Stairwell Fixture Built and Installed

The cluster chandelier lights the way with alabaster globes

This past winter I had the opportunity to tour the Purcell-Cutts house, a Prairie School home in Minneapolis that is now preserved and maintained by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Inspired by one of the original light fixtures in the house’s stairwell, I decided to build a replica using raw brass parts and vintage wiring.

If you have ever toured the historic property, you probably remember the fixture. It’s a unique chandelier composed of five 8-inch alabaster glass globes, each suspended like a pendant from it’s own cord. The cords themselves vary in length and emanate from a single fixture on the ceiling. The globes are arranged in a cascade that resembles a small cluster of grapes.

Gorgeous torch-applied brown verdigris patina on socket/fitters and fixture canopy

Tracking down the alabaster globes was my first challenge, and I was lucky to find a Chinese manufacturer exporting exactly what I wanted. Once I knew the dimensions of the required fitter for the globes, I started designing the fixtures themselves. I used all brass hardware to build each component. Five heavy-duty cast brass sockets attached to fitter caps would hold the glass globes, and a brass canopy would conceal the cluster body that I designed to safely hold the pendant cords and hide the numerous electrical connections.

The wire itself is a kind of bungalow cord made of modern, insulated electrical wire braided inside a vintage cotton sheath. The green and yellow threads of cotton resemble cords found on early electric irons and this was the perfect style for my fixture.

Installed fixture from below

Each component started as raw yellow brass. In order to achieve the proper vintage look, they required a chemical patina. Besides the design process, patination was the most labor-intensive aspect of the project—but the time invested really paid off. I achieved a gorgeous brown and verdigris coloration visible in the images here. After chemically darkening the brass, the torch-applied “hot” patina give each part the look of age.

~ by studiohanson on 05/30/2010.

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