apartment progress: finding my center with old chandeliers.

July 20, 2021

In the middle of our tin-ceilinged living room is a tin medallion. It’s pressed into an ornate pattern, an imitation of the fancy plaster medallions you might find crumbling in the parlor floors of un-touched old brownstones. From the center of the medallion hangs a brass and crystal chandelier. The chandelier is tarnished and somewhat more muted than it once was but, but the overall effect of ceiling plus fixture still manages to tilt the room solidly toward fancy.

In lieu of removing and replacing the chandelier (which I’m not convinced is something I’d have permission to do), I’ve been trying to rethink my relationship to it. Does a chandelier need to dictate the orientation of the space below it? Does a table need to be centered beneath it? Can I leave the vintage chandelier hanging but relegate it to the background, generally ignoring it and placing furniture and lamps around the room in whatever kind of position makes the best sense? What kind of position does make the best sense?

I’ve passed enough very long hours in historic house museums to know that the ornate fixtures hanging over formal parlors were centered first and foremost on the ceiling and that what happened to be positioned below them was secondary. There aren’t any rules, I remind myself for the umpteenth time as I lean into the table and shove it bum-first across the room. Follow your gut. Experiment. I’ve spent the past few mornings moving furniture around this space and sitting with it in a state of transition. States of transition are not my most comfortable places to be, but I’ve been trying to approach the task like working on a jigsaw puzzle. It’s a challenge and a mostly happy distraction and even if the puzzling inevitably turns the space topsy turvy for a while, the satisfaction of getting everything sorted into the right place will eventually be sweet indeed. Right?

For now, I’ve stopped puzzling with furniture long enough to type out these thoughts. I don’t always find my center right away, but I’ll get closer eventually.

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  • Reply Lisa Page Rosenberg July 20, 2021 at 4:48 pm

    You might like bees wax candlestick covers for the “candles” on the chandelier. Maybe you’re already familiar with these? I’ve seen some on Etsy and they look so much better than the white plastic. (You could probably make them. I couldn’t, but I bet you could!)

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 20, 2021 at 4:49 pm

      ha! considered those last year when i replaced the broken plastic tubes that were on these! decided on simple white cardboard instead!

  • Reply Margaret July 20, 2021 at 4:58 pm

    The only reason I could see for *having* to put a table beneath would be to keep people from bashing their heads. If you’ve got enough clearance that ceases to be a reason. Have at it!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 20, 2021 at 4:58 pm

      it’s high! plenty of clearance!

  • Reply Lucille July 20, 2021 at 5:21 pm

    Do the crystals cast rainbows at least?
    If not, could you hang something you like better from the arms? Just puzzling from across the pond.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 20, 2021 at 5:37 pm

      alas, no!

  • Reply Nancy Ryan July 20, 2021 at 5:31 pm

    Unless you want to designate the room as your formal dining room and center the table underneath the light, there is no reason to consider the chandelier anything other than a light in the center of the ceiling. You don’t center a bed under the ceiling light, so why the table.

  • Reply Rachel July 20, 2021 at 11:10 pm

    We’ve switched ours out by ourselves in every place we’ve rented (we have a simple one we love) but we always held onto the original one and just put it back when we moved so we never asked permission. That particular one looks so bulky to tuck away somewhere, unfortunately.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 21, 2021 at 9:18 am

      We’ve done the same in past apartments, too! This one is large and tricky to store *and* is installed in such a way that would require some considerable patch work after removal so for now, removing is low on the priority list!

  • Reply B July 21, 2021 at 1:33 am

    The work you did on the kitchen, someone else’s kitchen, is really beautiful. The owner might notice this and have confidence in your abilities like your readers. There is no harm in asking. It may be removable. Lighting is important.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 21, 2021 at 9:15 am

      Thanks! I ask for permission regarding all sorts of things and all lighting is technically removable, but in considering this project weighed against others I might like to tackle, this is a low priority!

  • Reply Sara July 21, 2021 at 12:33 pm

    I’ve found that the old shuffle is essential to getting a space to work for us. And is incredibly mood enhancing for me too. We recently moved from 680 sq feet to about 1000 with our three kids who are roughly the same age as yours. I’m finding it challenging to spread out and decorate as I’ve become super adept at creating a beautiful useful small space. And this 1000 feels ginormous with 12 foot ceilings that help it feel cavernous.

    I’m wondering if you’d do an updated toy/art supply post. I’m having the toughest time storing their things so that they’re beautiful, simple, and accessible for my older two but not for the 1and a half year old who puts everything in his mouth and detests being left out. A conundrum that I imagine you have excellent insight on.

    Thanks as always, Erin!

  • Reply Erin July 21, 2021 at 12:58 pm

    I say leave it as is. You have a very simplistic decorating sense and there is something to be said about the juxtaposition of the two drastically different styles. I personally love the unexpected.

    • Reply Sophie July 21, 2021 at 5:31 pm

      Yes please to the post request! I’ve got a my fingers and toes crossed that we’ll actually be going the other way soon… from 180sqm to 90sqm with three kids… but we’d be without a dedicated playroom so I’m looking for simple toy storage ideas.

  • Reply Cussot July 22, 2021 at 1:39 pm

    I know you wouldn’t do this, but others may learn from my mistake. I lived in a place with a huge (and I thought hideous) early 20th century fixture with beautiful painted glass shades, some of which were missing. I carefully removed the remaining ones and folded up the sockets so they weren’t dangling anymore. A friend loved the shades and begged to borrow them. Then he sold them to an antique dealer!

    Do you use the chandelier? I think it’s quite plain and pretty, really. I wouldn’t worry about its location and just turn it on every once in a while and enjoy its little splendour.

  • Reply Abby July 22, 2021 at 2:55 pm

    We used to rent a 1950s-era house with an old chandelier in the dining room, which we used as a living room. The chandelier naturally hung much lower than was practical/safe for a living room, but we just couldn’t make any other arrangement work. We ended up centering a coffee table underneath so we’d avoid banging our heads, but we sure got enough bumps and bruises just from moving things around. Glad yours is high enough that you don’t have to worry about that!

  • Reply Gigi July 23, 2021 at 12:00 am

    What about recentering it? Install a new hook, extend the chain and the wiring to create the droopy look to the new local.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 23, 2021 at 9:10 am

      would rather just ignore it 😉


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