montalvo said...

I've been looking for art glass shades such as these and you're right, most people want a small fortune for them. If you don't mind me asking, what did you pay for these beautiful shades?

Chris said...

I don't recall the cost but Jay's shades were significantly cheaper than any other place I looked. I think that Jay provides shades to some of the dealers out there but since you are buying direct from him, it is less. I want to say I paid half of what a popular fixture shop was selling them for. I would contact him if you are serious. I felt the purchase was well worth it and I bought an extra shade in case one of these breaks.