Rejuvenation is America's largest manufacturer and leading direct marketer of authentic reproduction lighting and house parts. It's also a terrific source for salvaged antique lighting. Nigel Barnes, Manager of the Salvage and Antique Lighting Division, casts some light on what's new in antique lighting.
When did Rejuvenation start offering antique fixtures and why?
Rejuvenation Lighting started as a salvage company in 1977 so we've always offered antique light fixtures. But over time the founder, Jim Kelly, discovered that it took a lot of time to source and reproduce parts so he began making reproduction lighting based on the salvaged fixtures. Even so, we continued to restore our inventory of salvaged fixtures and in the past year have begun to feature them in our catalog.
Where do you find salvaged fixtures today? Are they all domestic or do you ever source anything from Europe?
A few European antiques creep in from time to time but our fixtures are mostly American. We generally source things here in the Pacific Northwest but I also work with a network of collectors and dealers around the country. We also use our network to source missing pieces. For example, great fixtures show up all the time missing a shade or an ornate tassel and then we need to seek out matching replacements. We work a lot with our company historian Bo Sullivan and his extensive collection of antique lighting catalogs to figure out how to proceed.
Does every antique fixture you find need some refurbishing?
The finishes may be extremely well preserved, whether they're nickel or copper plated, and we try to match those finishes if necessary without removing the original finish. Other fixtures may need a lot of refinishing, and we'll recreate a finish that is period correct. On the other hand, almost all fixtures need electrical attention. We typically rewire all the fixtures completely, but in some cases we can keep and rewire the antique sockets. If we have to replace the sockets, we can use parts developed for the reproduction fixtures like the Rejuvenation-exclusive turnkey socket we developed.
Do you ever modify them to make them more aesthetically pleasing or historically accurate?
We've definitely had fixtures that have been "Frankensteined" with other parts, for example when a Victorian gas fixture has been poorly converted to an electrical fixture. We try to undo inconsistent design if necessary, while still producing a functioning light fixture that's historically accurate.
Are there some styles that are more in demand than others?
Yes. Every style has its own niche market and yet you can see how some styles gain in popularity. There always seem to be a large number of customers interested in more ornate Victorian styles, but right now there's a real surge of interest in Art Deco fixtures perhaps because they're so streamlined. There's also a tremendous interest in Industrial fixtures, so much so that they've become another recognized style like Rococo or Mid-Century.
What era or elements make up an Industrial-style fixture?
Industrial fixtures really originated in the 1890s as part of the industrial revolution and the birth of the light bulb. They were very early electrical fixtures that were created for use in factories so that workers didn’t have to depend solely on light coming in from the windows. They were often very rudimentary—just a bunch of pipes strung together with articulated joints. These early ones are particularly desirable and very hard to find given the scrap metal drives of WWI.
Industrial fixtures in the '20s and '30s were influenced by the machine-age and resemble skyscrapers while many from the post WWII period end up being overbuilt and quite massive. Also, starting in the '30s, enamel shade fixtures like warehouse lights, floodlights and spotlights were widely produced for industrial use.
Rejuvenation is currently collaborating with O.C. White, a company that has been around since the late 1800s, to reissue a line of articulated industrial lights with original patents going back to 1893. O.C. White makes the parts today to the exact same specifications as the originals, and then we assemble, wire, and finish the fixtures by hand in Portland. It's great because the originals of some of these fixtures are very rare, and extremely hard to find at any price. However, we do offer antique O.C. White articulated fixtures when we can find them, as well as ones by other companies like Faries, McCrosky, Woodward, Fostoria, and more.
What are the benefits of shopping for antique lights at Rejuvenation?
We really strive for historical authenticity in the salvaged fixtures we sell. We try to preserve the original finishes or keep the original sockets when at all possible. And if we need to match an original shade, we'll go to great lengths to do so. We'll provide historical information about the light fixture when we can, and provide you with a photo of a similar fixture scanned from our vast library of lighting catalogs. You and your clients will be able to learn a lot about the fixture just by reading these catalog descriptions.
Can antique light fixtures work in every style of home? Are there some applications that are better than others?
There's certainly something for everyone. An antique fixture can provide a lot of authentic atmosphere for a period room or it can be a focal point in a contemporary design. Salvaged light fixtures are wonderful additions to a design because they come with a story. You look at a salvaged fixture and ask where did this come from? Who made it? What journey did it make to get here? From attic to yard sale to wherever it was rescued and restored, a series of decisions have been made to allow this fixture to survive and be made beautiful again. That's very appealing.
Since 1977, Rejuvenation has been built on a passionate love affair with history, architecture, and bringing back the best lighting and house parts ever made. We obsess over the details of period authenticity and great design like no one else. All our lights are handcrafted for you and made to order in Portland, Oregon. Check our newest store in Berkeley, CA!