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Since there was no electricity or a flick of the switch to provide lights in the century home, households used several different methods to illuminate the household after dark. Candles were the most common, especially during the first half of the century. Oil lamps were used as well, made of tin, brass or pewter. Kerosene lamps were widely used after 1865 and replaced oil lamps for the most part.
A single candle in the kitchen and scattered oil lamps illuminated the century home and brought family members together. In many geographical areas, it was common for a son-in-law to be required to give his in-laws several pounds of candles annually as an annuity. A big family or maids galore, and many pairs of hands were needed to do all the work in the household. Lighting candles and oil lamps involved repeatedly trimming the wick to revive the flame.
The search for better light sources was a major preoccupation in the 19th century, and a great deal of research was done on fuel types and the efficiency of various methods of lighting.
Chandeliers…..a beautiful source of light. Candle chandeliers were used by the wealthy in medieval times. By the early 18th century, ornate cast forms with long, curved arms and many candles were in the homes of many. During the mid-19th century, gas lighting caught on. Branched ceiling fixtures called gasoliers were common and resulted in many candle chandelier conversions to gas. By the 1890s, with the appearance of electric light, some chandeliers used both gas and electricity. As distribution of electricity widened, and supplies became dependable, electric-only chandeliers became standard.
From a décor perspective, I love chandeliers in a century home. With an attached dimmer switch the illumination can be controlled to produce a wonderful aesthetic effect. If your century home did not include century old lighting fixtures, they can be found and purchased through auctions, many on line sources (as well as EBay, Kijiji, Craig’s List) and from antique shops. Keep in mind the wiring may not be ESA certified, which could result in an extra cost to replace. If budget is not a concern….the cost to convert these beautiful fixtures will be worth your while for years of enjoyment.
Chandeliers on a Budget?….. If you have purchased a century home or considering a purchase, the included lighting fixtures may be a cornucopia collected over many decades. Your gem may include 40’s-50’s style ceiling fixtures, 60’s to current flush mount ceiling fixtures, or Ikea style (which isn’t a bad thing for a modern décor). If you love chandeliers as I do, do have a peek at the “box stores”. Many nice replications are available. I have included some of my finds….purchased from the Lighting Shoppe, Rona, Home Depot and Home Hardware Furniture Stores. I love chandeliers and think they have their place in all rooms! Consider adding crystal to table lamps, beaded crystal trim is available from your local fabric store, all that is required is your imagination and a glue gun!