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Illuminating ideas; Whatever your style, there's a chandelier to complement it

A statement chandelier is a jewel of an idea for dressing up your home. Whether streamlined or ornate, it illuminates the room with light and design.

In some cases, it can become the room's defining feature.

"I always tell people not to skimp on the fixture; it's a focal point. To me, it's what dresses the room," said Sandra Blaszkowiak, sales representative at Buffalo Light & Supply, 1546 Walden Ave., Cheektowaga (buffalolight.com).

On this first day of fall -- and with holidays approaching -- one's attention often turns to the dining room and entertaining.

But people also hang chandeliers -- and mini chandeliers -- throughout the home, in bathrooms and baby rooms, and even some closets.

Whatever your decor style -- Arts & Crafts, traditional, contemporary, hand-me-down eclectic -- there's a chandelier to complement it.

Not that selecting one is simple. The choices can be overwhelming; the installation, tricky.

The American Lighting Association, a trade association, offers plenty of information on its website (americanlightingassoc.com) -- from lighting techniques for the home to light bulb lingo (with even more at lumennow.org).

One section on the ALA website focuses on lighting your dining room not only with chandeliers but with a mix of ambient, task and accent lighting.

"These various layers of light establish the mood for a variety of functions, including dining, homework or family bookkeeping," the ALA writes.

A chandelier equipped with a downlight can provide task lighting for the table and accent lighting for a centerpiece, for example. Artwork can be dramatically lighted with picture lights.

If you're in the market for a new chandelier, resources include lighting specialty stores, furniture stores, big box home stores, home-improvement stores and, of course, catalogs, online retailers and interior designers.

You can spend less than $200 for a chandelier or well over $1,000.

One tip: When visiting a local showroom and seeking some guidance, don't show up empty-handed.

Bring along some measurements -- room size, table size, ceiling height. Some people even have a photo of the room on their cellphones -- or bring in samples of their rug, countertop and colors, Blaszkowiak said.

Experts will tell you that one common mistake homeowners make is with the size.

"Most people shy away from bigger chandeliers. The tendency is to go smaller rather than larger -- and that can be the wrong way to go. Larger chandeliers scare off people," said Michael Donnelly, of Michael Donnelly Interiors, 1390 Hertel Ave.

For a rectangular dining table that is 42 inches wide, you want to go with a circular chandelier no wider than 36 inches. But don't go any smaller than 32 inches, Donnelly said.

"A lot of it depends on the style of the fixture, but these are just general guidelines. There are always exceptions," he added.

The point: "Go a little larger than smaller for more impact," he said.

People also have the tendency to hang the lights too high.

"The lowest point of the chandelier should be just above your head so you can see the person across the table without obstructing your vision," Donnelly said.

Most of the time, 30 inches works -- give or take a couple inches, he said.

(The American Lighting Association also recommends the chandelier be hung approximately 30 inches above the tabletop in an 8-foot ceiling. For each additional foot of ceiling height, add one inch. In a 10-foot ceiling, the chandelier should hang approximately 32 inches above the table.)

Again, there are variables.

Stylewise, "it seems to be going either over the top -- with lots of brilliant crystals and glitz -- to very simple. The middle ground is kind of in the background," Donnelly said.

Pendants, linear designs and other hanging ceiling fixtures provide alternatives to traditional chandeliers.

There also are some retro looks from the 1950s and '60s going on.

"One big look is an old-fashioned look -- a drum shade with a glass diffuser on the bottom and multiple bulbs inside. They come in multiple sizes and multiple colors and fabric finishes," said Dean Gottesman, executive vice president of Shanor/Royalite Lighting Centers (shanorroyalitelighting.com), with three lighting showrooms locally.

Also not to be missed: Contemporary fixtures that function as hanging sculpture.

There's been a growing interest in hanging these fixtures in today's dressier, more sophisticated kitchens equipped with stainless steel appliances and higher-end kitchen tables, said John Pusateri, of Advance Furniture, 2525 Elmwood Ave., Kenmore, and in the Walden Galleria.

Though eye-catching, these contemporary, often airy hanging fixtures are not overwhelming, he said.

"They don't take up a lot of visual space. You can look through them and see the people on the other side," he said.

If you like your existing chandelier but are looking for a way to update it, here is a final idea from Donnelly:

"You can add shades if you don't have them. Or change your existing shades to a nice color -- an opaque shade that is red or black -- to give it a little lift," Donnelly said. "And make sure you have a dimmer."

email: smartin@buffnews.com

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