Colonial Revival architecture has stayed consistently popular among homebuyers, right from the turn of the 20th century to the present. The characteristics of the Colonial style are clean lines and gentle curves with period flourishes. The Colonial revival look evokes hand craftsmanship and emphasizes use of finishes that resemble that of the handmade articles of an era just before the advent of electricity.
The influence of the style is apparent from furniture catalogues and decor stores even today. Colonial revival began as a nostalgic evocation of the early simple style of houses in early America of the 18th Century, particularly from the towns and harbors of New England. Gradually the style has become the default decor scheme, while many later trends have kept coming and going. One of the firms that has continued focusing on this niche is Norwell Lighting, based out of East Taunton, Massachusetts. The outfit itself is no new entrant, having a history of 75 years in the lighting space. The outdoor lighting range from the firm has come in for particular praise. There is great interest in their Colonial style pieces made with authentic materials and stylized finishes.
Onion lights are the most popular facet of Colonial lighting fixtures (www.ehow.com/info_12326644_colonial-lighting-fixtures.html). These lamps were first used by whalers and seamen based out of the whaling towns of Massachusetts in New England. The original onion lights were heavy affairs, lit by whale oil. They were designed to have a measure of portability and could also be hung from the wall or rested on a level surface. A round glass orb was used for maximum light throw. As the glass industry advanced to thinner and lighter designs, protective rings were added to the onion lights so the glass would not crack on impact.
Design and Materials Used in Onion Lights
Onion lights were originally designed for throwing light in all directions, which was especially useful on the open sea on whaling expeditions. Modern lighting designs use clear or frosted glass. The lights had a heavy stand so the lamp could be rested on a table or the ground and would not easily topple over. The stand also served as the oil holder for the lamp wick. A round hole on the top of the lamp served to help hand the light off a chain or a wooden peg. While the earliest designs used tin, brass came to be adopted widely because of its durability and corrosion resistance. However years of use and salt air of the coast ensured the lamps would acquire a beautiful patina of age over the years. Of course, these days, onion lights are powered by electricity. The finish on the fixtures can also be customized, with special artificial schemes resembling patina to match the decor and effect that buyers are looking for. The wooden peg has been replaced by a fixed curved iron piece connected the lamp to a matching plate or a chain for mounting to the ceiling. While some firms have switched to steel for these lamps, the best manufacturers still use handcrafted brass for authenticity.
Norwell Lighting’s outdoor sconces are shaped like lanterns of yore. The range is divided into collections like American Heritage, Budapest, Cottage, Compton, Copper, Lexington, New Orleans, Olde Colony and Vidalia. The firm’s onion lights deserve a special mention as they are based on the lamps that whalers of New England would carry on their hunting trips. Budapest collection is based on European influences from the turn of the 19th century with retro industrial lines and galvanized steel finish. The Mariner range evokes portholes of luxury ships with their round glass and preotective bands. The Seafarer range is designed to resemble old oil wick lanterns on passenger ships before the advent of electricity. Compton is another European influenced retro-style collection of exclusive chrome fittings. Minimalistic designs are also available, such as the Olde Colony range. These fittings use a wider glass area to bring in a modern touch to the straight lines of Colonial design. American Heritage is made of solid brass and uses retro elements like a reflector and candelabra electric bulbs with soldered grille metalwork.
Post Mounted Fixtures
Post mounted fixtures offered by Norwell Lighting include American Heritage, Lexington, Beacon, Copper, Cottage and Vidalia. Cottage and Vidalia are onion light fixtures with features like clear and seeded glass. These fixtures are best paired with an extensive garden and period style bulbs to get the authentic period feel.