MURANO GLASS chandeliers were originally created to illuminate the cavernous rooms of Venetian palazzos. Although the flowery, larger-than-life designs that swung from those impossibly high ceilings are still being made, a new generation of stripped-down styles has emerged—distilling the classic's complicated forms into simpler swoops and starker goblets. Of course, the glass is still handblown by maestros who train for decades, as they've done since well before 1291, when, as a fire precaution, the glassworks' furnaces were moved from Venice to the lagoon island of Murano just offshore.
Glimmers of Wisdom
Lighting expert Thomas P. Fuchs's top chandelier tips
1. When in doubt, go big. "I always opt for too big over too small. I think people are generally concerned a chandelier will overpower a room, but that's kind of the point!"
2. Above a dining room table, keep your light low. "I like to hang the chandelier about 30 inches above the table; 34 is OK too, but no higher. You can see the person on the other side and the chandelier feels like part of the dinner arrangement."
3. Maintain control. "Always use a dimmer, regardless of the wattage of your light bulbs. I'm a big fan of 25-watt bulbs."
4. Resist the urge to twist. "Don't spin the chandelier when you're cleaning it. Instead of moving the fixture, move the ladder around it."
5. When buying vintage, tap only trusted sources. "You need to be 100% sure that a vintage Murano glass chandelier is authentic. I have had good luck with the auction house Doyle New York (
), and also trust Galerie Van Den Akker
( vandenakkerantiques.com ) and Alan Moss
( alanmossny.com ) in New York."
Many of the new understated shapes are being commissioned by U.S. shops such as Design Within Reach and designers like Thomas P. Fuchs, founder of the New York-based custom lighting company Otium. "Instead of the goopy Baroque or Venetian-style chandeliers with 20 colors, we're now seeing one color with maybe another color added on the details," said Mr. Fuchs, who has written and illustrated "The Pattern Book of Lighting," a guidebook to lighting that's out this month. "One of my most popular chandeliers is clear with 22-Karat gold leaf added into the glass which breaks up finely and makes the glass look like Champagne."
Whether you opt for the classic silhouette or one of the new streamlined interpretations, says Manhattan-based interior designer Muriel Brandolini, play with context. Although traditional versions might seem most at home among antiques and vintage moldings, she prefers hanging either style in modern settings. "A chandelier is only formal if you make it formal," she said. "It won't be if you don't put chintz on the wall and balloon curtains at the windows. Try a Murano chandelier with masculine furniture and clean lines." Designer Kelly Wearstler, a master at mixing old-world opulence with American modernity, recommends breaking out of the dining room. "I like chandeliers in unexpected places, like a kitchen pantry, or using them in multiples," she added. "Currently I am using five different vintage Murano chandeliers in one breakfast room."
Celerie Kemble of Manhattan's Kemble Interiors finds the look of the simpler fixtures refreshing. "Often the new Murano glass designs provide the perfect midway point materially and aesthetically between a formal crystal chandelier and the more wacky ones—antlers, octopuses—that have become so trendy," she said. Indeed, in a decade when over-the-top chandeliers have fallen out of favor, a restrained design that has both the weight of over 700 years of tradition and a certain lightness of being is nothing short of a bright idea.
The most traditional Murano glass chandeliers, such as this 19th-century example, are masterworks of complexity and showmanship.
These restrained descendants of the Venetian grande dame echo the original's forms but distill them into a cleaner statement.
Corrections & Amplifications
The 10-arm version of the Luna chandelier from Donghia costs $11,285. An earlier version of this article incorrectly gave the price as $7,975, the cost of the seven-arm version.
A version of this article appeared January 26, 2013, on page D9 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: REINVENTING SPLENDOR.