The Modern Chandelier Trend That’s Making Everything Else Seem Dated
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The Modern Chandelier Trend That’s Making Everything Else Seem Dated

Glitzy metal chandeliers have ruled for years. But now fixtures crafted from plaster—earthy, subtle and sensual—are emerging as a new go-to for interior designers.

Mon, Jan 23, 2023 8:57amGrey Clock 2 min

IN THE INTERIOR DESIGN WORLD, a new kind of chandelier has taken hold: fixtures whose metal components are coated in quietly arresting, matte, white plaster. The humble material—once the darling of rococo mirror frames and highly ornamental ceiling medallions—is showing up on chandeliers with few flourishes but lots of style, making a statement without being gaudy.

“I have used plaster lighting quite extensively,” said Los Angeles designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard. The pieces “add great drama and sophistication yet don’t overpower a space.” Cate Dunning also admires their subtlety, and recently installed a six-armed version by Currey & Co in a client’s dining space to give the eye a spot to rest in a pattern-filmed room that might be characterised as grandmillennial in style. Said the partner at Atlanta interior-design firm GordonDunning, “I love that plaster chandeliers introduce a new texture without adding another metallic finish.”

When creating a line of light fixtures for furnishings retailer RH’s Contemporary collection, New York designer Ryan Korban looked to the plaster creations of European sculptors Serge Roche and Alberto and Diego Giacometti, who collaborated with French decorator Jean-Michel Frank on chandeliers in the 1920s and ’30s. “Because of the simplicity in colour and material, they add a level of architecture to a ceiling and blend beautifully within any space,” Mr. Korban said of the pasty white style.

Indeed, Mr. Bullard has installed plaster chandeliers everywhere from drag queen RuPaul’s primary bedroom, which Mr. Bullard describes as “an ode to Dorothy Draper,” to American sportswear designer Tommy Hilfiger’s Palm Beach living room. “A pair of abstract 1940s chandeliers bring a freshness to the Palm Beach palette,” said Mr. Bullard, referring to the classic tropical elements of rattan chairs and potted palm trees.

New York designer Gideon Mendelson installed a pair of 1950s vintage, French, half-moon-shaped plaster fixtures in his Sagaponack, N.Y., home and relies on the style to bring “casual sophistication and texture to a space,” he said. Indeed, the dusty organic finish can help relax a formal room. Said Ms. Dunning, “It works for us specifically because it adds a more modern or ‘off’ element to a more traditional space.”

Nashville designer Sarah Bartholomew likewise toned down the stuffiness in an “architecturally intricate” wood-panelled room with Stephen Antonson’s slightly industrial Alexander model. “The white pops against the warmth of the wood walls,” she said. In a recent project, Chicago interior designer Summer Thornton hung a plaster chandelier—in which “floral blossoms” conceal the bulbs—in her client’s family room. The clean lines and chalky texture were, she said, “a welcome contrast to the velvet-adorned, traditionally shaped furniture and antique rug.”

Then there is the matter of the light they throw. Indianapolis designer Heidi Woodman goes so far as to say that plaster chandeliers cast an “ethereal” glow when illuminated. “Because plaster seems to absorb light—as opposed to metal, which bounces light—it provides a softer hue,” she explained.


Consumers are going to gravitate toward applications powered by the buzzy new technology, analyst Michael Wolf predicts

Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

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Concern about electric vehicles’ appeal is mounting as some customers show a reluctance to switch

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Auto dealers across many parts of the country say electric vehicles are becoming too hard a sell for buyers worried about the range, reliability and price of these models.

When Paul LaRochelle heard Ford Motor was coming out with an electric pickup truck, the dealer was excited about the prospects for his business.

“We thought we could build a million of them and sell them,” said LaRochelle, a vice president at Sheehy Auto Stores, which sells vehicles from a dozen brands in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

The reality has been less positive. On Sheehy’s car lots, LaRochelle says there is a six- to 12-month supply of EVs, compared with a month of gasoline-powered vehicles.

With automakers set to release a barrage of new electric models in the coming years, concerns are mounting among auto retailers about whether the technology will have broader appeal given that many customers are still reluctant to make the switch.

Battery-powered models have been piling up on car lotsdealers say, as EV sales growth has slowed in the U.S. this year. Car companies have been offering a combination of discounts and lower interest-rate deals in an effort to juice demand. But it hasn’t been enough, because buyer reticence extends beyond the price tag, dealers say.

“I’m not hearing the consumer confidence in the technology,” said Mary Rice, dealer principal at Toyota of Greensboro in North Carolina. “People aren’t beating down the door to buy these things, and they all have a different excuse why they aren’t buying one.”

Customers cite concerns about vehicles burning through a battery charge faster in cold weather or not being able to travel as far as they expected on a single charge, dealers say. Potential buyers also worry that chargers aren’t as readily accessible as gas stations or might be broken.

Franchise dealerships fear that the push to roll out new models will inundate them with hard-to-sell vehicles. Research firm S&P Global Mobility said there are 56 EV models for sale in the U.S. this year, and the number is expected to nearly double to 100 next year.

“I start to think, you know maybe we should just all pump the brakes a little bit,” Rice said.

A group of dealers expressed their concerns about the government’s role in pushing electric vehicles in a letter last month to President Biden.

A Toyota Motor spokesman said the majority of dealers have become “increasingly more confident in their ability to sell Toyota EV products.”

At Ford, the company’s electric-vehicle sales are rising, including for its F-150 Lightning pickup, but demand isn’t evenly spread across the country, according to a spokesman.

Dealers say that after selling an EV, they sometimes hear complaints about charging and the vehicles not always meeting their advertised range. In some cases, customers seek to return them to the dealer shortly after buying them.

“We have a steady number of clients that have attempted to or flat out returned their car,” said Sheehy’s LaRochelle.

While EVs remain a small but rapidly expanding part of the new-car market, the pace of growth has slowed this year. Electric-vehicle sales increased 48% in the first 11 months, compared with a 69% jump during the same period in 2022, according to Motor Intelligence. Sales remain concentrated in a few states, with California accounting for the largest chunk, S&P Global Mobility data found.

The cooling growth has raised broader questions in the industry about whether car companies face a temporary hurdle or a longer-term demand challenge. Automakers have invested billions of dollars to bring more EV models to the market, and many analysts and car executives say they remain optimistic that sales will continue to expand.

“Although the rate of growth has slowed recently, EV demand is clearly moving in the right direction,” said General Motors Chief Executive Mary Barra on a recent conference call with analysts. A combination of more affordable model options and better charging infrastructure would help encourage more people to buy electric vehicles, she said.

There are also varying views within the dealer community about how quickly buyers will adopt the technology.In hot spots for electric-vehicle demand, such as Los Angeles, dealers say their battery-powered models are some of their top sellers. Those popular EV markets also tend to have more mature public charging networks.

Selling an electric car or truck outside of those demand centres is proving more difficult.

Longtime EV owner Carmella Roehrig thought she was ready to go full-electric and sold her backup gasoline vehicle. But after the 62-year-old North Carolina resident found herself stranded last year in a rural area of South Carolina, she changed her mind. Roehrig’s Tesla Model S got a flat tire, but none of the stores in the area carried tires for a Tesla. She ended up paying a worker at a nearby shop to drive her home.

Roehrig still has her Tesla but bought a pickup truck for long road trips.

Tesla didn’t respond to a request for comment.

“I have these conversations with people who say we’ll all be in EVs in 15 years. I say: ‘I’m not so sure. I’ve tried to do it,’” Roehrig said. “I think you need a gas backup.”

Customers who want to ditch their gas vehicle for environmental reasons are sometimes hesitant, said Mickey Anderson, president of Baxter Auto Group, which owns dealerships in Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado.

“We’re in the Colorado Springs market. If this is your sole mode of transportation, and you’re in a market in extremes of elevation and temperature, the actual range is very limited,” Anderson said. “It makes it extremely impractical.”

Dealers representing around 4,000 stores across the U.S. signed the letter in November addressed to Biden, saying the administration’s proposed auto-emissions regulations designed to promote electric-vehicle sales are unrealistic. The signatories ranged from stores owned by family businesses to publicly held giants such as AutoNation and Lithia Motors.

“Some customers are in the market for electric vehicles, and we are thrilled to sell them. But the majority of customers are simply not ready to make the change,” the letter said.

Some carmakers are pushing back EV-rollout plans. GM said in mid-October that it would delay the opening of an electric pickup plant by a year to late 2025. In response to weaker-than-expected consumer demand, Ford said in late October that it would defer $12 billion of planned spending on electric-vehicle investment.

Since September, dealers on average took more than two months to sell an EV, compared with 40 days for all vehicles, according to car-shopping website Edmunds.

While discounts have helped boost sales of some electric vehicles, they also have led to repercussions for some current owners because it reduces the value of their vehicles, dealers say.

“Most people don’t have the confidence to buy an EV and know what it will be worth in 10-15 years,” said Rice from the Toyota dealership.

It may take some time for the industry to adjust because it is still in an early stage of switching to electric vehicles, Sheehy’s LaRochelle said.

“We’re asking for this market to grow organically,” he said.


Consumers are going to gravitate toward applications powered by the buzzy new technology, analyst Michael Wolf predicts

Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

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