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Shopping for a chandelier

Light it up

Fashionable and functional, chandeliers should be incorporated into the home just as any decorative accessory or object of art would be chosen.

Woman touching colorful chandelier

"I would urge consumers to view this purchase with same enjoyment they would use in buying fine furniture," says Dan Blitzer, educational consultant for the American Lighting Association. "A fine chandelier is an investment that will add to the value of your home."

To find the right style chandelier for your home, simply begin with a color or a material that is predominant in the decoration scheme of the room. What catches your eye in the room? What type of statement do you want to make? If the room is more traditional, choose chandeliers with more ornamentation and decorative details. If your home is modern, opt for less ornamentation and simpler details.

Size is also important. Chandeliers are designed to float in a room as an important part of the decor. Too large, and this fixture will overpower the space. Too small, and it will look out of place. "Placing a chandelier that is too small in a space is likely the biggest mistake because it's very noticeable," says Joe Rey-Barreau, educational consultant for the American Lighting Association (ALA) and assistant professor of interior design at the University of Kentucky. "Great designers, therefore, tend to make their decisions on fixtures that may appear slightly larger than might be appropriate. It's generally always best to make the mistake on a fixture being too big than too small."

If the choices are not clear, it's always best to rely on the help of a lighting consultant in a lighting showroom to help guide the decision. "Sometimes, it's simply a matter of choosing what feels good," says Joe Rey-Barreau. "Lighting consultants often have design backgrounds and help move you in the right direction."

When shopping for a chandelier, the American Lighting Association suggests the following tips to help you find the fixture of your dreams.

Be prepared: Visit lighting showrooms armed with a photo or sketch of space you are trying to light. "Fabrics, photos of furniture, or images of the house are of great help in this process," says Rey-Barreau. "And don't forget to ask the sales associate for assistance."

Check it out: Scrutinize the chandelier before buying. Look at detail and finish quality. Castings should be neat out of the mould so they look clean. Shades or other attachments should sit neatly in a plumb fashion. Ask the cut and quality of the crystal and durability of finishes.

Light it right: Be sure to choose the correct lightbulbs for your particular chandelier. According to the experts, clear bulbs in chandeliers with exposed bulbs, or crystal glass enclosures will enhance sparkle. In chandeliers with linen shades, frosted bulbs cast a pleasing glow and won't create shadows.

Buy a few extra lightbulbs for chandeliers at the time of purchase. Nothing's worse that having a bulb go out right before a dinner party!

Weight there: Always consider the weight of the chandelier. Chandeliers heavier than 50 pounds have to be mounted more securely to the house's structure. "This is a criteria of the National Electrical Code, and the electrician hanging the fixture should be aware of this," says Rey-Barreau. "It doesn't hurt to remind them, however."

More is more: Don't let a chandelier stand alone in a room. Like a star, they need a supporting cast of characters to help them do their job. "A chandelier needs supplemental lighting around it," says Blitzer. "Don't sweat to find the one fixture that does everything. It is best to achieve a layer of light in the rooms with sconces, table and floor lamps."

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