Are massive chandeliers in homes the next (really) big thing?

For the recurring series That’s Debatable, we tackle a controversial issue of the day and present two fiery arguments, one in favor and one adamantly opposed.

Yes, gargantuan light fixtures can add both privacy and intrigue

Huge modern light fixtures might evoke an alien invasion, but fans of oversized lanterns swear by their ability to soothe puny humans below them. In the vacation home above, Mexico City designer Olga Hanono painted the living room walls and double-height ceiling white, like a Greek island getaway. But the space, founded by an oatmeal and white sectional, lacked privacy. Ms. Hanono hired local artisans to handcraft a 90-inch-diameter sisal dome that envelops everyone below. “I strongly believe that we all have, inside of us, an energy,” Ms. Hanono said, “and this chandelier is like a container. Otherwise, the room would be very open,” and, according to her, leave this energy dissipate. When lit, the woven hemisphere casts shadows that exude “fireplace comfort,” she said.

Even a low ceiling can accommodate a fixture large enough to visually balance out a massive section. But to avoid the moody feeling of living under heavy, dark clouds, stick to a white palette. In a room with 11-foot white ceilings, Los Angeles interior designer Adam Hunter hung a white plaster chandelier by Stephen Antonson, a shallow 62-inch circle covered in subtly concave discs. The light fixture gives definition to the open plan room resembling a bowling alley. “It feels like a hug in the middle,” Mr Hunter said.

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Raili Clasen, an interior designer in Newport Beach, Calif., said the high-ceilinged kitchen in a recent project was just begging for the seven giant concrete bell-shaped domes she hung there. “If you have 20-foot ceilings, all of your action is in the 10-foot range and below — furniture, countertops, appliances. Airspace is neglected under these circumstances. The 24- and 36-inch-wide bells from Buzzell Studios in Santa Monica acts as an art installation to animate the dead upper parts of the room.

And sometimes the middle of the ceiling is the only place left for a sensational moment. In an indoor-outdoor Napa Valley living room designed by San Francisco designer Nicole Hollis, blacked-out cabinetry, a fireplace and glass doors took up every wall. So she installed a 60-inch-wide amorphous light fixture made from coiled cotton cords by Doug Johnston. “It was a way to bring a textural and sculptural element to the space,” she said.

GRAND DOMES Newport Beach, Calif., interior designer Raili Clasen “took advantage of the air” offered by 20-foot ceilings when she commissioned bell-shaped concrete light fixtures from Buzzell Studios in Santa Monica.


Photo:

David Tsay

No, the lighting should be a secondary player, not steal the show

Other designers prefer chandeliers that don’t make such deafening statements. “Lighting shouldn’t be the first thing you see when you walk in,” said Cindy Rinfret, interior designer in Greenwich, Connecticut. “[Your reaction] shouldn’t be “Wow, look at the light”. It should be ‘Wow, look at the whole room.’ In a library annex she recently designed, Ms. Rinfret hung a candelabra lantern the size of a birdcage that maintains a low-key, diplomatic relationship with the decor rather than stealing the show. The subtly striped wallpaper on the ceiling and the views through the room’s windows are visible through the light fixture panes. While Ms Rinfret endorses the theatrics of giant lighting in a bar, restaurant or hotel lobby, in a residence hall, she argued, it should be “a supporting actor”.

Erin Coren of Curated Nest, also in Greenwich, Connecticut, notes that large chandeliers can distract from architectural details or custom furniture “that you’ve spent a lot of money and effort creating.” Instead, Ms. Coren layers sconces, table lamps and floor lamps with non-monstrous chandeliers to avoid sidelining touches like the texture of a mohair sofa or the burled wood of a coffee table.

Some designers object to the price of massive fixtures. “A more standardized fixture might cost around $5,000, while a full-scale custom fixture might cost 10 times more,” Coren said. And that doesn’t take into account the expense of proper installation, which may require reinforcing the ceiling with support framing. Is it worth spending so much on fixtures that work best for ambiance, and not as the primary light source? Ms Clasen’s concrete domes give off “a beautiful, romantic, subdued yellow light”, she said, but she’s recessed barely-there tall hats into the ceiling to make them useful when homeowners are cooking .

Ms. Clasen also warns that if a design has a lot of things, upper and lower cabinets in different tones, for example, it’s best to stick with fixtures that blend together. “You’re probably OK without all that personality [above]even in a high cap situation,” she said.

Fantastic Lights

Three large chandeliers not for the faint-hearted


Photo:


Lauren Coleman for Doug Johnston Studio

5H light (47 inches), price on request, DougJohnston.net

Khmara Makhno Product Handmade Ceramic LED Pendant Light (47 inch), $3,000, ArchiProducts.com

Felt Bola Pendant (52 inches), $2,600; Boutique.PabloDesigns.com

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William M. Lee