On the season finale last year of Design by Novogratz, husband and wife interior designers Bob and Cortney Novogratz decided to update their country home on a budget — and that included hanging a pair of chandeliers from a large tree in their backyard. It seems that everyone is coming up with new ways to bring some bling into their home, and chandeliers are lighting the way.
Jacopo Barovier couldn’t be more pleased. The managing director of Murano-based Barovier & Toso, he is a direct descendent of Simon Barovier who established the company in 1295. For more than seven centuries, the Barovier family has been perfecting the art of crystal. The company still uses a method developed by Simon’s great grandson Angelo in 1450; the latter invented the formula for hand blown crystal using extremely pure minerals such as silica, calcium and magnesium fired at temperatures upwards of 1,500?C. As there is no lead, B&T’s crystal is softer and more malleable, allowing for unusual shapes and unlimited customisation.
“Until a few decades ago, chandeliers were considered old fashioned and uninteresting for contemporary décor,” says Barovier. “Today, people have rediscovered how it can transform a room. It’s the first thing that you see when you walk in and can make the room if it has a strong personality. The chandelier has been reconfirmed as the most important lighting feature and is like a sculptural object. When you buy one of our chandeliers, you are buying a piece of our family and Venice’s history.”
Barovier feels that B&T’s typical customer needs to possess three elements: an appreciation of an entirely handmade chandelier; an innate curiosity and interest in history; and a positive view of him- or herself. “At the end of a long and busy day, our customer is happy to come home and enjoy a fantastic piece of art,” says Barovier. “We can tailor make chandeliers with personalised colours and finishes, so that each is made specifically for a customer and no one else in the world has one like it.”
Due to the extreme heat in the factories and physically demanding work of glass blowing, B&T (available at ViA in Hong Kong) does not and has never employed female glass blowers. “I’ve never received any requests from women who wish to work in our factory,” admits Barovier. “Our office is predominantly female, though. The chief of our design team is a lady.”
Many of B&T’s designs take their name from the customer who the piece was first designed for. Taif, one of its most popular chandeliers, was designed in 1980 for the Saudi king’s residence at Taif. Though B&T is known for its experience with colour and how it manipulates a variety of hues, its most famous chandeliers are rendered in black crystal. “We have had incredible success with our black chandelier,” says Barovier. “Dolce and Gabbana use the chandelier as an icon in all of its stores around the world. It has become a milestone for us.”
Despite Venice’s dwindling population, B&T never had a problem finding excellent craftsmen to continue its glassmaking traditions. “People are rediscovering the pleasure of working with their hands, after a generation who aspired to work in banks,” he says. “In the small world of Murano, we are very attractive. We don’t have any real competitors; there is no other company that offers such a wide range. When a customer buys our chandelier, it’s a question of want, not need. It’s about love, not light.”