About Allen's Antique Lighting and Chris & Cindy
Way back in 1979, when we were still fledgling furniture dealers who had no idea what antique lighting was, we paid $30 for our first fixture. It was a brass Mission-style four-arm gas and electric chandelier, dated 1907, and even though our home in Boston was a Victorian, we thought it would be perfect for the dining room. It was in rough shape, though, and we didn't have a clue about how to restore it, so we gave it to a friend who said he knew how to refinish it. Unfortunately, he was wrong. The fixture came back to us with the arms upside-down, one arm loose, burnishing rouge smeared all over it, and lacquer drips at every seam. And we still thought it was neat!
We quickly began buying more lights wherever we found them: at yard sales, flea markets, auctions, antique shops and shows, and eventually direct from other dealers. Along the way, we learned how to repair, restore and wire old lights (we're still learning about this); to identify the different styles of fixtures; how to gauge their value; and how to make a profit selling them. Since 1979, we can honestly say that our appreciation for early lighting has grown with each new piece we have acquired or restored. Chris still gets excited when he finds an unusual gas key or fitter, and Cindy is still thrilled by the hunt for that next great fixture.
One reason for this is we consider fine lighting to be an important part of America's artistic heritage. Every time we handle these examples of expert craftsmanship, it humbles us. They reflect a time when our country was young, restless and confident, and still valued quality and innovation first. Although there are many lighting enthusiasts who share our appreciation for these artifacts, we think it unfortunate that more people do not consider the importance of period lighting when decorating. We have seen too many wonderful, historic rooms where every detail has been respected except for the lighting fixtures!
Our main objective with this catalogue reprint series is to document the historical progression of style in late 19th century American lighting. This is why we spent extra care and attention restoring and reproducing each plate. For example, we used a Hasselblad medium format camera with a PhaseOne digital scanning back to import the photographic images directly onto our computer's hard drive. Then we manipulated these high resolution shots with PhotoShop software to eliminate any imperfections and clarify the details in each fixture. This process reproduced the original photographs so clearly that on some of the polished brass pieces, with 500% magnification, we could actually see a reflection of the original Victorians in their photographic studio!
We take the same care when we offer our own lighting for sale. Long ago, we learned that we were not interested in selling any reproductions or low quality pieces. Over the past twenty years, we have built one of this country's finest collections of authentic gas and electric chandeliers, wall sconces, table and floor lamps, and glass shades from the Rococo style of the 1840s through the Art Nouveau period. We personally attend to every detail of restoration on our lights, including repair, finishing, and wiring work. Whenever possible, we preserve original colors and finishes, and replace newer parts with period ones. We give every customer individual attention and detailed service, offering a choice of finish, shade selection, height adjustment, and even installation instructions. We also guarantee each customer's satisfaction completely and without qualification.
If you think our services would be of interest to you, please contact us. But more importantly, we would like to hear from you if you have an interesting fixture or shade, an old catalogue, an original bill of sale, or any other piece of information that will help us build a stronger base of knowledge on American antique lighting. In 2000 we will publish an exciting new book of authentic period lighting that will use full-color photographs of our own collection with select additions. We want this to be the finest, most authoritative book on antique lighting that we can produce. Please help us in this endeavor.
Cindy and Chris Allen
43 Under Pin Hill Road
Harvard, Massachusetts 01451